By Kathy Lauer-Williams
The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call
ALLENTOWN, Pa. In the competitive world of blogs, a Bethlehem, Pa., mother of seven has made a name for herself in cyberspace, posting low-cost recipes for families on the go.
Three years ago, Anne Coleman was blogging about her family recipes when she was approached by Disney to do a blog for its Family.com site.
Blogging as Disney's “Short Order Mom,” Coleman has beaten the odds to become one of the elite group of bloggers who has been picked up by a nationally known sponsor.
Coleman says she didn't believe it until she received her first paycheck with Mickey Mouse in the corner.
Her blog features quick, budget-friendly recipes she has created for the on-the-run parent.
Coleman, who graduated from a community college culinary arts program in 1993, says she came by her cooking skills naturally.
“I came from a large family,” said Coleman, who was one of seven children herself. “My mom cooked for an army every day.”
Coleman intended to study criminal justice, but her eye strayed from the courses listed under CR to CU – culinary. She never looked back.
Although her original plan was to open a restaurant, Coleman was sidetracked by her growing family when she began homeschooling her children, who range in age from 2 to 19. She noticed that many stay-at-home moms had blogs, so she decided to start her own. In 2005, her blog, “Cooking with Anne,” (www.cookingwithanne.blogspot.com) was born.
“I was just journaling for our family,” Coleman says. “We had so many recipes, so much food and so much history.”
The blog struck a chord with other mothers and Cooking with Anne was named the best cooking blog of 2005 by The Best of Blogs, which gives awards on its Web site, www.thebestofblogs.com.
When she got her first e-mail from Disney in 2006 expressing interest in having her blog for the company, Coleman thought it was a joke. Even after receiving a phone call from Disney, confirming that e-mail, she still didn't quite believe it.
But in December 2006, Coleman was selected to be one of 20 bloggers to launch Disney's Family.com Web site.
Recent studies have estimated the number of bloggers to be as high as hundreds of millions worldwide. Technorati.com estimates there are 1 million blog posts every day. Most blogs are doing well if they can make enough to pay for their Internet hosting fees, the monthly rent a Web site charges to host a blog.
After two years, Coleman's “Short Order Mom” was the only one of the original 20 still on the Disney site. She shares cyberspace on Disney with nationally known writers such as “Dalai Mama” Catherine Newman, who chronicles her children Ben and Birdy, and Rand Cooper, a novelist who blogs about being a stay-at-home dad.
Coleman says the key to her success is “quick, inexpensive meals that kids will eat,” such as chicken taco soup and calzone rolls made from frozen dough.
Coleman says she spends $150 a week to feed her family of nine.
“It's not really a big deal,” she says. “Most large families are more cost-conscious.”
Since she doesn't waste food, she sometimes comes up with creative “accidents” that become hits on her blog.
“One time I threw spaghetti in a dish with chicken nuggets on top,” she says. “It's like a one-dish chicken Parmesan.”
Coleman makes up all her own recipes and says food blogging has its own peculiar challenges.
“You have to come up with the food, make it several times to get it right and then write about it,” she says. “It can be really intense.”
Coleman, who blogs for several hours nearly every evening after the kids go to bed, also shares some of her personal life on her blog. Last year, when her husband was seriously injured in a roofing accident, she kept blogging through the whole ordeal.
“My husband's my biggest fan,” she says, “even though he doesn't know anything about cooking.”
Meanwhile, her personal blog, “Cooking with Anne,” continues to grow in popularity, and she recently debuted “One Thousand Soups,” a blog dedicated to soups.
Coleman says “Cooking with Anne” gets more than 8,000 unique visits a month and her soup blog, started in November, has had 5,000 hits so far. According to TopofBlogs.com, which rates blogs, a few high-profile food blogs generate more than 100,000 hits a month, but less than 10,000 hits is more common.
Next, Coleman plans to share her budget-conscious tips to help families struggling in the economy.
“Slowing down is cheaper,” she says. “We rarely eat out, but my kids don't really care. They're all very healthy.”