Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

2011 was big and exciting! But I think 2012 will be even better!

Here's how they celebrate New Year's Eve around the world.

At exactly midnight on New Year's Eve in Austria, most radio and TV programs broadcast the sound of the bells of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, followed by "The Blue Danube Waltz" by Johann Strauss II, which people dance to at parties and on the street.

Danish people prepare and enjoy a huge feast for dinner that includes boiled cod, stewed kale and cured pork, with desserts like a marzipan ring cake. Stewed kale?? I'll stick with flapjacks!

Some Estonians believe you should eat seven, nine or even twelve times on New Year's Eve! Those are lucky numbers in Estonia, and for each meal eaten, the person gains the strength of that many men the following year.

Gleðilegt nýtt ár! That's Happ New Year in Icelandic. People here go outside and enjoy fireworks, bonfires, shows, musical events and lots of food.

According to Spanish tradition, wearing new red underwear on New Year's Eve brings good luck.

For good luck, Guatemalans wear new clothes and eat a grape with each of the twelve bell chimes during the New Year countdown, making a wish with each one.

What will you do to celebrate on New Year's Eve?

Now that 2011 is ending and 2012 is beginning, it's a good time to think about your favorite moments from the year and and make plans for the new year. Take a piece of paper and make two columns. Label the top of the first column 2011: FAVORITE MEMORIES. Write down the things you did that were special to you during the year. Maybe it was going on a vacation or winning a team championship or just doing something fun with your friends and family. Label the top of the second column 2012: MY BIG PLANS. Then write down what you'd like to do during the new year.

Or with an adult's help, download your own Thumbs Up Johnnie list from here:
Thumbs Up Johnnie New Year List

Put your list in a safe place. Get it out on New Year's Eve next year and see if you accomplished your plans.

Have fun and stay safe... all new year long!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Around the World

Have you ever wondered how they celebrate Christmas in other countries?

Christmas in Australia
It's hot this time of year in Australia. People shop in shorts and t-shirts, and Santa sometimes arrives on a surfboard! In the city of Melbourne, they have Carols by Candlelight on Christmas Eve, where tens of thousands of people gather outside to sing Christmas songs.

Christmas in Egypt
On Christmas Eve everyone goes to church wearing a new outfit. The service ends at midnight with the ringing of church bells, before people go home to eat a special Christmas meal known as fata, which includes bread, rice, garlic and boiled meat.

Christmas in the Czech Republic
St. Nicholas is called Svaty Mikalas and is said to climb down to earth from heaven on a golden rope along with his companions: an angel and a whip-carrying devil! I hope you've been good!

Christmas in Germany
Children leave letters on their windowsills for Christkind, a figure with wings dressed in white ropes and a golden crown who gives out gifts. Sometimes the letters are decorated with glue and sprinkled with sugar to make them sparkle.

Christmas in Holland
Farmers in Holland blow long horns at sunset each evening during the season to announce the coming of Christmas.

Christmas in Mexico
Children are blindfolded and swing at a clay piñata, breaking it and scampering to collect the candy that falls out.

All over the world people say "Merry Christmas" in different ways. Here's a list of languages and the words for wishing one another a Merry Christmas. Your activity is to learn a couple of these and tell them to your family! Teach them how to spread holiday cheer in another language!

Arabic: Milad Majid
Bengali: Shuvo Naba Barsha
Bosnian: (BOSANSKI) Cestit Bozic i Sretna Nova godina
Brazilian: Feliz Natal
Chile: Feliz Navidad
Chinese: (Cantonese) Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun
Chinese: (Mandarin) Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
Danish: Glædelig Jul
Dutch: Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!
Eskimo: (inupik) Jutdlime pivdluarit ukiortame pivdluaritlo!
French: Joyeux Noel
German: Fröhliche Weihnachten
Greek: Kala Christouyenna!
Hawaiian: Mele Kalikimaka
Hebrew: Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova
Hungarian: Kellemes Karasconyi unnepeket
Icelandic: Gledileg Jol
Irish: Nollaig Shona Dhuit
Italian: Buone Feste Natalizie
Japanese: Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
Russian: Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom
Spanish: Feliz Navidad
Swedish: God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt Ar
Welsh: Nadolig Llawen

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Christmas Traditions

It's a ho-ho-hoedown on the range in the town of Happy! How do you celebrate Christmas and the season's holidays with your family and friends?

