Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy Holidays!

My family is now home for Winter Break and our holiday festivities are starting this weekend. It is such an exciting time of the year.  I want to wish all of you a wonderful holiday season.  Be safe and stay healthy!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

DIY Lego Harry Potter Countdown to Christmas - Advent Calendar

Shhhhh.....Don't tell my children but I am really excited about the Advent Calendar that I made for them. I wanted to tell you about it because there may be time for you to pull this off for the Harry Potter fans in your house.

I was looking at Lego Advent Calendars for the upcoming season. I didn't like my options. Last year we had the Lego City Advent Calendar. They loved it but I didn't think it was worth money.  The problem with the Star Wars Lego Advent Calendar is that only one of my four children really like Star Wars. I began wondering if I could make my own Lego Advent Calendar.

I started thinking about a Lego theme that all my children would love. Harry Potter was the first to come to mind.  I immediately looked on eBay for Harry Potter Legos and started to watch auctions for minifigures and accessories. I quickly realized that it wasn't going to be cheap, so I decided to allow myself to spend up to $40 which was the cost of the Star Wars Lego Advent Calendar at the time I began the project.

I won an auction for 10 Harry Potter minifigures for about $33. Then, I purchased a small lot of Lego owls for about $3. I stayed within my budget but I needed to get creative to fill out the whole advent calendar. I used the Lego Harry Potter Characters of the Magical World book as a guide to use pieces we already had in our collection to make Harry Potter-like accessories.

Check out what I did below.

DIY Lego Harry Potter Advent Calendar / Countdown to Christmas via
I found a spare package of envelopes and wrote Harry Potter-like numbers on them from 1 to 24.
DIY Lego Harry Potter Advent Calendar / Countdown to Christmas via
I got out all the minifigures I purchased and accessories I made.
DIY Lego Harry Potter Advent Calendar / Countdown to Christmas via
Then, placed them on the envelopes to determine when they would be chosen.
DIY Lego Harry Potter Advent Calendar / Countdown to Christmas via
I sealed the envelopes.
DIY Lego Harry Potter Advent Calendar / Countdown to Christmas via
Inside the envelopes were potion jars and cauldrons that I made. Also, I found a magnifying glass and a goblet from other Lego sets we already owned.
DIY Lego Harry Potter Advent Calendar / Countdown to Christmas via
I made a mandrake from a barrel, a zombie head, and plant-like legos.
DIY Lego Harry Potter Advent Calendar / Countdown to Christmas via
I made dementors from black hoods from the Darth Maul Star Wars character and some black fabric I had in the basement. 
DIY Lego Harry Potter Advent Calendar / Countdown to Christmas via
Here are the owls I bought with some extra wands and other accessories.
DIY Lego Harry Potter Advent Calendar / Countdown to Christmas via
I made a lantern that I found in Lego Harry Potter Characters of the Magical World book.
DIY Lego Harry Potter Advent Calendar / Countdown to Christmas via
Harry's luggage cart was also idea from the book.
DIY Lego Harry Potter Advent Calendar / Countdown to Christmas via
This is how I will display the Harry Potter Countdown to Christmas in our house starting December 1st.
DIY Lego Harry Potter Advent Calendar / Countdown to Christmas via
I downloaded and printed the Hogwarts crest for the center of the countdown.
I think my kids are going to love this. Just don't spoil the surprise!!

Friday, October 31, 2014


Remember this photo...

It was taken the day I received my initial order of 100 copies of Baby Beards!. I was scared of the size of the stack. I thought, "I ordered too many! What was I thinking?"

I am excited to say that I just sold the last book in the stack!  I want to thank everyone who has purchased a copy of Baby Beards! from me. Thank you to retailers; Pierre's Quickprint and Lil' Frog Fashions for carrying the book in their store.  Thank you to Lewis Elementary School, Leighton Elementary School, Craddock Elementary School, Miller Elementary School, and Monroe's Orchard for inviting me to attend their events, present to their students, and have an opportunity to sell books!

I am overwhelmed with the support from everyone!

Now, I am working on the next stack :)

Additionally, I hit another milestone this week.

I sold my 1,000th copy of my Three Ghost Friends books (eBook and print editions combined)! I am beyond excited about this. Another huge thank you to all the retailers, schools, friends, family, and parents of children who have purchased my books.

