A-Z Reflections Post

While I'm sure that waiting a few extra days to begin a reflection post is probably a good idea, I thought I would go ahead and jump into my A-Z review, for better or for worse.


When approaching A-Z, I came up with my theme nearly two months ahead of time! I knew I wanted to include a bit of my December/January Europe travel in my posts, but I had no idea exactly how much. In fact, while I did cover a lot of territory in my blog posts, I actually didn't write about everything we did nor did I write in as much detail as I potentially could have. My goal was to cover the entire trip in one month condensing as much as needed to make that possible.


Writing Ahead & the Problems I ran into

I got lucky the first week in April when the kids I babysit didn't need a babysitter for their one week of spring vacation. My first blog post was written on day one and published when I finished it, followed up by my second blog post… As Tuesday arrived, I decided my goal for each day that week was to complete two blog posts, possibly three. Write quickly and write often was my moto. :)

But that third blog post? How should I write it? Do I write it like an article? The Top 10 Things To Do In NYC at Christmas Time. Or like a journal entry? 10 Things I Did In NYC during the Christmas Season. I've seen blog posts written both ways. Could I distance myself enough from the project to write in the article style for each blog post? Could each blog post have it's own separate identity that could be read together as a series but didn't have to be? That was my quandary.

Ultimately, as much as I desired the article style writing for my posts, the inevitably of the passing of time weighed down on me. Perhaps I should have started writing posts for this project in mid March, if not sooner. For the first two city posts (NYC and Paris), I kind of maintained a list style documenting what we did with numbers, but by the time I got to the third city, I was "churning" posts rather than merely writing them.

You can tell I was starting to tire even towards the beginning of the challenge, especially when I only shared pictures in my second NYC blogpost (on the Christmas lights) and my German posts (1, 2). My husband said "That's ok. You've written a lot in all of your other posts" as encouraged me to keep going. Of course, at about this point, is when our friends started joining in on the traveling, friends of which occasionally read my blog (or who have said they do). As a result, I wanted to make sure I considered their feelings on privacy and didn't share anything that I might later regret… ;)

But that wasn't the only problem I ran into as a result of traveling with friends. Like me, one of them tends to be pretty strong-willed having definite opinions on what we should do and see. I can be easy-going when I want, so I typically take the "backseat" when I know less about a destination than person does. As a result of my more relaxed traveling style when around them, I have a tendency to forget what all we have done and seen during our travels. :( Through the A-Z challenge, I found myself constantly referring to my phone's GPS and feeling anxious that I might get the name of a place or thing we did wrong. Luckily, Google offers a reverse image search which I also found helpful for ensuring accurate photo tagging. :)

While potential blog reading done by friends definitely kept me on my toes and ensured that I went over every post with a fine-tooth comb (and read every post out loud to my husband), another problem I found myself faced with was: do I edit my images and make them look awesome or do I just grab them from my phone(s) and ensure that the writing is as good as I can make it. If you've seen any of my previously edited images, I think you know what I did. :) In fact, I even grabbed some PhotoPin images to put in my blog posts just to give you a more complete picture of what we did while traveling. From the comments I was receiving, it sounds like those who read my A-Z posts were enjoying hearing the whole story, even if the pictures weren't always up to my high standards of beauty. *shrugs*

During April A-Z, not only did I change up my blog schedule (M for money and media, T for travel, W for wordless, TR for throwback/reviews/giveaways, and F for fashion and food), but I also decided to throw in one Saturday post. Looking back, I could have put all of the pictures from my time in Germany together, but I felt (at the time) like I would be going into more detail than I actually did on German New Year's eve traditions. Like I said though, it's hard to determine when you are abusing someone's expectation of privacy and when you are sharing just your experiences. I did my best to cover my material as fully as possible and supplemented by answering comments and questions after the fact hoping I was telling you (my readers) all that they needed or wanted to know.

While I started out the challenge with blog posts ready to go up to two weeks ahead of schedule, the more busy I got with work, the more I fell behind. On April 8th, I was two weeks ahead. After I finished my German posts, I started wondering if I was sharing enough; my Prague post took me two days to write! Then the train post took me an additional two or three days… (I still don't think it was as well written as it should have been!) Finally, talking about returning home and the lessons I learned from the experience took up the last two weeks of the month. So much for getting ahead for May! :-/ It was hard summarizing the lessons I learned into one post and having it all flow together. (Not sure if I succeeded…) Even now I wonder if I included all of the lessons I learned and explained it in such a way that you, my readers, could understand and empathize with. It's one thing for me to say "Hey! This is how I felt!" and another for you all to agree and say, "Look – we understand. It's okay" or "You're right" or … "I hadn't thought of that before!"


Now – we get to the fun stuff! Commenting!