Here in Happy, we have lots of traditions. Traditions are things you do each year, like going to Grandma's for Christmas dinner or dropping off a toy for a needy kiddo. I'll tell you some of my traditions:

On Christmas Eve we build a big bonfire in the clearing behind the barn and set bales of hay for folks to sit on. Just about the whole town turns out: Banker Bill, Dime Store Sam, Hi-Five Handy, Little Digit, Buddy, Zipp Handy, everyone! And of course L'il Pinky brings hot chocolate and a basked load of her famous cookies and cupcakes. I play my guitar and we all sing Christmas carols and take turns telling stories about our favorite Christmas memories.

After a while the little ones start to doze off and their parents carry 'em home and put 'em to bed to await the arrival of Santa Claus.

We spend Christmas morning with our families, opening presents before heading over to the Long Horn Diner where I whip up a Christmas dinner for anyone who wants to join us.

What are your holiday traditions? Whatever they are, I hope they're filled with love and laughter and the magic of the season!

Virtual Christmas Caroling! You might not be able to gather your friends and family to go out caroling in your neighborhood, so why not do it from home? If you have a video camera or a webcam on your computer, record yourself singing your favorite Christmas songs. Then upload the video file and send it to your relatives! They'll get a kick out of seeing you sing on their computer! If you don't have a video camera, call up your grandma or grandpa and sing to them over the phone!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cuckoo for Christmas Cookies!

Sure, I love the lights, the tree, the presents, the carols and the joy of spending time with friends and family at Christmas time. But what really spins my spurs is CHRISTMAS COOKIES!

My friend L'il Pinky makes the best Christmas cookies over at her Rumblin' Tummy Bakery, and I asked her pretty please with sugar on top if she would share some of her favorite recipes with us so I could post them here for you! So here they are, just in time for baking for the holidays!

REMEMBER: It's important to ALWAYS have a grownup around when you're cooking and working in the kitchen, especially with the hot oven. So partner up with a parent and get your cookie on!

Chocolate Mint Crinkles
* 3/4 cup finely chopped layered chocolate-mint candies (about 4 ounces or 24 candies)
* 1/3 cup shortening
* 1 cup sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 eggs
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* Layered chocolate-mint candies, chopped

- In a heavy small saucepan, heat and stir the chocolate candies until melted and smooth.
- Remove from heat and let cool about 15 minutes.
- In a large bowl, beat shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.
- Add sugar, baking powder, salt; beat until combined. Beat in cooled chocolate, eggs, vanilla. Beat or stir in flour.
- Cover and chill 3 hours or until dough is easy to handle.
- Preheat over to 350 degrees F.
- Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until edges are set (tops should crackle).
- Sprinkle candy pieces on top of each cookie; don't press candies into cookies.
- Bake 1 minute more.
- Cool on wire racks.

Makes about 36 cookies.

Peanut Butter and Banana Drops
* 1 16 1/2 ounce package refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough
* 1 cup dried banana chips, coarsely crushed
* 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
* 1/4 cup turbinado sugar, demerara sugar, or colored coarse sugar

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Combine cookie dough, banana chips, and chocolate pieces in a large resealable bag and seal.
- Knead mixture with hands until dough is well mixed. Remove dough from bag.
- Put sugar in a small bowl.
- Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll balls in sugar to coat.
- Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten balls slightly.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
- Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.

Makes about 40 cookies.

Super Chewy Sugar Cookies
* 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 cup softened butter
* 1 1/2 cups white sugar
* 1 egg
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 to 4 tablespoons buttermilk
* Sprinkles or colored sugar, for decorating

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
- Gradually blend in dry ingredients.
- Add enough buttermilk to moisten dough and make it soft, not wet.
- Roll rounded teaspoons of dough into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
- With a brush or fingers, moisten top of each cookie with remaining buttermilk and slightly flatten top of each cookie.
- Sprinkle with raw sugar or colored sprinkles.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly golden.
- Let stand for 2 minutes before removing to cool on a rack.

