Monday, September 29, 2014

September Wrap Up

When I was writing Double Negative, I started researching reading and literacy programs. What I discovered made me very nervous about the future of our country. Our low literacy and illiteracy rates are shocking.

Here are two stats from literacy advocacy groups that made me sit up and pay attention.

  • 33% of the population in Los Angeles 
  • 25% of the population in New York 
have been identified as being low literate or illiterate.

So when I learned that September was National Literacy Month (NLM), I decided to try something to promote literacy awareness, and I targeted writers as participants. Since I didn't know if this would work, I started small. Here's what I did.

  • I created a List on Twitter @WeWrite4U_Lit, telling about NLM.
  • I wrote 12 Tweets (three sets) for those interested to copy and paste, and I supplied sources.
  • I posted a Linky on my blog just so I knew who would be interested.

This is what happened.

  • 18 people signed up
  • We generated a lot of (I couldn't keep up with them, so I don't have a count) of Tweets and RT's
  • Some writers became very creative and Tweeted with the @WeWrite4U_Lit and a free book link
  • On International Literacy Day, we joined the #selfielit event and posted selfies as we read books. This turned into a nice promotional bonus for several writers.

For the first time out, I think this was a success. I loved that we were using Social Media for such a positive and important cause. I plan to do it again next year with some changes based on what I learned. 

And so that's a wrap for September. It's been a hot but glorious summer. I hate to see the sun move low in the sky and the days grow short, but it's part of the cycle of things. I know fall will bring its own joys and rewards. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

#atozchallenge #roadtrip - Stormy on the road less traveled.

It's ME!

Stormy the Weather Gnome!

We're changing things up a bit so you don't get bored.

Don't worry, we're still on the road to nowhere, still can't drive 55, AND still running against the wind.

I went to visit some of those go-getters at the beginning of the list.

Here's a few that I think you should visit.

Remember to tell them that you're visiting from the Post A-to-Z Road Trip!


AJ Lauer from Naturally Sweet!
One of the most excellent co-hosts of the Challenge.

Her Alphabet theme was 'Things I Know'! She knows a lot! She talks about all kinds of stuff. Life lessons, writing, her favorite things and a few of her favorite people! Never a dull moment during her Challenge posts!


Nita from Nita's Books

Nita reviews books. You know. Books. See, something we all have in common! She specializes in children's, middle grade, and young adult book reviews so her A to Z Theme was full of awesome goodness. Authors like: Diana Lopez, Joanne Harris and Lisa Yee. 

Days and days go by and no one leaves her a comment. Let's say hello to her today.


L.G. Keltner from Writing Off The Edge

You've got to hand it to people that can whip together a new piece of writing for 26 days in a row. L.G. wrote a drabble (a 100 word piece of fiction) for each A to Z Letter day.


Kristen Dyrr from Random Musings from the KristenHead

This A to Z Theme is CRAZY cool! Kristen talks about all things wonderful including, but not limited to, TV shows (Almost Human, Teen Wolf, Elementary, The X-Files), nature, podcats, iPhones, and Androids!

But, that's not the best part! Her posts are riddled with tweets and gifs and pics and hilarity! I love how she ties it all together, each post better than the next.

Thanks for visiting with us today!
Are you finding any great blogs on your trip?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why Highlighting Books is an Easy Way to Participate in the A ot Z Challenge

When I began participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, blogging about books was a no brainer.  I figured I had a large collection of books, I knew alot about books, and I loved books, so why not?

Except that after I started in on the challenge I realized my choice was going to prove more difficult than I expected.

Why is that?

Because you can't just choose books randomly from the alphabet.  There are choices to be made:

  1. Horror, romance, mystery, picture books, etc?
  2. Blues, pinks, golds covers
  3. Adults, Young Adult, picture books
  4. Books you've read or books you want to read
  5. Books you have at home or books you want to own
  6. Male writers or female authors
  7. etc, 
See? The choices drove me batty. 

Not really.  I was already batty. 

Anyway, my first year I thought I knew what I was doing! I chose books that I'd had at home and had read all or part of. I thought I was being authentic by only highlighting books I knew something about. 

Imagine my frustration when I got to the letter Q. Fortunately I found a copy of Alex Haley's Queen. I hadn't read it but I kept that secret to myself. Take a look at what I dork I was!

Fortunately, I had my braces removed and I'm back to looking somewhat less like an overgrown 8th grader.  Anywho...

My list of books continued up through XYZ. Of course I cheated with the letter X but what are ya gonna do? 

What I learned from my first year is that while it was cool to highlight books from A to Z I needed a tighter definition because my type A self wasn't satisfied until I'd put a chokehold on my choices. The next year I chose to highlight kids books.  I can't remember if it was Young Adult, Middle Grade, or Picture books but you get where I'm going with this, right?

Give yourself more specific directions because "one man's attention to detail is another man's glut of information"  which I interpret to mean, you'll have an easier go of it if you pay attention to the details.  Choose Young Adult books then you'll be more focused and the stars will align for you.  Or at least you'll have focus.  