I did not read the rules for A-Z this year. Since 2016 is my third year completing the challenge (review of 2015 and 2014), I felt like I remembered the rules from last year. Comment on 10 blog posts each day along with responding to comments on your own blog post. The idea is to get out there and meet people.

Turns out I was wrong. I think the actual number of comments required is 5. Justin, my husband, called me an overachiever when I told him about my mistake. :) It would seriously take me an hour or more to find 10 blogs to comment on. I wanted to leave something of value on the blogs I read, and I didn't want to comment on blogs that didn't interest me.

As I was working through blogs, I accidentally found myself clicking on participating blogs from 2015! oops! With over 1900 blogs signed up from last year, I was clicking on approximately 100 a day searching for ones with new content. I was shocked that the hosts for A-Z weren't deleting names from the list at the rate I was going! Some days, out of the 100 blogs I clicked through to read, I would be lucky to find 10 with content! Only towards the end of the challenge did I realize my mistake. Another oops. :-/

And formatting…

When I began the A-Z challenge, I knew I wanted to make it easy for people to go back and read the other posts in the series. This is why I added the links to each of my blog posts as I went. Unfortunately, because I was writing posts chronologically and didn't necessarily have the next blog post written on the days my blog posts went live, I couldn't feature the whole alphabet of links on each post. Then again, I'm not sure if it would have made sense if I had…

Another problem I ran into was: 1) where to put the A-Z badge (because you see the badge instead of an interesting picture on my homepage if the badge is positioned at the top of the blog post) and 2) whether or not my blog titles should be alphabetical. In the end, I did my best to put the badge towards the bottom of the blog post (harder on days when I linked up to Travel Tuesday) and I decided my blog post titles didn't have to be in alphabetical order. Just because the idea for the post stemmed from a specific word attached to a specific letter in the alphabet didn't mean that the entire post reflected that word. I wanted my blog post titles to reflect what the actual post was about. Crazy, right?! ;)


Posts I read this year that inspired me and taught me new things:

• Are we too quick to judge when someone in housing districts gets a new piece of furniture or goes on a vacation? Maybe they found the furniture on the side of the road? Maybe their family offered to take them somewhere? Who are we to judge? And should they really feel like they have to explain everything when, during their daily life, they have to worry about being shot at by gun just because they live in a poor part of town? No, they probably wouldn't choose this lifestyle if they had any other option. And they certainly aren't going to spend themselves into debt to stay there!
• There is such a thing as National Pineapple Upside Down Cake day. And if you are just now learning about it through this blog post, you missed it! Next year, my friends. Next year. :)
• French has a spoken rhythm not found in English or German! Sooo cool! :)
• Zurich, Switzerland has macarons. And a beautiful Christmas market!
• There is an app called Skyfire that helps you predict how beautiful sunrises and sunsets will be. It's expensive ($8.99 in itunes), but I'm still considering it. I always miss the prettiest sunrises and sunsets.

Can you tell I spent time reading a wide variety of posts? :)

Here were some of the blogs that I am now following as a result of April A-Z:

Confessions of A Part Time Working Mom - This A-Z challenger shared all about her vacation to the US and provided fun and interesting tidbits comparing European and American cultures.
Forty, c'est Fantastique! - Her A-Z challenge featured some of the best ways to learn French.
Kristin King, Author - She shared snippets from her book Survive Little Buddy, the story of Irene Kucholick, a World War II survivor.
My Cozy Book Nook - Each letter in this A-Z series discussed something travel related, typically facts about France.
Twinkle Eyed Traveler - Another travel blog featuring gorgeous pictures!

I guess you can tell I'm a little bit obsessed with travel and the European culture? ;)


Finally, a few of my own featured posts. These were the posts I wrote during the A-Z challenge that I liked the most:

German Castles and White Sausage – Love the title of this post. The pictures of the rustic decorations inside the restaurant and the spätzle shot aren't bad either. Plus those clouds hanging over the Hohenzollern Castle! Beautiful! <3.
Exploring Prague in the Snow – Obsessed with the shoe picture. It's so minimal! And makes me laugh. :) The video is funny, and I love the shots I got with the Nexus 6 phone! So pretty!
Intercontinental Paris Le Grand – I used a lot of my own pictures, which I don't typically do for hotels, so I feel like I really capture the feeling of what it was like to stay here. Truly the fruit basket and juices made my stay! And the staff were sooooo nice!
Regent Petite France – The story about how we almost missed the train was such a fun one to write. Don't get me wrong; I was really anxious that day and truly thought we were in for the worst. I was not looking forward to texting our friends that we would be late. But looking back, I am amused. :) It's obvious that I know very little about traveling by taxi cab in small cities.
Visiting the Nationalpark Sächsische Schweiz – I was surprised at how many of my pictures resembled what other visitors to the park have taken. Do we all have the same vision of what beauty is? Or maybe we're all just shooting the pics with our iphones and thus have the same focal lengths with which to capture the beautiful park? Lord knows I wouldn't want to carry a bunch of photography equipment while hiking there! It would get so heavy!