Ask a parent what his or her favorite holiday cookies are and bake them! Find a recipe (or use one from above) and team up to make cookie history. When you're done, share them with your friends and family, and be sure to seal some up fresh and save them for Santa!

Friday, December 2, 2011

December: Let's Get Holiday Happy!

December's calendar is bursting with fun and festive events for all sorts of people! There's a lot going on in this one month. Which of these special days do you celebrate with your family?

December 6: St. Nicholas Day
This festival, celebrated by children in America and Europe, celebrates the life of the famous saint who gave gifts to needy children 1,700 years ago. Today, kids put their shoes by the door so St. Nick can fill them with candy, fruit and small toys.

December 20 - 28: Hanukkah
This holy Jewish holiday lasts for eight days and the family celebrations include burning the Menorah, a holder with eight candles, spinning special tops called dredels, eating potato pancakes called latkes, Hanukkah donuts called sufganiot and cookies called mandelbrot.

December 24: Christmas Eve
Last-minute shoppers rush out to finish getting what they need so they can enjoy the evening with their families, awaiting the overnight visit from Santa Claus.

December 25: Christmas
People all over the world celebrate Christmas, a day of giving fits and being with families, to celebrate peace and enjoy a fine feast, while celebrating the birth of Christ.

December 26: Boxing Day
This holiday has nothing to do with putting on thick gloves and fighting in a ring. Celebrated in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and other countries, the day is celebrated by giving gifts in boxes. Many people go shopping on this day to take advantage of big sales.

December 26 - January 1: Kwanzaa
This week-long African-American holiday is based upon the ancient customs of Africa. Created in 1966, Kwanzaa celebrates African heritage and culture. Family and friends gather to wear traditional African clothing and celebrate seven special principles of their heritage, one for each day of the holiday week.

December 31: New Year's Eve
It's party night! Friends and families gather together to see out the old year and ring in the new, with good food and drink, games and lively conversation, Oh, and a lot of noise! Happy New Year!

These days have become traditional holidays, with millions of people celebrating them each year. But did you know there are some other holidays this month that are just a little bit out of the ordinary?

December 12th is Poinsettia Day, celebrating the famous Yuletide flower and the man who introduced it to the US from Mexico. Violin Day is celebrated on December 13th. December 18th is Baking Cookies Day (one of L'il Pinky's favorite days!). December 21st sees National Flashlight Day shining on us. And National Eggnog Day falls on December 24th.

So whatever holidays you celebrate, whether traditional or slightly off-the-saddle- as we like to say around these parts- have a delightful December and a warm holiday season! And don't forget to bring your violin and your flashlight!

Can't wait for Christmas? Me either! This weekend, make your own Countdown to Christmas calendar! Print out this December calendar page or get a grownup to help you. Then circle Sunday, the 25th and draw a picture of Santa in that box. Each day, draw and color another square on your calendar with these pictures:

Dec. 3: A snowman
Dec. 4: A Christmas tree
Dec. 5: Candy canes
Dec. 6: An elf
Dec. 7: A Santa hat
Dec. 8: A wrapped present
Dec. 9: Holly leaves and berries
Dec. 10: A reindeer
Dec. 11: A string of colorful Christmas lights
Dec. 12: Your favorite Christmas cookie
Dec. 13: Mrs. Claus
Dec. 14: Christmas bells
Dec. 15: A gingerbread man
Dec. 16: A Christmas wreath
Dec. 17: Santa's sleigh
Dec. 18: A Christmas candle
Dec. 19: The star or angel on the top of your Christmas tree
Dec. 20: Your smiling face
Dec. 21: A snowflake
Dec. 22: Your favorite ornament on your tree
Dec. 23: A sack full of toys
Dec. 24: Stockings hung by the fireplace

After Christmas, have a parent help you scan your completed Countdown to Christmas calendar and email to my special Christmas helper at:

To get your blank Countdown to Christmas calendar, click below!
Thumbs Up Johnnie Countdown to Christmas Calendar

Friday, November 25, 2011

These Boots Were Made for... Me!

A cowboy without a good pair of boots is like a sailor with no ship, like a baseball player with no glove, like a saxophonist with no saxophone …well, you get the idea. Boots are an important part of any respectable cowboy.

