Text by Lisa McEwen I Photos by Steve Cory
The calendar hadn’t turned to October yet when Johnna Crosswell knew that her Christmas decorations were going to go up early, stay up late and be on a scale that she had never attempted before.
As owner of Island District Inc., balancing holiday events and responsibilities while preparing for her company’s busy season of placing beehives throughout the state has always been a challenge.
Throw in a pandemic that has altered life in so many ways, her mother’s cancer diagnosis and the shuttering of her family’s favorite theme park, and Johnna decided to embrace the situation and turn her own home into the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
Multiple trips to both Disneyland in Southern California and DisneyWorld in Florida mean that the Crosswell home can quite easily stand in for an exciting, twinkly light-filled theme park, perfect for her three grandchildren ages 6, 4 and 2. Giant Minnie and Mickey Mouse stuffed toys seated at the base of the Christmas tree greet little visitors while Disney character ornaments from all the major movies fill almost every inch of the 12-foot-tall Christmas tree in the living room. Buzz Lightyear, Donald Duck, Simba and, of course, Baby Yoda peer playfully out of the tree while guests lounge on the comfortable couches and recliners.
“We aren’t able to go to Disneyland this year, so we decided to bring Disney here,” Johnna said. “And we have had so much fun doing it. My grandbabies love the magical touch.”
Just as important are the memories and conversations shared with her mom, Vicky, while decorating the tree with her two daughters and grandchildren early this fall.
“She really enjoyed watching as we decorated, and it brought up a lot of communication with Mom that we all loved,” Johnna said.
NEW HOME, NEW DÉCOR
It’s been almost two years since Johnna moved into the Hanford home with Tommy Majors.
Surrounded by a Lisbon lemon orchard, the four-bedroom home provides plenty of space for visitors.
“We wanted a place where everyone could come, especially the grandbabies. They run wild and have a good time here,” she said, her face beaming with pride. “I live for the grandbabies.”
She is happy to report that the fourth grandchild is due in 2021.
With the decision to “go all out,” as Johnna describes it, she hired LC Kaylor Christmas Decor by Kaylor Landscape Inc. to assist with the interior decorations as well as to add plenty of fun outdoor lighting. Lights strung around the flagpole in the circular drive create a tree effect, and a bright white arbor leads guests up the walkway to the front door of the Spanish-style home. A playful Santa Claus hauling a Christmas tree in a flatbed trailer pulled by a John Deere tractor brings cheer to the scene. The eaves and windows of the home are lined with white lights and snowflakes, illuminating this countryside home.
Across the threshold, in the foyer, guests are greeted by a wintry scene: a beautiful array of trees, white lights and angels in many forms. This area holds many special memories for Johnna. Each tree represents a period in her life and holds ornaments related to that time as a daughter, mother and grandmother, as well as a tree for just her grandchildren.
A trio of white wicker angels has been in the family for at least 35 years, she said, and she finds ways to incorporate them into each year’s decorations. The scene prepares visitors for the living room, which has been titled the “Frozen” room after the blockbuster movies that left nearly every child and parent, and certainly some grandparents, singing the hit song “Let It Go!” Another beautifully decorated tree fills this space, its ornaments capturing white, royal blue, silver and metallic gold hues perfectly.
FOCUS ON THE CHILDREN
Long before “The Elf on the Shelf” made its way into American homes, Johnna employed three elves, Larry, Curly and Moe, every holiday to keep an eye on the home and its inhabitants. She moves them around each day throughout the home, and tasks her grandchildren with locating them, making for a fun activity every time they come for a visit. The day of our visit, one was in the dining room centerpiece!
“Everything I do, I incorporate the kids,” she said. “I thought some of this might get destroyed easily, but they’ve been having lots of fun,” she added with a smile.
One of the best parts of the Christmas season is baking, and Johnna decorated her spacious kitchen in the theme of her favorite cookie: gingerbread.
Gingerbread houses, gingerbread men, funny signs and giant lollipops line the top shelf above her white cabinets, making the space instantly festive. With plenty of countertop space, spending several afternoons baking gingerbread cookies with the grandchildren is a snap.
“We use the recipe from Disneyland, and they are delicious,” she said. “We have so much fun together.”
Having the house decorated for Christmas for several months has been a blessing in so many ways, Johnna said. For one, they are going to celebrate twice: at Thanksgiving and Christmas, giving the family double the memories. (At Thanksgiving, Johnna also parked a snow machine in the front yard to add to the fun.)
She and Tommy not only get to enjoy all the effort longer than they would normally, all the decor has also brought even more joy into the home during a trying year.
“We are going to celebrate as much as we can,” she said.