As it turns out, in the years since I started participating in the A to Z Challenge, I learned that I was so interested in reading kids' books, that I narrowed the focus of my book review blog, An Unconventional Librarian, to only kids' (middle grade, young adult, picture) books which makes my life focused and pretty happy. 

And I'm probably the only person on the planet who knows all of the book titles that start with XYZ. Which might only come in handy on Jeopardy.   

How do you choose your topic for the A to Z Challenge?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Themes that Rocked the Challenge - Classic Monsters with Mina Burrows!

Today’s featured Challenge participant, author Mina Burrows, rocked with a theme of classic monsters!

What made you choose classic monsters as your theme for the Challenge?

I had a few themes in mind this year, but ended up asking my blogger friends for their opinions. They helped me pick the monster theme. I’m a huge fan of classic literature and am fascinated with classic authors and the original monsters they created. Monsters like Washington Irving’s Headless Horseman or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. These beasts and their stories have mystified fans for years, and I thought it would be cool to highlight them.

Which monster was your favorite?

This is a tough one to answer. Out of this year’s A-Z posts, I think the Orc was one of my favorite monsters. These creatures, or a version of them, have been referenced in classic literature like Beowulf and then of course reinvented thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien. Orcs are menacing, man-eating, elf-like beasts and I just love them!

Many came from movies – care to guess how many monster movies you’ve seen over the years? How many of the films you featured have you seen?

I can’t even begin to guess how many monster flicks I’ve seen. I know I saw a ton when I was a kid, but I’m not sure if those count when I can’t remember much of the movie anyway. I believe I saw most of the monster movies from my A-Z posts, including almost all of Universal’s mash of monsters. Off the top of my head, I haven’t seen the latest Godzilla film (*smacks forehead*) and The Creature of the Black Lagoon.

Which letter was the most difficult?

Y. I wanted to choose Yeti, but that was another way to say Abominable Snowman so I couldn't do that one again since I used it for my A post. I ended up choosing Yule Cat, which I thought was so cool when I discovered it. Come to think of it, Yule Cat would be a great story to retell or write a spin-off in some cool way.

Are you a gamer? Did any of your monsters come from RPG’s like Dungeons and Dragons?

I used to play a ton of video games. Now I play stuff with my kids like Lego Star Wars and Harry Potter. Zombies are probably my favorite with respect to gaming. I’m a huge Resident Evil fan. When I decided to post on Dragons for the letter D, I knew instantly I would discuss Dungeons and Dragons. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about that game realm, but I had a wonderful time learning about it from Timothy Brannan’s blog, The Other Side. He has an amazing depth of knowledge about monsters, witches and the D&G realm. He's incredibly talented.

Do you think the Loch Ness Monster is real?

Yes I do! There is too much unknown lurking in bodies of water like the Loch Ness that I think it's completely plausible. That and there have been many sightings. In general, the Scottish Highlands is known for its legendary tales of magic and mystical forces like fairies, druids, witches, stone circles, gods and Nessie too. I think there may be some truths to the legends.

How many Godzilla films have you seen?

Gosh, I've forgotten how many. Several, when I was younger because I had two older brothers who made me watch stuff like that all the time. I was the youngest, so I didn't have much choice it what we watched so I’m glad I liked it.

Do you have a theme in mind for next year’s Challenge?

Not yet. I've been thinking about it too. I’ll probably do what I did this year and come up with a few ideas and let the readers pick. When you get audience or reader participation, you get people involved in the process and somewhat expectant or excited about what's to come.

That’s a good idea. Although I’d be worried what they might choose for me… Thanks, Mina!

Co-host Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh is the author of Amazon Best-sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm, and his blog can be found HERE

Friday, September 19, 2014

Letter Play - A Mixed Bag O' Fun!

After going on hiatus following a 2012 run, my Friday Fun Time series resurfaces today! Those of you who are new to the game, fear not...the instructions are simple: Guess the grocery store products that each letter represents in the following photos. I will announce the winner who has the most correct answers, in a future blog post. 






Can YOU identify and name the items/products that these letters represent?

Thank goodness it's Friday! Have a super duper one, everybody!

A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host Nicole Ayers discusses movies at The Madlab Post. She continues to support the American Red Cross and discuss various topics on Twitter.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Storyteller's Perspective: 5 Things You Can Ask a Storyteller, and 5 Things You Shouldn't

When people ask me "So, what do you do for a living?" and I answer "I'm a storyteller," there is a whole scale of reactions that can be expected from any given conversation partner, ranging from awkward confused silence all the way to "That is SO COOL!" Like many other people with unusual jobs, us storytellers also hear many comments and questions repeated over and over again, and while some of them are endearing and intelligent, others kind of grate on our nerves. In order to make everyone feel better, here are some things you should and should not say next time you meet someone who identifies as a storyteller:

Negative Top 5: Na-ah you did NOT!

1. Can you actually make money with that?
Apart from being a rude question to ask anyone in any field, it is also kind of ignorant. If I'm a professional storyteller, I am obviously making money from it. How much is none of your business.