My boots came from M.L. Leddy’s in Fort Worth, Texas. They’re legends in the handmade boot and saddle biz. They also make clothes, belts, buckles and a bunch more, and have been doing it since 1922.

In my book Johnnie’s Missing Boot!, I got to meet Wilson Franklin, the owner of M.L. Leddy’s. He’s the grandson of the real M.L. Leddy, and he helped me pick out the boots that were just right for me. I wear ‘em everyday!

If you want to learn more about M.L. Leddy’s boots and the history of their business, visit their web site:

Time for boots to be moseyin’ on down the road!

My boots have a big star and a cactus and a horseshoe on them. Here’s your chance to design your own pair of fancy boots. Have your mom or dad help you print out this sheet below, then draw things that are important to you on them and color them.

When you’re all finished, scan the picture and send it to my special helper Michelle at, so I can share them with my other friends here and on my Facebook page! Don’t forget to sign your name and write your age.

Visit the link to download and print your boots to design!
Cowboy Boots!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Turkey Time! Get Your Gobble On!

Did you hear about the Thanksgiving turkey that got into a fight? He had the stuffing knocked out of him!

Don't look now but Thanksgiving is just next week! I can already smell L'il Pinky baking pumpkin pies at the Rumblin' Tummy bakery! Mmmm! Might have to drop by and see if she needs anyone to sample up a slice or two to make sure she's got it just right!

Turkey and stuffing and veggies and pies are my favorite Thanksgiving treats. What are yours? Do you have Thanksgiving traditions? Where will you enjoy Thanksgiving dinner?

Every year I like to cook a big ol' dinner at the Long Horn Diner and invite all of my friends over for a feast! I even make pumpkin flapjacks for Thanksgiving breakfast!


2 1/3 cups Original Biquick® mix
1/3 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspon pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs

1. Mix ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well blended.
2. Pour batter by slightly less than 1/4 cupfuls onto the hot griddle (grease griddle if necessary). Cook until edges are dry.
3. Turn; cook until golden brown. Serve with syrup.


Take this quiz to see how much you know about turkeys! Study the answers (found below) and then quiz your family members around the table at your Thanksgiving dinner!

1. The average weight of a turkey is 15 pounds. How much was the heaviest turkey ever raised?
a.) 26 pounds
b.) 36 pounds
c.) 56 pounds
d.) 86 pounds

2. A full grown turkey has about how many feathers?
a.) 100
b.) 1,000
c.) 3,500
d.) 100,000

3. What is the term for a large group of turkeys?
a.) A flock
b.) A brood
c.) A covey
d.) A wattle

4. Which turkeys make a gobble sound?
a.) Only the females
b.) Only the males
c.) Both males and females
d.) Neither, they actually bark

5. What is a 16-week old turkey called?
a.) A tom
b.) A giblet
c.) A fryer
d.) A drumstick

6. What is the name of the flap of skin that hangs over the turkey's beak?
a.) The wattle
b.) The gobbler
c.) The carbuncle
d.) The snood

7. What American patriot wanted the wild turkey to be the symbol for our country, instead of the bald eage?
a.) Thomas Jefferson
b.) Benjamin Franklin
c.) Abraham Lincoln
d.) George Washington

8. What is the only state that doesn't have wild turkeys?
a.) Michigan
b.) New York
c.) Alaska
d.) Texas

9. How long does it take turkey eggs to hatch?
a.) 7 days
b.) 28 days
c.) 2 months
d.) 9 months

10. Turkey skins are tanned and used to make what?
a.) Cowboy boots and belts
b.) Umbrellas
c.) Baseball gloves
d.) All of the above

1. = d.) 86 pounds, about the size of a large dog!
2. = c.) 3,500 feathers
3. = a.) a flock
4. = b.) only the males gobble; the females make a clucking noise
5. = c.) a fryer
6. = d.) the snood
7. = b.) Benjamin Franklin
8. = c.) Alaska
9. = b.) 28 days
10. = a.) Cowboy boots and belts

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans Day and 11-11-11!

Today is Veterans Day. It's the day we honor those brave men and women who have served in a branch of the military for the United States.