I have to thank my wife for encouraging me to continue to spread the word about Three Ghost Friends. I almost gave up after my first Halloween season! How foolish would that have been?

This Halloween season I have had many children come up to me and say, "You write the ghost books. I LOVE those books!"  It is surreal.

Thank you all for your support.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Letters from Second Graders - Thank Yous and Baby Beards! Reviews

A few weeks ago I enjoyed a morning with all the second grade classes at Craddock Elementary School in Aurora, Ohio. I was asked by the teachers to speak to their students about how a "small moment" in their life can become a story or a book. I explained to the students that I had a "small moment" happen during Taco Night at our dinner table. My daughter smeared black beans all over her face which looked like a beard. This wasn't the first time I saw a black bean beard. It happened to my son about two years earlier, but I didn't recognize it as a "small moment." I was lucky to have this  experience again. I wrote about it in my journal so I wouldn't forget.

For many months, I wrote numerous drafts in my head and on paper trying to turn the "small moment" into a story. Eventually I got the words right. Then, I added a bunch of imagination to bring the story to life in pictures.

Now, my "small moment" is a book called Baby Beards!.  I loved reading it for the first time to a group of students.

At the end my presentation the second grade students understood that:

Small Moments + writing + imagination = a book or a story or a poem or comic book, etc.

Writing and creating is an amazing experience! (and it is extremely fun sharing the creative journey with others!)

All the students in second grade at Craddock Elementary have small journals to write down the "small moments" in their life. The students will use these journals, just like authors do, for their own writing throughout the school year. I am so excited for these students! They will spend their school year writing about topics that have personal meaning. They are going to have so much fun writing this year!  I hope I get to visit again sometime this school year to hear their stories.

This week, I was received a stack of letters from one of the second grade classes. I loved the colorful paper that each letter was written on. The letters were well-written, neat, and thoughtful. I smiled the biggest smile when I finished the stack. The words from all the students really made my day.

I thought I would share with you a few of my favorite letters:

Dear Mr. V,

Thank you for coming to read. I enjoyed it. I like your great pictures. I like the one with the black berry beard with corn. I like your imagination-thinking because it is so juicy with your pictures and your sentences. I love your practice ideas. They were incredibly incredible because they so had much color with the background. 

Sincerely, A.W.

Wow! She said my work was "incredibly incredible"! That is like the most awesomely awesome compliment I have ever received about my books.

Dear Mr. V, 

Thank you for coming in. Your new book is super cool. I could buy it if I had a toddler. It's really cool how you scan pictures. I like how you put pictures on pictures. I like how you show pictures of your sons for inspiration. It's funny when you say Captain Black Bean when your sons smear black beans on their faces. I like your books.

from, G.W.

Wow! Wow! He said my new book is "Super cool!" And maybe 25 years from now he will buy my book!

Dear Mr. V, 

Thank you coming in to speak. I loved how you switched the dark dog to light dog it was cool! You had really great pictures. My favorite was the Captain Black Bean. Ha ha ha. I really like how you put in so much imagination and thinking in your books.

Your friend, C

I am glad I switched the dark brown dog to light brown dog too. I didn't like the dark brown dog and neither did my wife. I show her all my work and she gives me very honest and sometimes brutal feedback.

Dear Mr. V

Thank you for coming. I like the book because it was funny. The pictures were great. It looked like your baby. I like the dog. I like the dog. I like the light dog. I like your book.

from M.

I was glad I came too! She said Baby Beards! was funny! Whew! I thought I was going to be the only one that thought it was funny! I like the dog too! I really like it!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

National Book Festival

Our family traveled to Washington D.C. for the National Book Festival over Labor Day weekend. This was our third year in a row we have visited our nation's capital for this event. Here are some of our favorite photos from the special day.
The Walter E. Washington Convention Center was this year's venue. Bob Staake's awesome poster greeted us on our approach.
Our day started around 10am with Kate DiCamillo, the current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.
My daughter got her copies of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Because of Winn Dixie signed!
My youngest daughter was looking good while waiting in the autograph lines. 
Molly Idle signed 3 books for us; Flora and the Flamingo, Zombelina, and Circus Fantastico.
My wife got to meet Captain Underpants.
My boys chose to meet Dav Pilkey instead! 
Goofing around sometimes doesn't sit well with a 9-year-old. 
We heard Theodore Taylor III talk about his book When the Beat Was Born. He was awarded the Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award for New Talent because of this book.
Now my nine-year-old is smiling! 
We met Brian Lies! He shared his birthday for our Happy Birthday Author blog!
Theodore Taylor III signed our book, too!!
The highlight of the day for my daughter came around 6:30pm when she got to hear Raina Telgemeier speak.  Can you see the excitement in her posture?
Raina kicked off the Graphic Novel Super Session. It was insane! I have never seen so many kids excited about books in one room!
A dream come true!
Happiness! (Look at the line of people waiting to get books signed!!)
We finished up the day by riding all the escalators at the Convention Center. It was a reward for my youngest daughter. She was so good all day!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mark Your Calendars -- Fall Festival at Monroe's Orchard • Hiram, Ohio