2. So you are a politician? Ha-ha-ha!
Ha. Ha. Ha.
No, my stories are good.

3. Wow, you must be a very good liar.
Again, rude! Calling anyone a liar is not a good start for a conversation. Also, stories are by far not the same as lies. I believe in every story I choose to tell.
(And, for the record, I am a terrible, terrible liar)

4. So, what books do you read from?
Wanna see a storyteller fume? This is the question that'll do it. Even some people who have seen me tell on stage, and without a book in sight, congratulated me after for "reading" great stories. No, we don't read. We tell. By heart.

5. Can you do some stories for us for free?
Sure, can you clean my house for free? How about doing my taxes for free? Storytelling is a profession and a performing art form. If you wouldn't ask a musician or a stand-up comedian to perform for free, don't ask a storyteller either. And if you would, shame on you.

Positive Top 5: That's a great question!

1. What kinds of stories do you tell?
We love stories and we love talking about them! Also, by asking you avoid making assumptions about what we do as a storyteller. Also, note that "tell" is better than "read."

2. Are you performing in the area?
As performers, we are likely to travel a lot for gigs. If you are really interested, feel free to ask where our next show will be, and maybe you'll hear something cool!

3. Do you know any good stories about...?
Yes. Yes we do. And if not, we love to look for them. Ask about something you are interested in, and let us help you track down the tales you need!

4. What kinds of audiences do you work with?
Instead of asking flat-out if we would do your daughter's birthday party for free, find out what we like to work with. Some storytellers happily tell to anyone between the ages of 0 and 100, while others prefer a specific group such as elementary schools, teenagers (my personal favorite), or museum visitors.

5. That sound cool! Where can I find out more about it?
Storytelling events and organizations are all over the place. It is likely that there is one in your neighborhood too! And if not, there are multiple online communities. If you really want to find out more about what storytellers do, don't be shy to ask!

Generally, storytellers love talking about stories, and love talking about what we do. No one goes into storytelling for riches and fame - we do it as a passion. If you know the right questions to ask, you will learn about great things!

You can find Csenge (@TarkabarkaHolgy) at
The Multicolored Diary - Adventures in Storytelling
MopDog - The crazy thing about Hungarians...

Monday, September 15, 2014


No. This not a blog block: 
This is a building block. 
But if the above chunk of rock fell on your toe, you would probably yell, “Oh, damn!”

Not this kind of dam. Do not be confused. 

Blog block is a painful malady. Fingers are raised to the keyboard…the pressure is on to produce funny repartee and… YA GOT NUTHIN'! It’s a horrible feeling.
What’s a blocked blogger to do? There are several options.



It’s simple. Turn off your inner editor and procrastinate productively (Whaa?). Scour the net for unique images that speak to you. Pinterest is a great place to start. Photographer websites are good, too. Check out    (Remember to not nab the photos. Need I say more?)
Need a quote to get ya going?  Try Brainy Quote or GoodReads’ popular quotes.

There is so much out THERE…in that unseen, untouchable ether which we lovingly call the ‘net’.
What? How do I know so much about blog block? Uh…well…you see…OMG! Where are my wrist braces? I think I left them outside at the last blood moon. Oh, I’m not scared. My muse will find them!

 Today's colorful post was brought to you by the inimitable Helen Jameson!

**all images borrowed from free image sharing sites - thanks!**

Friday, September 12, 2014

Step on the Gas! A September Check-In #atozchallenge #roadtrip #LifeisGood

The Summer is winding down but if the activity in the blogosphere these last few days are any indication, our sun shiny days are to be continued. Having this in mind, I noticed a quick and much needed tune-up to my blog-visiting engine while participating in the Sunflowers for Tina blog hop that took place earlier this week. It was easy to take on the task of visiting 100+ bloggers since Monday September 8th mostly due to determination and willingness to see how other people joined us in paying tribute to our late Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host, and Co-Founder of the A-to-Z Challenge Road Trip – Tina Downey of Life is Good.

Although the task has yet to be completed, I stumbled upon a Robyn Alana Engel's Life By Chocolate blog, which reminded me of our previous detour seeking out blogs named after food. Since I started visiting blogs randomly based on my familiarity with them, it led me to many places that I haven’t visited in a long time such as Elizabeth Mueller’s blog. This experience has given me the idea that getting through mini blog hops within the A-to-Z Community has multiple benefits for the Road Tripper:

  • It helps you get back into the habit of visiting blogs on a regular basis. So in other words, it’s a huge plus for those of us who pulled over on the side of the road numerous times. What a great way to play catch-up.
  • It gives you the chance to measure how long – in hours or days -- it would take for you to visit a certain number of blogs. Having this knowledge can make things a little easier as you break your visiting down into small, manageable chunks.
  • There are sunflowers on every blog on the list. Now I don’t know about you, but, being presented with a bright outlook for the day is enough for me to want to visit someone’s blog.

