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I’ve Got My Books to Keep Me Warm | Gift Guide


I have a secret for you.

I might like to read a little.

Just a little. Ya know, I only read 174 books this year.


I just like to read.

So I thought I would present you with a book gift guide for the holidays. I truly believe a book is one of the best gifts you can give someone. It’s personal! You have to really think about what a book could mean to someone. I hope there’s something fun in this group for all your shopping needs. Just a few days to go!

This Happy Place Blog Book Gift Guide 2014

1) Summer of Yesterday by Gaby Triana ( Amazon | B&N | Obsessed over SoY ): A pleasant surprise in the world of young adult books. Time travel back to the magical time of River Country and a girl who is not sure she’ll ever make it back to the present.

2) John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman ( Amazon | B&N ): Can’t picture the Great Movie Ride without a little John Wayne. This book was on some top books of 2014 lists, and I realized… I don’t know much about John Wayne at all.

3) Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schultz ( Amazon | B&N | My review ): First book in a new series for the kiddos about Captain Hook’s daughter and her thirst for adventure. Think The Little Princess meets Matilda and a bunch of pirates.

4) Charlie’s Glass Slippers by Holly McQueen ( Amazon | B&N ): A shoe company, a makeover, and an evil stepmom … funny and well-developed take on the Cinderella story set in London. I had a blast reading this on the beach this summer.

5) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion ( Amazon | B&N ): I finished this book on my November trip, and it was the perfect travel companion. Narrated by a young man who depends very heavily on a particular schedule, The Rosie Project has its own little Disney surprise inside and is sweet, touching, and very funny.

6) The Art & Flair of Mary Blair by John Canemaker ( Amazon | B&N ): Someone in desperate need of a beautiful coffee table book? You can’t go wrong with this beauty.

7) Main Street Windows by Jeff Heimbuch ( Amazon | B&N ): Want to be the person in your trip party who lovingly shares fun facts? You’ll need this trip as your partner-in-crime for sure; no matter what park you are visiting.

8) The Untold Stories of Broadway by Jennifer Tepper ( Amazon | B&N ): Who doesn’t want to know behind-the-scenes stories about Broadway shows & their casts? Tepper recently released Book 2 of this series, and this seems like a lot of fun for any theatre fan.

9) Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers — 80th Anniversary edition — ( Amazon | B&N ): A year after the release of Saving Mr. Banks, it might be time to grab the latest edition of this classic. I loved reading about Mary Poppins when I was a kid, and I am looking forward to finally rereading it in 2015. This new cover is beautiful.

10) Slimed by Matthew Klickstein ( Amazon | B&N ): Okay, not exactly a Disney pick, but if you are a fan of pop culture and “the good old days” you can’t go wrong with picking up this tell-all about Nickelodeon of the 90s.

I’d love to hear what books you loved this year! Hope your holidays include a bit of reading!:)


Dan HeatonDecember 20, 2014 - 8:01 am

I really want to read that John Wayne book. I read the book about John Ford by the same author, and it was exhaustive but a fairly easy read. I’ll go back to it when I catch another Ford film, and it’s a great resource. I expect the Wayne book will be similar. Thanks for the reminder!

Merry Disney DIY | Handmade Tradition

“Why don’t you make a card?”

This is a question that is asked a lot in our household during this time of year. Truthfully, I should be making a card instead of writing this post but publishing THIS particular post always inspires me and gets me crafting faster and better.

In 2011, 2012, and 2013, I’ve shared cards that I’ve made my family over the years. Every Christmas, I use paper, any supplies in my apartment, and my imagination to create a set of themed Disney cards for them. Each and every year I share this, I have no idea what particular theme I will be going through with next year. Oh the fun!

Last year, I went for a food theme. A little difficult to execute but I’m very happy with how they turned out.

Ice Cream Disney DIY Christmas Card 2013

This first card was for my sister. It’s inspired by the France Pavilion in Epcot and the little ice cream kiosk found in there. The spot might not seem like something special but when we were going on family vacations, it always felt like a treat when I pulled out my own cash to buy us these vanilla cones. Oh, the simple times.