One of our family's favorite times of the year is right around the corner -- Fall Festivals! 

There are so many great farms to visit in Northeast Ohio, but one of our favorite festivals is the Apple Harvest Festival at Monroe's Orchard in Hiram, Ohio. I am so happy to announce that I was invited to participate at this year's festival at Monroe's on the following dates!

Saturday, September 27th • 1pm-5pm
Saturday, October 4th • 1pm-5pm
Saturday, October 11th • 1pm-5pm

I will have a canopy tent set up for story time! I will be reading Three Ghost Friends, Baby Beards!, and some of my other favorite fall books! I hope you can stop by with your family! Books will be available for purchasing and autographing!

Monroe's Orchard and Farm Market
6313 Pioneer Trail, Hiram, Ohio 44234
Follow on Facebook
My youngest two children and I visited Monroe's Orchard twice this week to pick red raspberries.  It is our favorite fruit!
We picked 6 containers each day! We will eat many of them fresh this week, but most of the berries will be frozen to enjoy in our fruit smoothies we make for our lunches!
Monroe's was hit hard by a rough winter and lost their peach crop. But, they have peaches available in the market from Pennsylvania!
We really enjoyed eating the peaches for dinner!
Monroe's market is full of healthy food. We picked up some delicious sweet corn too!
We love Ohio maple syrup!
Apples are now available too!
My son was so excited to see that the pumpkins are already orange. He said, "When can we pick them? When will it be Halloween?"
Almost ready to pick! 
Apples are lookin' good too!
So? Will I see you at Monroe's Orchard for their Apple Fall Festival?
I would love to see you!
Baby Beards! features all these healthy foods in the book - whole kernel sweet corn, locally grown peaches, and farm-fresh red raspberries! Pick up a copy of Baby Beards! today on Amazon or visit me at Monroe's!

Don't Miss! Monroe's Orchard's Apple Harvest Festival!

Saturday, September 27th • 1pm-5pm
Saturday, October 4th • 1pm-5pm
Saturday, October 11th • 1pm-5pm

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A New Baby Beards! Video

Every year, about the middle of February, we begin celebrating Dr. Seuss's birthday (March 2) by revisiting many of our favorite stories; If I Ran the Circus, Yertle the Turtle, What Was I Scared of? and The Sneetches. In the pictures below we finished reading Green Eggs and Ham and decided to bake cookies that looked like green eggs!
First, we baked sugar cookies. (Find our recipe in our Dr. Seuss Reading Experience packet!)
Then, we covered the cookies with white frosting and added a green M&M in the middle!
My youngest two children were great helpers in the kitchen.  I always say, "The best part of helping in the kitchen is that you are the first to try the food."
I began cleaning up the kitchen as they ate their cookies. I turned around and my daughter had a messy face! I grabbed the camera and said a line from Baby Beards!. At this time, BABY BEARDS! was only words and sketches in my journal. However, I practiced and recited the words to my daughter many times to make sure I liked the rhythm and rhyme. I guess she learned the rhyme!

Check out this cute BABY BEARDS! video:

Friday, August 8, 2014

BABY BEARDS! Now Available at Hipster's in Bainbridge, Ohio

BABY BEARDS! Now Available in Bainbridge, Ohio!

16735 Chillicothe Rd.
Bainbridge, Ohio 44023
Look for this display!
All the copies are autographed too!
The selection of clothes is amazing! My family found many great items!
Stop by HIPSTER's today!

Follow Hipster's on Facebook!

Visit Hipster's Website
Rebecca (owner) thank you for working with me and for giving me an opportunity to have my book in your shop!