Most (if not all) blogs on the Sunflowers for Tina list have participated in the A-to-Z Challenge during one year or another. Since this means that many of these blogs did the 2014 challenge and survived to tell all about it, driving through this little memorial highway would count toward your road trip visits and also give you the chance to make some new blogging buddies. So, I’m calling out all bloggers who are on this A-to-Z Challenge Road Trip with Heather and I to step on the gas!

It is a great feeling to achieve the intimidating feat of visiting over 100 blogs in just a few days. Doing so means there is a chance that we can visit everyone by next Spring if we apply even a little bit of this diligence to the remaining portion of blogs from April’s alphabet party. It’s just a hopeful thought.

A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host Nicole Ayers takes readers behind the movie scenes at The Madlab Post. She is currently being influenced by top-notch magicians while continuing her campaign to benefit the American Red Cross. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sunflowers and other garden themes

You've probably been out and found a sunflower this month.  Or even just a picture.  A long, long time ago I had a little book called "The Language of Flowers" and if it didn't belong to my mother, it belonged to my aunt.  I've looked everywhere and I can't find it.  I can't find anything online about the meaning or symbolsim of the sunflower, although I have a feeling that constancy is associated with it, because the heads follow the sun. I wouldn't trust me on that, though. That's frustration for you.

My garden is another frustration.  I am fairly relaxed about where plants decide they want to grow, but I do object strongly to stinging nettles in amongst my vegetables.  Apart from using up the nutrients that my vegetables need, they sting me when I pull them out - even if they are teeny-weeny ones and I'm wearing thick gloves.  They have little hairlike structures on the undersides of their leaves and stems that deliver something like acetic acid into your skin.  Think poison ivy and you get the idea.
Peacock butterfly on buddleia
The good things about nettles: they are fantastic food plants for all sorts of butterflies and moths, including the beautiful Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies.  They also make great nitrogen rich plant feed if left to rot down in a bucket of water for a month or so.  Nettles for leafy growth, comfrey for fruiting plants.

Quite a few readers will be nodding their heads sagely at this.  I know that because I've seen a lot of lovely gardening blogs during the April A2Z, and some that blossom afterwards, especially Sue Ann Bowling's Homecoming blog.  I was blown away by the varieties of plants she grows in her garden - herbs, mints, lavenders, squashes, beans...  I do grow these... but I'm not in the Arctic Circle!  Sue's garden is an inspiration, and I must try and keep up with her!
Sue's garden (c) S A Bowling
If you're in the southern hemisphere, I expect you're just gearing up for planting your tomatoes and squashes and other plants for the summer.  Here in England I'm making last sowings of winter lettuce and carrots, hoping they get big enough to see themselves through the winter for some early spring produce.  The ones I hope to eat during winter were sown at the end of July and some slugs ate half the seedlings.  That's life in gardening.

Gardening for vegetables needs a lot of planning ahead.  I must do some more work on my theme for next year's A2Z , too - anyone know of a natural phenomenon beginning with X?

Other garden-related blogs I've enjoyed:
Marcy Howes: Creation and Compassion
Stepheny Houghtlin G is for Garden Shed
Sharon Himsl: Shells-Tales-Sails

Do you ever blog about gardening - or growing things on your balcony or windowsill?  Add your link in the comments!

Guest author Jemima Pett blogs at about books, life, gardening and anything else that she fancies! 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Themes That Rocked - An Animal and a Recipe From Jo

Today we have foodie expert, Jo Wake, from Jo on Food, My Travels, and a Scent of Chocolate

You always feature recipes – what made you pair an animal with a recipe for the Challenge?

First of all, thank you for asking me to do this Alex.

As you say, I always feature recipes. However, the whole idea of pairing animals and birds came from my poem Albatross which I wrote many years ago plus the fact that I had read something about the albatross earlier in the year stating it’s endangerment. Had to show off my poetic talent as well of course!

What animal-recipe combination was your favorite?

I don’t think I have a favourite combination. I have been looking back at the posts. There are certain members of the wildlife world I featured which I prefer to others, but they were not necessarily paired with recipes which were favourites. I especially like the fox one which showed a video clip of a fox diving into snow which I found fascinating but I’m not that enamoured of Fettucine and Feta. Maybe the best combination would be the Ibis and Portuguese Iscas which is a liver dish which I love and I don’t like liver. The Ibis is a favourite bird too so this makes a good pairing.

Did you consider picking an animal then a recipe featuring that animal?

Not until you mentioned it, no. I think it would be difficult to do all 26 that way. I will give it some thought though for the future. There were a couple such as octopus and quail – oh and albatross – I could have done recipes for.

Where did you find some of the recipes, like the Indonesian Daging Bumbu Bali?

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of recipes on the internet and I just went hunting for recipes beginning with the letter I needed. I generally try and choose something other people can make. I also generally try and choose different recipes. With very few exceptions, I always post recipes for things I would eat or have eaten.

About how many different countries were represented by your recipes? Which is your favorite?