ESPN Club Boardwalk DIY Disney Christmas Card

This one was made especially for my dad. Having lunch at the ESPN Club was always a “final day” family tradition, and my parents still find time to make it there when they travel to WDW now. There was a big controversy when the restaurant got rid of my parents’ favorite hot dog but apparently you can still order it “on the down low”. You did not hear that here.

Orange Bird DIY Disney Christmas Card

This one is kind of a funny story. It’s for my mom, and not because she’s a huge Orange Bird or classic Disney World fan. In fact, her first trip to the World was the same year as mine… so she doesn’t have memories of the vintage park I always hear about either. A few trips ago, I made my parents an “adventure playbook” for their WDW and one of the challenges was to buy and try a Citrus Swirl. Well, the service at Sunshine Seasons was deplorable and it’s become a running joke in the family. But isn’t he a cutie?

I’m totally looking forward to handing them their DIY cards again this year!

Which one of these is your fav? Do you DIY anything for the holidays?

Steve BurnsDecember 16, 2014 - 3:52 pm

Cool cards! I like the uniqueness of them. I didn’t quite go to that extreme, but our mass produced (well, 100 copies) photo card this year featured us in front of a winter scene background that I drew. None of those pre-made photo card templates for us! I liked how it turned out. Not sure yet what others think about it, since I just sent them out yesterday. :)

AlexDecember 16, 2014 - 8:38 pm

Love these. You are so creative! <3

[…] Estelle of This Happy Place Blog shares some photos of her adorable hand-made Disney food-themed holiday cards. […]

Muppet Actually | Muppet Monday

I’m dreaming… not of a white christmas exactly but of a holiday mash-up between two of my must-see flicks of this season: The Muppets Christmas Carol (duh) and Love Actually.

Why these two?

Take a look at this clip from The Muppet Christmas Carol:

Let’s focus on Bean Bunny in the beginning of this clip. He’s poor. He’s obviously aggravating Scrooge, and well, did he not know who was going to open the door when he knocked on it? All he wanted to do was spread some holiday cheer and he gets a heavy door slammed in his cute little face. Sigh. Poor little buddy.

Switching gears to Love Actually, if you remember, Hugh Grant does a little caroling as well in his role as Prime Minister. True, this is odd since he is Prime Minister and why the heck is he out caroling? He’s looking for his ex-employee because he realizes he likes her. It totally makes sense to visit her street during the holidays and pretend to be caroling.

In this clip right here (I can’t embed it), you will see that Hugh was inspired by Bean’s performance and sang the same exact song. But instead of being met with anger, he gets three adorable little girls dancing until they drop and even his bodyguard chimes in. (That part is the best.) As you can see, the poor bunny gets the shaft in this scenario.

What if Bean and Hugh switched places? Could Bean finally be a winner?

The end product might not be as epic as this:

But hey, a girl can dream.

Weekly Round Up: December 16December 16, 2014 - 5:00 am

[…] has the greatest Muppet mash-up idea ever on This Happy Place Blog. All I want for Christmas is […]

Saving the Day| Buddy the Elf Returns

It’s the most wonderful time of the yearrr… when Melissa of Rolling with the Magic and I team up to Buddy-ify our blogs. This is always so much fun. Last year, Buddy played blogger and commented on the state of the parks and the year before that, Melissa stopped in with our fav elf to talk about his own park itinerary during the holidays.

So what is this happy elf who looks great in green bringing to This Happy Place Blog this year?

Our friend Buddy is taking some of the top complaints from seasoned Disney theme park travelers and magically making them better. Maybe he is up for Meg Crofton’s replacement? We’ll see…

Do you dread the Disney theme park bus transportation? The strollers? The noise? The lateness? Let’s not even bring up the monorails that are always breaking down. Should you just rent a car already?

Buddy the Elf Disney World Santa

Buddy’s answer: If Christmas spirit can make Santa’s sleigh ride, imagine what a little Disney spirit could do for theme park transportation. (I guess this is better than walking through the Lincoln Tunnel.)

Are you unhappy with the lack of new attractions that have been rolling out in parks lately? Do you cringe when you hear a new restaurant or souvenir shop is opening?

Buddy’s answer: The best attraction is always a revolving door.