Your Turn

If you are a blogger, did you participate in A-Z this year? If you did, did you learn anything fun? Meet cool new people? Will you consider participating again next year?

If you aren't a blogger and just happen to read my blog for fun, did you enjoy my April A-Z travel posts? Did I encourage you to go anywhere you weren't aware of before? Did you learn anything new?



  1. Dear Mandy,

    You know what I was thinking as I was reading your reflection post?

    It's called "challenge" for a reason! Apart from the HUGE time factor there are so many things to consider, and if you are talking about a trip like you and I did, plus it needs to somehow fit into the alphabet, how on earth are we supposed to tell the story? Against the timeline? Kind of hurt, right?

    Anyway, WE DID IT! And we did great!

    There is something that a dear friend, blogger and professional writer once told me, and I try to go by it:

    "Don't doubt your writing! I never do."

    I'm glad I found you - or did you find me? I can't even remember.

    Read you soon! ❤

    1. I actually followed my timeline to a T. I considered not, but I just couldn't wrap my head around it. Plus I love challenges. :)

      Who knows who found who? It's been fun though!

      Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures! And, hopefully, getting to Switzerland (and the western US) some day to experience some of the things you've talked about!

  2. It took you an hour to find 10 posts to comment on? Yikes. I only did the 5, but I could usually get that done in about 20 minutes. I guess it helps to use the right linky list ;)

    That's the part of the challenge that gets me every year, and this year it just about flattened me. But that's what's fun--finding blogs you might not see otherwise.

    1. Using the wrong list definitely slowed me down.

      It was so much fun finding new blogs to read and writers to connect with! Can't wait until next year! (But I'm glad to have a break.)

  3. Great, I will check out your blog list. I enjoy good writing and travel posts. Yes I'd agree that the blogs weren't being deleted as quickly as they could have been, so many to go through. I was a minion in 2015 but did not have time to assist in 2016. Your active seeking of blogs is one of the tasks that minions (ahem, assistants) do. I highly recommend you find a team or co host to assist next year, since you're already doing it. Secondly, I noticed your blog is monetized and you are admitting that you are pulling images off google. I have just spent 18 hours I think removing images that I had on my blog that were not taken by me, or had unclear permission. This includes creative commons images on Flickr, because there is a funky scam going around where people of unscrupulous nature post images saying they are free to use and then either change their mind or try to find their image on other websites and sue bloggers. Avoid pinterest images also. Maui Jungalow

    1. It was a lot of fun reading through so many new (to me) and interesting blogs this year! Maybe I'll consider minioning next year…

      And thanks for the FYI on images. You spent a long time clearing out images! Most of mine actually come from Photo Pin (a search engine for creative commons) rather than Google, like I claimed in the post. However PP acts a lot like google and makes it super easy to find images that will work for your blog posts. I hate that bloggers are getting sued for using images without knowing the consequences. It's frustrating because when you first start blogging you don't know and then a year or two in and you have to spend 18+ hours deleting. Still, it's great that you are spreading the word. I'll definitely be more careful in the future about not only where I find images, but also in indicating where those images were found.

  4. That's amazing that you made a point to find 10 blogs to leave comments on. Finding time for me to comment of 5 was already a challenge for me and that was AFTER I'd replied to comments on my posts and also visited those that left those comments LOL It was doing all this that led me to so many interesting blogs though so it isn't as painful as I make it sound Haha Congratulations on surviving the challenge! Already planning for next year? :)

    1. It helps if you schedule posts ahead of time. (Although sometimes it's fun to just blog when the feeling strikes!) I knew if I didn't schedule posts, I wouldn't have time to visit and comment on other blogs, which I felt was an important part of the challenge. It just made me feel silly when I realized I was clicking and commenting on links from 2015!

      Congrats to you on completing the challenge as well! And yes, planning to join in again next year, but no I have no idea what I will blog about! You?

  5. This was my first year participating in the challenge, but it was quite a bit of fun!

    I love the idea of your theme. I've developed more of an appreciation for Christmas the last few years, particularly the decorations - I imagine that hotels would do a really lovely job of their decorations :)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier :)

  6. That was a very thorough account of things.

    Funny about finding all of those bad links. I heard the same from some other Team members who were deleting them as fast as they could. Between the beginning and end I think Alex deleted about 700 links which is a lot. I didn't find that many bad links, but the list was always changing and I was probably hitting blogs that had already been screened.

    In any case it was another interesting and enjoyable round of A to Z. Thanks for being a part of it!

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

  7. This year for commenting (I had my faves I visited daily of course) I decided just to work down the list rather than trying to find certain things as I found I was wasting more time looking for certain things than just commenting on them all!


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