Gawd, I don’t know Alex. I will have to go back and check it out. OK I found out I used recipes from 20 different countries with repeats from both the UK and the US. I also discovered in my Blog2Print books which I do for all my blogs, I don’t have the first week of April included. Serves me right for not checking them before I downloaded I guess. By the way, Japanese Pizza wasn’t from Japan. As I have already said, I love the Iscas, I am also fond of Baklava although I stay away from it these days. Diets and Diabetes.

How many of those recipes have you made? (I still want to try the Japanese Pizza.)

Prior to the A to Z I had made Iscas, Kedgeree, Sauerbraten, Gazpacho, Quinoa Pilaf and Tourtière. Unfortunately I find I cannot stand for long periods of time which does put paid to some recipes these days. The one you mention, Daging Bumbu Bali shouldn’t be too difficult though. Now you’ve reminded me ……

Which letter was the most challenging?

Actually I don’t remember finding any letter particularly challenging. Thanks to the wonderful services of search engines, it is pretty easy to find animals, birds and recipes beginning with the letter I need that day. Most of the animals and birds I was familiar with but I did come across one or two I had never heard about before. If anything I suppose X and Y, I had never heard of a Xenops or a Yaffle although Yaffle turned out to be a Green Woodpecker. Maybe our dragon friend would be familiar with the Xenops.

What theme are you considering for next year’s Challenge?

Maybe something similar but possibly featuring extinction which is a subject I feel strongly about. At the moment I am particularly concerned about the slaughter of elephants and rhinos for the tusks and horns. Elephants in particular are being slaughtered in large numbers every day, over 22,000 in 2012 for instance, I have recently seen horrific figures of the totals each day but can’t find my source. Wildlife smuggling too is a big concern of mine.

Of course I have to include a recipe. I used to make Yakisoba a lot at one time and here is a recipe for Yakisoba chicken. This is much more Japanese than the pizza recipe.

Yakisoba Chicken

½ tsp sesame oil
1 Tbs canola oil
2 tbs chile paste
2 cloves garlic chopped
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves chopped into 1“ cubes
½ cup soy sauce
1 onion sliced lengthwise into eighths
½ medium head of cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 carrots coarsely chopped
8 oz soba noodles cooked and drained

Add garlic and stir fry an additional 30 seconds. Add chicken and 1/4 cup of the soy sauce and stir fry until chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Remove mixture from pan, set aside, and keep warm.
In the emptied pan combine the onion, cabbage, and carrots. Stir-fry until cabbage begins to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining soy sauce, cooked noodles, and the chicken mixture to pan and mix to blend. Serve and enjoy!

Sounds tasty, Jo! Thanks.

Co-host Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh is the author of Amazon Best-sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm, and his blog can be found HERE

We are honoring Tina with sunflowers today– we hope everyone can join us and splash the Internet with yellow !
Sign up here - Sunflowers for Tina.

The family has also set up the Downey Education Fund, which will go toward a college fund for Tina’s two boys. You can donate via this link:

Friday, September 5, 2014

#atozchallenge #roadtrip #LifeisGood - Stormy brings in some Star Power!

Stormy the Weather Gnome and I are going to try to hit at least 20 new blogs a week from the Challenge list and tell you about a few of them in each of my posts.

When you go visit these awesome blogs, please make sure you tell them that you're visiting on the Post A to Z Road Trip!

Stormy the Weather Gnome with Woody & Buzz

Nicole Ayers - The Madlab Post

Nicole is all about spreading the joy and craftsmanship of indie films and she rocks this blog all year long.

During April....she's a champion! 

From fame, fortune and awards to the work, the why, and the how, you get an in-depth look at what the film industry is all about.

Its not all glamorous? It is for Stormy!

Nicole is also one of the amazing hosts of the Post A-to-Z Road Trip! I don't know when she finds the time!

Stormy the Weather Gnome with a Minion

Today's post is a little short because I wanted to remind you about the Sunflowers for Tina.

We are honoring Tina with sunflowers on Monday, September 8 – I hope everyone can join us and splash the Internet with yellow that day.
Sign up here - Sunflowers for Tina.

The family has also set up the Downey Education Fund, which will go toward a college fund for Tina’s two boys. You can donate via this link:


Thanks for visiting with us today!
Are you finding any great blogs on your trip?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Our Amazing Moon

Our Moon. Something that has captured our imaginations and fascinated the minds of mankind for millennia. The moon and its regular cycle of phases have made it a vital cultural influence on language, calendars, art and mythology since ancient times. The moon has inspired stories of werewolves have frightened us and poems of love. Books, movies, and songs have centered around the moon. I Googled the list and it is far too long for me to elaborate here.

Our moon, which does not have a name like other moons, is Earth's only known natural satellite. It is the fifth largest satellite in our solar system. It has a diameter one fourth that of Earth’s, making it the largest satellite relative to its host size. Our moon is in a syncrhonized rotation with Earth. That is why we only see one side of it. Hence, the term The Dark Side of the Moon. Its gravitational pull produces the ocean tides and the minute lengthening of the day.