- Army
- Navy
- Air Force
- Marines
- Coast Guard

We celebrate Veterans Day on November 11th, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War 1 at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. So we proudly salute those people who have given so much to help us be safe and free in the country we love.

Do you know someone who has served in the military? A grandparent, parent or aunt or uncle or older brother or sister? If you're not sure, ask a parent. Then thank that person or draw them a picture for helping to protect our country! And give 'em a big ol' thumbs up and a hug!

Today is also 11-11-11! November 11th, 2011. It's the only 11-11-11 we'll see in our lifetimes!

Let's keep the number 11 in our mind this weekend and count things up to 11! What can you find 11 of? Get a piece of paper or a notepad and make a list of things you can count up to eleven.

For example:
11 cars
11 trees
11 fallen leaves
11 squirrels
11 birds
11 friends
11 socks

Can you fill up a whole page?

Then draw a picture of yourself wearing a sports jersey with the number 11 on it. E-mail it to me and I'll post it on my blog: (She helps me out with my mail!)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs!

My friend Miss Tiptop teaches kiddos at the Happy School lots of good stuff. She knows a lot about a lot of subjects! Recently she taught my nephew Little Digit and his best friend Zipp Handy about sign language. Sign language is a great way for people with hearing trouble to communicate.

The sign language alphabet is a series of hand signals. You spell out letters using your hands. For people who can't hear, signing can take the place of your voice! In my book, Zipp, Little Digit & the Happy Signs!, you can learn about different signs and ways to communicate.

Learn some simple sign language words this weekend. Sign the word HELLO...

Sign the word FRIEND...

Look at the chart below and learn to sign your first name. Then show your family and teach them how to sign their names.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Party Fun

Halloween is Monday! If your mom or dad need some really fun ideas for party games this weekend, take a look at some of my favorites here!

Supplies needed: 3 small pumpkins, 10 empty two-liter soda bottles.
Instructions: Arrange soda bottles like bowling pins and have kids stand at least 10 feet away and bowl the pumpkins. The kid who knocks down the most bottles wins!

Supplies needed: Large bag of plastic spiders or spider rings.
Instructions: Before the party starts, hide the spiders throughout the party area. The player or team who finds the most spiders by the end of the party wins a prize.

Supplies needed: A CD player and Halloween songs CD, plenty of space.
Instructions: Players dance and walk like zombies to the Halloween song, but when the music stops abruptly, they must too. Any player who moves or falls when the music has stopped is out for the round. Last zombie standing is the winner.

Supplies needed: Candy corn, two plastic jack-o-lanterns or pumpkins.
Instructions: Like horseshoes, teams of two toss pieces of candy corn into pumpkins placed 10-12 feet away. The team with the most candy corn in the pumpkins wins. Be sure to throw this candy away after the game and not eat it!

Remember to have a happy, fun and SAFE Halloween! Write to me and let me know what you dress up as and what games you played!

Make a Goofy Graveyard! Cut out tombstones from construction paper and write silly, creepy names on them. Here are some ideas:

- Ima Goner
- Will B. Back
- R. U. Next
- Justin Tyme
- C. U. Again
- Frank N. Stein
- I. M. Alive
- Barry M. Deep

Color your tombstones with crayons and decorate your party or room. It's also fun to put them on sticks and place them on your front lawn for trick-or-treaters to see. Have fun!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Flu Blues

Uh oh. Here it comes. Flu season. Yuck. Nobody likes being sick. It puts a thorn in your boot and hogties your activities. But there are some easy things you can do to keep from catching the flu!

In my book Jimmy Jam Germ and the Happy Handshake, I met up with a new pal who taught me about the importance of always washing your hands. His special fist-bumping handshake keeps germs away.

Keep these hand washing tips in mind to keep the nitty gritties away:
- Wet your hands with warm water and use a good amount of soap.
- Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, covering all parts of the hands and fingernails.
- Rinse hands with water.
- Dry well with a disposable towel.
- Use a towel to turn off the faucet.

Here are a few other healthy habits to keep from spreading germs:
- Don't share things like spoons, knives, forks, cups and bottles.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands afterwards. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or upper arm, not your hands.
- Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth to keep germs from entering your body.

