The holiday season ushers in a dizzying array of sights, sounds and feelings.
For some, smell of sugar cookies baking brings them back to Grandma’s house. Others can’t wait to trim the tree, hot cider in hand. Travelers take to the roads, eager to spend time with loved ones they might not see otherwise.
As the season kicks off and everyone starts Christmas preparations, some Grimes residents are ushering it in by doing their best to trim the tree and deck the halls with festive decorations. Others are repeating cherished traditions that have been celebrated for years. Read on to see how they do their best to spruce things up for the holidays.
One of the most fun ways to celebrate Christmas can be visually, and these Grimes residents are doing their best to trim the tree and make their homes special this season. Mitzi Chizek loves to decorate, and her most notable decorations are her nativity scenes. She collects them, and though she’s lost count of the total over the years, she estimates she has more than 80.
“Some are little and hang on the tree, and one table might have five to six different ones, some little ones for my grandkids,” she says. “Our house isn’t decorated like one of those showhouses. It’s like, ‘This is how we live, and this is what we like to do.’ ”
Chizek says she thoroughly enjoys the season, and they do some outdoor decorations as well. They’ve even won the award for best light display, when the Chamber of Commerce used to do a holiday lighting contest.
“The outdoor decorating has just built up over the years. I enjoy putting up the lights outside. When I start to come home and turn the corner and see all the lights, it lights up my inside. It sounds dorky, but it brings out the kid in everyone.”
For Roger Otis, outdoor lighting is where it’s at. The electrical engineer has a huge display that’s synchronized to music.
Otis has been putting up outdoor lights for more than 30 years, but about five or six years ago, he got interested in learning how to synchronize his display to popular holiday songs. He taught himself with Youtube videos and other Internet instructions, and he also built the equipment necessary to make the whole display work.
Otis says he gets most of his information from doityourselfchristmas.com, which instructs people on how to build controllers to operate the lights. Then he uses a free Internet program called Vixen Lighting Automation to run it all. He has about 15,000 lights, though perhaps only about a third of them are lit at any one moment. The display is done in red, white and green lights, and it cycles through about eight different songs. Viewers can tune into an FM station to hear the music. The whole display is run by a computer.
“We started running it this year before Thanksgiving,” Otis says. “It’s usually on from about 5:30 – 11 p.m. It’s funny, we haven’t lived in this neighborhood long, so we weren’t sure what the neighbors would think, but some of them have come over to tell us they like it.”
Otis says the display is pretty much set now from year to year. They might add another song each year, but since it takes 20 to 30 hours to program a song, new ones will be added slowly.
For other Grimes residents, Christmas is best shared with family and friends, getting together each year to celebrate special traditions. No matter how small, special moments are what make the season bright.
Randy and Amie Chumbley and their four kids — Trey, 14, Zoey, 12, Seth, 9, and Jace, 8 —love Christmastime.
“It’s one of our favorite times of the year,” Randy says. “Though we’d like it a little better with a bit of snow!”
The Chumbleys are no strangers to decorations either. They put lights up outside as well as decorating indoors. This year Trey was able to get up on the roof and help his dad with the lights — a nice rite of passage reminiscent of a good old-fashioned Griswold family Christmas. The night before Thanksgiving is set aside to get the lights up on the roof, then they use the rest of the weekend to decorate the rest of the house and start working on the tree.
Another tradition they have is taking a family trip to Nebraska to see Amie’s family and celebrate Christmas with them, usually in early December. The kids exchange presents, and the adults do a white elephant gift exchange. They all eat too much, play games and have fun together.
The Chumbleys are also in charge of bringing the decorated sugar cookies to any family gathering.
“It always starts out with a lot of enthusiastic helpers, and it always ends up with just Mom,” Randy says.
On Christmas Eve, they celebrate with Ryan’s family in Des Moines, and there is one food that’s always on the menu — a ham and cheese biscuit.
Randy says it’s like a cheese frenchee, a small cheese sandwich that’s deep fat fried. There used to be a chain restaurant called King’s that served them.
“It was a recipe my mom came across,” Randy says. “It’s like a variation of the cheese frenchee. It’s a buttermilk biscuit with ham and Swiss cheese, and you roll it in crackers and bake it. It just stuck. No matter what else we have, that’s always the one staple.”
Merry Christmas from all of us at Grimes Living magazine.