The Soviets actually reached the moon before us with an unmanned spacecraft in 1959. Since then, NASA’s Apollo program has sent an orbiting mission in 1968, followed by six actual manned landings from 1969-1972. Twelve men have walked on its surface. We brought back lots of rock that helped scientists determine its age: 4.5 billion years old.

The prevailing hypothesis is that the Earth–Moon system formed as a result of a giant impact: a Mars-sized body hit the nearly formed proto-Earth, blasting material into orbit around the proto-Earth, which accreted to form the Moon. It is believed most of the Moon came from the impactor, not from the proto-Earth. Like the earth, the moon has a crust, mantle, and core.

Water cannot exist on the moon as exposure to solar radiation causes water to decompose, a process known as photodissociation. However, comets and hydrogen from solar winds combined with oxygen in lunar rocks could have deposited water ice in permanently shadowed craters. This is of vital importance if we want to set up a permanent base on the moon, a possible stepping stone for reaching Mars.

Although we have recently found proof of frozen ice on the polar regions, the moon does not have wind or erosion. That is why we see crater impacts large and small that pocket its surface over its life. Volcanoes in the past have spewed out basaltic lava. With a decent set of binoculars or a small telescope, you can see fascinating features on its surface on a clear night.

There is no legal ownership of the moon, although the U.S. has planted flags there. There is an Outer Space Treaty (1967) that defines the Moon and all outer space as the "province of all mankind. The moon cannot be used for military purposes and bans weapons of mass destruction.

You can view the moon using Google Earth.
Grail Moon Mission September11, 2011 (Very Cool Stuff Here)On NASA's third attempt, the dual-spacecraft mission finally lifts off from Cape Canaveral. The twin craft separate and begin their journey to the moon, where they will study its gravitational field. Scientists predict that the mission will provide a map of the lunar gravitational field, data that will allow for the first comprehensive assessment of the moon's crust, mantle and core.

Some scientists say GRAIL is the beginning of a revolution in planetary science. Precision formation flying could allow for numerous spacecraft to create singular technology "platforms" that could see deeper into space and in far greater detail than ever before. Scientists envision a day when they will send swarms of iPod-sized spacecraft into space, a technology that could replace satellites and offer other advances in communications.

Well, how about it? How has our most awesome neighbor inspired you?
If you think this post is worthy of Twitter or Facebook, please select the appropriate icon below. Thanks!!!

Stephen Tremp, author of the BREAKTHROUGH series, is finishing his fourth book titled Murcat Manor.

You can visit Stephen at Breakthrough Blogs for the synopsis for Murcat Manor.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The A to Z Team Honors Tina Downey

Today the A to Z Co-Host Team, past and present, would like to honor fellow co-host, Tina Downey from Life is Good. We lost Tina on August 23, 2014, and words cannot express how much we will miss her or how much she meant to us. But in this tribute, we give it our best…

Tina, like I used to say to you every so often, I was in awe of you, your will to smile in the face of all kinds of odds and pain and despair. You made light of your suffering. Always.

I was in awe of how much you gave of your spirit. Only you could talk to hundreds of strangers online in a day and make each of them feel special. You knew how to make our team work together. You made people feel like sending you a hug even as you told them what not to do. You had this gift for listening, just being there.
Thank you for being my SIS, for teaching me that life is good, no matter what. Above all, thank you for your words, your smiles, and the gazillion icons of sunflowers. They lit up my darkest hours.
Farewell, till I see you next. As someone has said-- meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.

-- Damyanti Biswas at Amlokiblogs

I met her on the A to Z this year, and loved her sense of humor right away. She bubbled and bossed all at the same time, and who can resist that combination? While I never talked to her or met her in person, I feel the loss of her. If she were here, I’d be getting emails telling me to stay on my toes because, if I didn’t follow the directions, she’d have to take some serious action, like send in one of her Flamingos to set me straight.

I’m sure she would be organizing this tribute, and perhaps she is. Certainly, her energy is still with this group and she’d love to know sunflowers remind us of her.

C. Lee McKenzie

I’ve never met Tina Downey.
But, I’m going to miss her very much.
We emailed frequently, as she did with so many people.
You could always count on a funny movie quote, or a funny Tina quote, at the end of her emails.
Here are some of my favorites.
~Tina, who’s ready for her chardonnay, but since I still have to write, will reluctantly wait...
The weirdness has begun…Tina
Happy dance!....Tina
Buckle up! It’s a bumpy ride. Fun, but it has it’s twists and turns, and unexpected surprises…Tina
~Tina, see I've already chatted with you twice in 10 minutes...
Tina, here all day ;-)
~Tina, off to write a post
~Tina, who is worried about Sonny. He's practically buried in weeds...poor fella.
~Tina, who usually signs off with something weird at the end of a comment. So here's one. "Something weird."
Who is Sonny? He’s Tina’s garden gnome. She sent me a picture.
I don’t know what else to say except that we will never be the same without her.
Our thoughts are with her family.
Rest in peace, Tina.