Sing the "Clean Hand Jive" while you're scrubbing the nitty gritties away!
Click here to hear the "Clean Hand Jive"

It's almost Halloween! Time to get your trick-or-treat on! You can go to the library and find books of kid jokes or check out some safe websites, with your parents' permission.

Here are some of my favorite Halloween riddles to tell your neighbors to earn your treats!
- What do you call a witch who lives at the beach? A sand-witch.
- What is a mummy's favorite type of music? Wrap!
- Where does Count Dracula usually eat his lunch? At the casketeria.
- What do you call a goblin that gets too close to a bonfire? A toasty ghosty.
- Why didn't the skeleton cross the road? He had no guts.
- What's it like to be kissed by a vampire? It's a pain in the neck.
- Where did the ghost get its hair done? At the boo-ty shop.
- What did the skeleton order with his drink? A mop.
- What did one jack-o-lantern say to the other on their way to the Halloween party? "Let's get glowing!"

Here's a website with lots more funny Halloween riddles:

Remember to always trick-or-treat with a grownup! Have fun!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Joyful Jack-o-Lanterns!

What do you use to mend a jack-o-lantern? A pumpkin patch!

It’s that time of year again when we get to carve pumpkins to make spooky and fun jack-o-lanterns! I don’t know about you, but I love to reach my hands in and scoop out the ooey gooey pumpkin guts and take out the seeds!

You can trace a funny or scary face on a pumpkin and carve it out. Be sure to have a grownup do the cutting! When you finish, coat your jack-o-lantern with Vaseline to keep it from drying out and shriveling. If it does shrivel up, soak it in water overnight.

Did I mention that I love roasted pumpkin seeds? Here’s my friend L’il Pinky’s recipe for roasted seeds. Make sure you always cook with a grownup!

- 1 1/3 cups pumpkin seeds, cleaned and rinsed
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat over to 350 degrees F.
Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Mix the pumpkin seeds with the garlic powder, salt and black pepper on baking sheet and toss to combine.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until seeds are crispy and light golden brown.
Remove from the oven and stir with a spatula to release any stuck seeds and cool completely before serving.

Yum! Decorate some snack baggies and share them with family and friends for a scary good treat!

Next week, I'll give you some spooky and funny jokes to tell while you're trick-or-treating!

Make a Thumbs Up Johnnie-o-Lantern! Carve a pumpkin with a Thumbs Up Johnnie face!

Step 1: Have a grownup help you print out the attached template.
Step 2: Carefully cut out the eyes and mouth.
Step 3: Tape or glue the paper eyes and mouth to the side of a small or medium size pumpkin.
Step 4: Using a marker, trace around the eyes and mouth to make cut lines. You can remove the paper pieces now or leave them on.
Step 5: Have a grownup carefully cut a large round hole in the top of the pumpkin around the stem.
Step 6: Scoop out the seeds and pumpkin pulp. Separate the seeds for roasting.
Step 7: Have a grownup cut around the eyes and mouth.
Step 8: Remove any extra pumpkin pulp inside the eyes and mouth.
Step 9: Print out the attached Thumbs Up Johnnie hat and tape it to the front top of the face.
Step 10: Have a grownup place a light or candle inside your Thumbs Up Johnnie-o-Lantern and enjoy!

Click on the links below for the templates to make your own Johnnie-o-Lantern!
Thumbs Up Johnnie Jack-o-Lantern Template
Thumbs Up Johnnie Hat Template

Friday, October 7, 2011

Perfectly Pumpkins!

I don't know about you but I love fall! And October is one of my favorite months. With cooler weather, Halloween, hayrides and autumn colors, what's not to love? Know what one of my favorite things about October is? Pumpkins! Here are some fun facts about pumpkins you might not have known...

- Pumpkins are a fruit
- Pumpkins are 90% water
- Pumpkins can weigh as little as one pound or as much as 1,000 pounds
- Roasted pumpkin seeds are a delicious snack
- The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,140 pounds
- The name pumpkin comes from the Greek word "pepon," which means "large melon."

Next week I'll tell you about pumpkin carving and making jack-o-lanterns, so mosey on over here again and check it out!