Starbucks can’t be our savior all the time. We can’t plan when we need a caffeine boost. What if we have no choice but to have a crappy cup of coffee instead of the best coffee in the world?

Buddy the Elf Disney World Maple Syrup

Buddy’s answer: Maple syrup makes everything taste better.

Are you not into Avatarland but still irritated it’s going to be years before we get this expansion? Why in the name of Santa’s reindeer did it take so long for them to finish New Fantasyland? Wouldn’t be nice if these “new” sights took only 2 years to create?

Buddy the Elf Avatarland Disney World

Buddy’s answer: Hire Santa’s elves on the off-season! They have an impressive work ethic with only 45 minutes of sleep. (Estelle note: I don’t want to bring this up but Buddy could supply the best paper snowflakes ever for anything Frozen-themed.)

Ah, I love writing these! What problems do you want to see Buddy the Elf to solve in the parks?

Can his spirit change the world? Oh, I totally think so.

[…] Holidays Around the World at Epcot? You get to treat every day like Christmas! Make sure to stop by This Happy Place Blog to see what else Buddy is up to. And if you want even more Buddy check out some of my previous […]

Shopping All the Way| Kill Refurb Marry

Kill Refurb Marry

Drinking coffee and shopping are two activities I practice at home, and must be a part of my vacation too. In the case of Disney theme parks, the shopping has been better than the coffee situation until recently (thank the java lords for Starbucks) and there are a few shops I must frequent on every trip. Whether it’s the merchandise selection, the music, or the decor, I enjoy browsing and buying in so many of these that this final Kill Refurb Marry of 2014 has proven to be a tough one.

Ready, set, shop!


Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post (Hollywood Studios). This is temporary, right? It felt like a knife into the heart to walk in here and know it used to be the AFI Showcase, a spot I spent many vacations wandering with my family. Maybe it would have been okay if there was actual adult merchandise in here, but no… definitely catered to the young ones and looks like it was thrown together with some cardstock and tape. Sigh.

Wandering Oaken


Stage 1 Company Store (Hollywood Studios). Otherwise known as The Muppet Store. The theming in this store is TOO good, showcasing the earlier Muppet movies and even Muppet Babies. But the Muppet merchandise? It’s just not cutting it and it hasn’t for a long time. When I visited in November, I noticed a few new additions but I also noticed much more MagicBand and general Disney theme park merchandise. Sigh. I know there isn’t a ton of Muppet merchandise in the world but it could certainly be improved upon and the second half of the store doesn’t have to turn into some typical souvenir shop. (We have enough of those.)

Highlight: Stage 1 Company Store scavenger hunt.

Stage 1 Store Hollywood Studios Front of the Store

How could I forget The Writer’s Shop (also in Hollywood Studios)? Does it count since it’s half bakery? I’m not sure. I love the vibe in here. Very New York City, and could only imagine the possibilities of what they could do with this one if they tried. Could it be a true bookshop? People want to buy books, Disney! Or should it turn into a milkshake stop to match its counterpart: Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater? Either way, something has got to give.


Chester & Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures (Animal Kingdom). There are no words to properly express my love for this shop. I know, it’s in DinoLand but I would gladly head over just to pop in here. The shop is quite the masterpiece; it must have been a ton of fun to place all these toys and fun things everywhere. I see something new every time I stop in. The merchandise ranges from fun to normal theme park items but I do not need an excuse to hang out in here and take plenty of pictures.

Chester and Hester

Runners-up: Plaza de los Amigos (Epcot). The ambiance! The silver store. Keystone Clothiers (Hollywood Studios). Best clothes in the entire World. Yep, you heard me.


Thank you SO much for joining us this year!

Melissa & I are finalizing the themes for the first few months of 2014 and we shall we posting them soon.


Becky @ Disney in your DayDecember 10, 2014 - 12:22 pm

I’m with you on the Muppets – the inside of the shop is so cool, but the merchandise is unimpressive! I do enjoy the Dinoland area as well. It’s always a nice place to walk through.

melissaDecember 10, 2014 - 9:55 pm

Oh, hi, Refurb Brain Twin! <3

I, too, love Chester and Hester's … I had a really hard time picking a marry … sigh.