You have gone... you were a friend when I needed a laugh, you were a sister when I needed to cried and you were... just there. Now you are watching over all of us, may your flight to heaven be a peaceful journey. Now sweep those damn flying monkeys out, share your kindness and humor with the angels.... Please, please... please watch over your family, they love and miss you something dearly! Peace, Tina... you are a person I will miss, we all will miss... thank you for always being so strong!

When I found out Tina had become an A-Z co-host and she introduced herself to everyone, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of wild ride we were in for. She was a blogosphere ball of fire with boundless amounts of energy, which frankly intimidated me a little. And outside of A-Z she was a tireless supporter, always willing to help champion a cause or help promote a project. She was so forthright, so real, it was a pleasure to interact with her – even if it was just digitally. I’m jealous of the people who knew her in the real world; because she seemed like a person who would be the life of whatever party you were throwing.
I’ll truly miss Tina. The blogosphere is a dimmer without her.
DL Hammons

Though I only met Tina Downey a short time before she passed, she made a lasting impression that will stay with me every time I open up my blog. I will never forget her kindness as I entered a strange, new community, nor her reassurance when I felt overwhelmed. From her first introduction, she exuded encouragement, support, and snarky fun. She made the overwhelming seem possible, and hard work feel like entertainment. But more importantly, she brought strangers spread across the globe together in an online community that far surpassed its digital bounds. Her legacy will live on in the people she inspired and the connections she forged. And everyone, from her oldest of friends to her newest acquaintance, will remember her.

-- Lauren Hennessy

I met Tina via the A-to-Z, so it's only right I say goodbye to her here. We challenged each other to visit all A-to-Z participants, and from that the Post A-to-Z Road Trip was born. Road Tripping together, we became friends. Tina was dynamic, a lady with a big, welcoming heart. She was always positive, no matter what was going on. Not only was she a pleasure to work with, but she was a friend, a confidante, and a great support. My heart goes out to her family. I'll miss you, Tina. The world lost a phenomenal person last week, but there are a lot of us who will think of you and be lifted up every time we see a sunflower.

~ Shannon

Whenever I’m faced with tragedy I always turn to a book for solace. Maybe you’re no different? Some turn to the Bible or other sacred texts. I, turn to poetry. During times of sadness or loss, poetry speaks to me and provides comfort.
I lost a friend last week, Tina Downey. She was my Cheese Girl. Whenever I mentioned needing a cupcake or other sweet, Tina countered with cheese. No matter what the situation was, Tina was quick to offer sarcasm, a virtual hug, a listening ear or whatever she could.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Tina IRL (in real life) but I feel the loss of her just the same. She was my friend. Tina brought people together. Tina was the sun and we are the sunflowers who have benefitted.
“Every friend is to the other a sun, and a sunflower also. He attracts and follows.” ~ Jean Paul Richter

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian

I didn't know Tina as well as some others, but we co-hosted several A to Z challenges together, and I was always struck and inspired by her. Not only by her enthusiasm for blogging and writing, but by her drive for working together, for getting to know people, and for being helpful, not only to those of us who "knew" each other, at least on the internet, but to any stranger who came along with a question, an idea, or a request for assistance. Tina was a wonderful person to work with, and she will be dearly missed.


I’ll make it no secret I loved and adored Tina. She was more than a friend. She was like a sister. She was the rock of stability. Within the A to Z Team, Tina was the one who held us together. Her wit and whimsy were amazing, and I treasured the long, snarky, no-holds-barred emails from Tina.She told me once that I was as real to her if not more so than any real-world friend, and I felt the same way about her.

I know you’re with the Lord now, Tina, but I am really, really going to miss you. I promise to keep giving my all to the A to Z Team, although I am certainly no super glue. Not like Super Tina. But I will do my best. Schedule Woman would expect no less.

Your online brother, Alex

Dearest Sister, friend and fellow rebel in our blogging world,

We sure had some good times, didn’t we? Both of us on bloggy steroids, only to pick up the phone one day and start exchanging live conversations and texts. Oh, the laughs we had, the tears we shed and the most wonderful friendship we nurtured. We were story tellers, support systems and A - Z gurus…you being the stable one, me hanging on by the seat of my pants, wondering what might (or might not) happen next.

We became so much more, “You are such a good friend. The kind where we just pick up where we were and it’s like we were never apart.” These are some of your last words to me, words every person should read or hear at least once in their life. I too treasure our friendship and know that even the distance between heaven and earth can only increase what we share, a friendship so special, one that I will treasure forever. God bless you, Tina. I too look forward to so much more.

Hugs with a sunflower and cactus.


If I can give on word to help Tina Downey be remembered by, it is the word faithful. Over the past years that I knew Tina through the Blogging Community, she was always there to give support to others, regardless of who they were, where they lived, or the circumstances surrounding their lives.

