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Monday, October 26, 2015

A to Z Themes Made Easy – Handy Lifestyle Hacks for the Busy Blogger

Photo courtesy of Tristan Colangelo
It’s never too early to start preparing for your participation in next year’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Year after year, themes continue to be one of the best ways to survive this April blog hop with ease. Themes give readers a good idea of what to expect when visiting your blog while helping you better organize ideas into 26 cohesive pieces of alphabetic content.

Choosing a theme does not have to be a daunting task in itself. In fact, it’s as simple as becoming a virtual handyman for some of life’s challenges. If you’re stumped for topics to blog about during the next April A-Z Challenge, consider teaching people how to do quick repairs -- whether that be for damaged household items, bad hair days, or even a broken heart. Don’t think you have any knowledge of tips or tricks to help other people solve everyday problems? You may be able to provide more handy hacks than you think. 

Just recall the last few times you’ve fixed a dilemma that you or someone you know encountered. Now use these instances to jump-start the topics of your April Blog Posts. Here are some quick topics that can be worked in many ways to help you get from point A to point Z, based on my own experiences with quick fixes that came in handy.

Technical/Hardware Hacks
When cassette tapes were still a thing in the early 90s, I used to play them on a boombox style stereo system. The Bad album by Michael Jackson was one particular cassette that I rocked as a kid “until my tape popped” (*extra brownie points for those who can identify the song/artist reference here) one day while playing in the stereo. Determined to not have to throw this cassette away, I grabbed a screwdriver (or maybe it was a kitchen knife…the specifics of that memory has faded after all these years), opened up the cassette and snapped the jumbled up portions of plastic tape off of the spool. I then re-attached the two remaining portions of the music on this cassette, using a small piece of adhesive tape.

Cassettes remain available from some places such as
The result wasn’t perfect – the beginning of the first song on Side 1 of the cassette was now gone, as well as the end of the last song on Side 2 – but I could now still continue to enjoy most of the album.

Cassettes may be a thing of the past but so long as people still like to listen to music, there are quick fixes that you might know how to employ in the age of modern technology. Do you have a neat way to organize playlists on a home entertainment system, tablets or related electronic devices?

How about syncing or migrating your iTunes library on a computer where the system had to be re-installed? These nuggets of knowledge may come in handy for those of us who do not know how to navigate through various software programs and/or devices.

Style, Fashion & Wardrobe Hacks
When one pair of my jeans started to rip in the back, I continued to wear them until the tear became too large. Having no patience to sew or patch-up denim (or really most other garments), I just wore tights under my jeans, to prevent me from unintentionally flashing people during my daily travels out in the street. Sometimes these tights had cute heart patterns on them and sometimes they were solid colored. It all depended on my mood, the climate or temperature and whether the laundry was done or not. Did you ever experience any clothing malfunctions that you’ve dealt with in a hassle-free manner? If so, try to come up with 26 ways to get around the problem, from A-Z, without throwing the garment away!

Food Prep Hacks
Have you ever made a salad only to find out that there isn’t any dressing in your refrigerator or cupboard? What do you do in that situation? When I found myself in a similar situation, I combined some olive oil, vinegar and all-purpose seasoning such as (Mrs. Dash or Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute) to make a quick vinaigrette. Not only did it save me time in contemplating on whether to eat something else altogether or consume the salad dry, this quick fix was also a money-saving solution; I didn’t have to make a trip to the store just to buy some salad dressing.  If food hacks are up your alley, try coming up with an A-Z theme that provides some quick seasoning tips for when people don’t have the usual staples on-hand and need to substitute it with other items in the refrigerator or cupboard.

Productivity Hacks
My morning routine usually involves books, writing and meditation of some sort. I try to read first thing in the morning to get it out of the way because unless it is for research purposes, it’s HIGHLY unlikely that I will pick up any book whatsoever later in the afternoon or evening after my day gets started and filled with other tasks.  Do you have a productivity hack that helps you get things done? Maybe other A-Z participants can try it to figure out if the hack might work for their lifestyle needs.

Providing handy lifestyle hacks to your readers will save you time on writing and publishing blog posts. That time saved could then be spent visiting your fellow participating blogs on the A-Z Challenge list. Happy blogging!

Have YOU decided on a theme for next year’s Blogging from A-Z Challenge yet?

A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host Nicole Ayers writes about international films, Cinematography and movie goers at The Madlab Post. You can connect with her @MadlabPost on Twitter. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Stormy the Weather Gnome talks holidays & theme opportunities!!

It's almost time for Halloween!

Wouldn't that be a great theme for A to Z? All your favorite trick 'or' treat candy? Or your favorite costumes?

How about Thanksgiving?

Got any recipes for every letter of the alphabet? Think of the side dishes alone!

Perhaps Hanukkah or Christmas traditions?

Do you do watch football on New Year's Day?

All of these holidays are coming up soon and it might be the perfect time for you to start jotting down some ideas, memories, or even recipes for the 2016 Challenge! 

And, don't forget your camera! Pictures are a great way to share your theme with readers!

Get your family involved! No one said the A to Z Challenge couldn't be a team sport! Maybe your kids can help with your posts each day!

Or even your pets! They can be great sources of inspiration and sometimes just too darn funny.

My point? There are lots of opportunities coming up and lots of ideas all around you to help make your next A to Z Challenge a breeze.

Don't miss your chance to make this your best year ever!


Heather M. Gardner
The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Only 163 Shopping Days Until A to Z 2016!

Here in the US, it won't be long before we start seeing Christmas decorations appear in all the stores. The minute the plastic pumpkins and Hallowe'en costumes are put away, out come the Christmas decorations and we start hearing and seeing little reminders that it won't be long before Santa pilots his sleigh, drawn by eight tiny reindeer, through the sky, bringing gifts ande toys to good little girls and boys...

Okay, maybe I'm overdoing things a little. (No, wait... I'm not.) The point is, Christmas is a huge holiday for everyone, whether you're a retailer, a member of the clergy, a parent, (especially) a kid, or anyone else who loves the excitement and promise of the season. 

For the sponsors of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, April 1 is kind of the same thing. It's something we prepare for almost as soon as May 1 of the previous year. Every year we do the Challenge, we want it to be better than the previous year's. For us, that means encouraging people who have participated in past years to participate again, and to bring their blogging friends, and their friends, and so on, and so on, as the old shampoo commercial used to say. The A to Z Challenge is truly a time when "the more, the merrier" applies. 

So, it's never too soon to start encouraging people to start thinking about April. And that includes inviting you to start thinking about participating in the festivities, and about people you think might enjoy the Challenge. Bloggers you admire, people who you think would enjoy themselves. You might meet some bloggers (or potential bloggers) during the upcoming NaNoWriMo, or in the other "blog hops" you do every year.

It's also never too soon to start thinking about your theme for the upcoming year. Maybe this is easy, because you use the same theme every Challenge. Great! You can start thinking about your entries. Maybe you try to think of something new every year. This would be a good time to start. If you have trouble thinking of a theme, you might want to see what other people have used in years past. The list of blogs who participated in the 2015 Challenge is still available; feel free to browse the blogs of other participants.  Maybe you never use a theme. That's all right! You can always begin planning your word list for the Challenge. 

You might think 163 days is a long time, but you'd be surprised how quickly it passes. Personally, I can't wait! How about you?