Different trees grow different kind of leaves, and during this time of year, those leaves like to change colors and fall to the ground. This weekend, go outside and find five different shaped leaves. Be sure to stay away from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac! They can make you itch and cause a rash. Look at the pictures below so you know not to touch those. After you've collected your leaves, try to figure out what kind of tree they came from. Then trace them on a piece of white paper and color them. Don't forget to sign your artwork!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Quick on the Draw

Have you ever heard of the artist Pablo Picasso? Next month, on October 25th, it will be the 130th anniversary of his birth. Pablo started drawing as a kid and never stopped, becoming one of the world's most famous painters and artists.

It's always best to ask an adult permission and where the best place is to create your art! There are so many ways to create art. Here are a few ideas for bringing out the artist in you:
* Drawing
* Painting
* Sculpture (molding or carving clay)
* Wood carving
* Calligraphy (fancy handwriting and lettering)
* Photography

Drawing is fun and perfect for any age, whether you're four or 140! Here are some things you can draw with:
* Pencils & colored pencils
* Pens & markers
* Crayons
* Charcoal pencils
* Chalks
* Paints

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be a famous artist? Think about it. Would people go to museums and galleries to look at your work? Would people want to hang your art in their home?

It's never too early to start your artistic adventure!

Hey, all you little Picassos! I hope you like to draw because I've got a fun assignment for you! I need you to lasso up your pencils, crayons and markers and draw me, Thumbs Up Johnnie! When you're finished, get a grown up to scan your drawing and email it here:

Be sure to include:
* Your name
* Your age
* Your hometown

I'll post your artwork in upcoming Thumbs Up Johnnie newsletters and on our Facebook page!

Now, it's back to the old drawing board for you! Good luck!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cookin' It Real: Cowboy Style!

Howdy, partners! This week we're gonna two-step to my diner and get some grub on the griddle! That's cowboy-speak for "Let's cook some food!"

You know, anyone can cook and mix up some Texas-sized tasty treats, but always have a grown-up help you. They are much more at "Home on the Range" when it comes to cooking safety.

Here are some "Thumbs Up" cooking tips:
1. Always wash your hands before cooking food - try singing the "Clean Hand Jive" song! (check it out at
2. Always have a grown-up nearby or helping you
3. Make healthy meals and snacks that are good for you and your body that will help get you going
4. Always help clean up after you're finished cooking
5. Share what you have cooked with your friends and family

Here's one of my favorite recipes. It's easy and fun to make. Just get out the ingredients and follow the cooking instructions.

Groovy Blueberry Smoothie
1 cup blueberries (frozen)
6 ounces low-fat blueberry yogurt
1 cup light ice cream

Place all of the ingredients into a blender (get a grown-up to help)
Mix until well blended
Pour equal amounts into two glasses and serve
For a berry-licious decoration, put a couple of blueberries on top!

This healthy recipe and a bunch more for kids, by kids, can be found in my book, Super Centeam 5 Cookbook.

What do you like to cook? What's your favorite healthy snack? Let me know!

Paper bag puppets are easy and fun to make! Simply take a paper lunch bag, decorate it with a face and a body, then put your hand inside and move the flap for the mouth. Make a paper bag puppet of me, Thumbs Up Johnnie! Look at the picture below for an idea. Then you can get really creative and make different animals like a bird, an elephant or tiger. When you're all finished, make up a play and perform your puppet show for your family and friends!

You've got fun in the bag!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Anatomy of a "Buddy": Horses from Head to Hoof!

Howdy, partners! Most of you know that Buddy is one of my very best friends. As a horse, he likes to run through the pasture, eat hay, alfalfa, apples and carrots, be brushed and of course have his ears scratched! You know, just like you, Buddy has a lot of different parts that make up what he is. Do you know what the parts of a horse are called?

Muzzle: The front end of a horse containing his mouth and nostrils

Forehead: The area between the horse's eyes

Forelock: The hair between the ears that falls onto the horse's forehead

Mane: The hair on the back of the horse's neck

Back: Where you put the saddle!