Tina was a true source of inspiration. Her motto, “Life Is Good” was simple yet powerful. Often I would stop by per blog and be reminded even though there were circumstances in my life that were less than pleasant, Life Is Good. I could go forth with a thankful heart and my day had become brighter and filled with hope that life is indeed good and good things awaited me. Thank you Tina for all the positive things you brought to the world.

Stephen Tremp

I met Tina in 2012 when we both co-hosted the A to Z April Blogging Challenge in 2012. By the end of the challenge we weren’t just team mates but friends! She made me feel important. She made me work for my dreams. She also helped me to believe in myself.

Even while she struggled with her own problems, she selflessly helped me. The world didn’t just lose a friend, it lost one of the most beautiful people to have ever lived. And because we met through the A to Z challenge, I wanted to honor her with a list of all the things she was, A through Z.

She was . . . An Angel on Earth, Best friends to everyone she met, Caring, Determined, Encouraging. Funny, Gracious, Helpful, Imaginative, Jubilant, Kind, Loveable and loving, Mindful, Noteworthy, Original, Positive all the time, Quirky in the best way possible, Real, Supportive, Thoughtful, Unconditional, Vibrant, Wise, Xenodochial, Youthful, Zealous.

~ Konstanz Silverbow

Tina was one of those rare people who could ask blunt questions that might be too forward coming from anyone else. She had uncanny timing, almost like a sixth sense, for when people needed her, or needed to talk. She was funny, genuine, and most of all loving. Our friendship really started when she sent me an email with some of those blunt questions, at just the right time, before the Challenge in 2013. I needed support, and it turned out that she was just the right person to provide it. From there and through the craziness of the Challenge, our friendship grew. We discovered that we lived only about 30 minutes apart, and vowed to meet at some point. I am so sad now that we only succeeded at hanging out once, but so grateful that we managed that.

We often joked about me smuggling her some red wine at the hospital. I imagine her sitting up in heaven (which of course is fields of sunflowers) looking down at us all, with a glass of wine in her hand and endlessly quotable movies for her viewing pleasure. She's probably talking god's ear off. She's closer now, so he won't have much of a choice but to listen :)

My dear Tina -
Life is Good, and yours was a good life, my friend.
All my love,

Dear Tina, it seems like just yesterday you and I were swapping funny Barbie doll stories while treating many of our daily grinds with a glass, or two, of wine. To know that you are gone has made for a heartbreaking Summer, to say the least. The news hit me like a ton of bricks, leaving days filled with denial, numbness and later, a bit of regret in its wake. Boy have I delayed that trip we talked about for too long, right?! If there is one thing for certain, it's that I will cherish the time we had, the lengthy conversations we engaged in and the experiences we shared with each other. I am also grateful for what you've taught me about honesty, kindness, healing and not being afraid to “let it all hang out.” It has been a pleasure to learn so much about you over the last few years and an honor to have worked with you on Arlee Bird's alphabetical adventure.

I miss the spontaneity of your comment sign-offs, which often made the day. I miss the movie lines you had us guessing from time to time. I miss your superpowers of holding it together through the joys and pains that any day delivered. You embodied great leadership in often being the (only) one who says what needs to be said and does what needs to be done. Just when it seems all things might fall apart without you here, I believe things will be ok because your legacy remains. Most importantly, I want you to know that you've left a positive impression on me and the blogging community at large. We are lucky to have had such a wonderful, compassionate and generous woman in our lives. Thank you for always being yourself and showing us that there are bright sides to life so long as we dare to seek them out. You are one fabulous lady, Tina Downey!
– Sincerely, Nicole Ayers

Tina Downey was like a supernova in my blogging universe. She appeared and shone brightly for a few years until her recent passing. In reading much about her since that sad day when we lost her physical presence, I realize that she was a special human being who has touched so many others throughout her life. I am but one of many who have been touched by her delightful presence in the world. Tina has made the world a better place in her being in it.

After the 2011 A to Z Challenge Tina Downey and Shannon Lawrence started a Post Challenge Challenge Road Trip to encourage others to visit all of the blogs that had been signed up for the A to Z Challenge. Their enthusiasm for A to Z caught my attention so I invited both of them to be a part of the 2012 Challenge. Tina stayed on after that first year and was active for the next two Challenges serving as one of our main motivators and organizers. She kept right at it until her illness prevented her from doing any more. I know A to Z was on her mind through many tough times up until the end.

If the world of bloggers were to be compared to a field of sunflowers, then Tina is the flower who stands taller and brighter than most of the rest. She planted seeds of kindness, caring, and diligence that will hopefully grow within many of us who knew her. She has been an example and an inspiration for us to follow.

The A to Z Challenge has always been special to me, but the good teammates like Tina and all of the others have made A to Z even more special. Tina knew that as well and she gave it her all. And I thank her for that.

Arlee Bird from Tossing it Out, founder of the A to Z Challenge

We are honoring Tina with sunflowers on Monday, September 8 – I hope everyone can join us and splash the Internet with yellow that day.
Sign up here - Sunflowers for Tina.

The family has also set up the Downey Education Fund, which will go toward a college fund for Tina’s two boys. You can donate via PayPal here -