Barrel: The large underneath part, or belly, of a horse

Dock: The very top of the tail

Tail: The part that swishes flies

Hocks: The joint on a horse's back legs that's like an elbow

Fetlock: The ankle

Hoof: A horse's hard foot

Write or think up your own story with you and Buddy the horse! Maybe you’re performing in a rodeo or taking a trip. What fun things do you and Buddy see and do in that town? Who goes with you on your adventure and who do you meet when you get there? Draw pictures of you and Buddy to go along with your adventure. When you’re finished with your story, read it to you friends and family and show them the pictures.

Have fun horsin’ around!

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Special Day to Say "Thanks, America. We Love You!"

This weekend is a special weekend for America... it is a time to reflect on why we love our country, thank the people that serve in the military who protect our freedoms and to remember people who may not be with us any longer. Buddy and me are going to show how much we love our country by saying a prayer for the people that were affected on September 11th, many years ago. I think we will sing "America the Beautiful" and say the pledge of allegiance out loud and really think about what the words mean.

You can read more about this at

Did you know that Sunday, September 11th is Grandparents' Day? If you know or have a grandma or grandpa, make them a card with special hand-drawn thoughts and pictures from you. If you're able to see them this weekend, give them the cards and wish them a Happy Grandparents' Day. If you can't see them, ask a family member if you can call your grandma or grandpa and talk to them. Let them know you're thinking about them. Here's a list of questions you can ask them that would be interesting to know:

* When you were a kid, what were you like?
* When you were little did you have
a nickname?
* What did you like to do when you were
my age?
* What were your favorite games and
sports to play as a kid?
* What did you want to be when you
grew up?

Be sure to tell them how special they are to you, and that you hope they have a special day!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ridin' the Storm Out!

Batten down the hatches! After Hurricane Irene battered the East Coast recently, I got to thinkin' about storms and being prepared to deal with them. Most parts of the country are prone to getting some kinds of bad weather. Along the coasts it's hurricanes and tropical storms. In the Midwest we sometimes get tornadoes and dust storms. Thunderstorms, lightening strikes and severe winds can hit just about anywhere. Here are some safety tips for getting yourself ready and safe for a storm.

Parents should always stay calm. Show your kids that storms are natural and nothing to get spooked about. Let them see that you've got the situation under control.

Get a special "Safe Room" ready to retreat in your home should a thunderstorm or tornado be announced. An area of the basement is best, if you have one. Make sure it's big enough for your best horse friend, if you have one. Stock your Safe Room with batteries and a battery-operated radio, flashlights, and maybe a lantern and a small table with some books. You can ride out the bad weather by doing homework or reading or even playing cards.

Let your kiddos know they're safe, as you monitor the weather situation. A cell phone can connect you to other family members so you can make sure they're safe too.

Remember: storms can be very serious and dangerous. Listen to parents or other adults in times of bad weather and take shelter away from windows.

Talk to your parents about setting up a Safe Room to have ready in case of storms. Clean up an area, gather some batteries, flashlights, a small table and some books or games and set up your own Safe Room for your family. You'll be able to keep busy as you ride the storm out!

Check out this cool website to learn more about storms and emergency preparedness!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Eat Healthy. Feel Healthy. Be Healthy!

You know, down here at the Long Horn Diner in Happy, Texas, we have a lot to choose from on our breakfast menu. Some of the food is super healthy and good for you. Some of it tastes mighty delicious but isn't exactly the best thing for your body. I like to tell my customers, "Too little of this and too much of that, can make you feel funky and flunky and flat!" Just remember, breakfast shouldn't always be fattening and unhealthy things like donuts and sugary cereal and pastries. Try some fruit! Any fruit goes well with breakfast! Whole wheat toast, milk, juice, eggs and cheese are healthy, tasty choices. And don't forget that a good breakfast gives you the energy you need to get your giddyup going so you can make it through school or work or a day on the ball field!

"Too little of this and too much of that, can make you feel funky and flunky and flat!"
Hmmm. I should put that to music and write a song! Where's my guitar?

Have a picnic in your own backyard this weekend. While the weather's still nice and warm, pack up a basket of your favorite healthy lunch foods and spread out a blanket on the grass. Invite your friends or your brothers and sisters. Try a healthy new food you've never tried before and ask your friends what their favorites are. Eat up and enjoy the great outdoors!