Gnome is Where the Heart Is

Holiday decorating lost it’s intrigue somewhere around my mid-thirties. Been there, done that. It became a job and for every ornament that went on the tree, I became very self-aware that not only must it come down, but it also needed to be cleaned and stored for about 10 months only to be re-donned the following year. Suddenly, the fact my grandparents gave up on a Christmas tree became more of a revelation of genius than a sign of fragility. They were never too old, they were smart. Who does this crap every year?

Well, apparently we do… And somehow the banquet room for our restaurant was suddenly left all to me – the me that has worked 18 of the past 23 night shifts for Christmas in the local ER, the me that can’t half-ass anything, the me that hadn’t been up a ladder in more than 16 months. Perfect.

I consulted the guy with the business degree and 20+ years of experience in the field. “It will be fine, hunny,” he said as he kissed me on the forehead. “Just get it done.” No pressure.

So I did. I attempted to recruit some of the most talented and crafty minds in our local area, but everyone was busy. Insert a huge, disappointed sigh here.

I wanted elegant but rustic. Professional but comfortable. Fancy but effortless. I needed to incorporate old decor with a new theme – and for my own sanity, I needed to incorporate just a touch of whimsy so I could giggle when I walked in the room – so, true to any decor perfectionist, I turned first to Pinterest – where all unrealistic expectations are set.

And then I saw him. He wasn’t new to me really, I’d seen him before but this time, he caught my eye and held my interest. He was subtle yet exuded the playful whimsy I wanted. He made me smile. He was a Christmas Gnome. Easily created with an inverted garden tomato cage, some pine boughs, a potato nose, a red felt hat and some knitted gloves. I’d found my inspiration.

I worked tirelessly to purge the Christmas decoration bins of old and donation bin-worthy decor. I checked a million twinkle lights. I made a thousand-plus trips up a very high ladder with pine swag in hand. I was on my umpteenth trip to the dreaded Walmart for matching twinkle lights when fate wooed me into the holiday spirit – there he was – my gnome. Plastic pine, red felt hat and pink potato nose – complete with twinkle lights!

I took it as a sign from the Heavens. Truly. We all know all Pinterest projects are a zillion times harder and more expensive than they appear. For $19 and change, my sweet gnome was just sitting on a shelf waiting for me.

I plugged him in and giggled. The lights matched, he didn’t fall apart – he was perfect. Now, to find some gnome decorations to tie him in with everything. Gnomes are kind of trending right now; I didn’t think it would be hard.

To make a long story short – it was. The only gnome ornaments to be found were on Etsy and really expensive (no offense) and at least 2 weeks out with shipping. Dang. I revisited our local Hobby Lobby, then Michael’s, then again with the dreaded Walmart… Nothing. A last ditch search on Amazon was still disappointing… Two week shipping. I needed gnomes and I needed them now.

I did an internet search and nothing… But wait – what is that? Remember the salt dough ornaments from our childhood (if you are nearing 50)? My mom use to spend hours making ornaments. And 3-4 decades later they are still hanging strong on our family Christmas tree.

It was at that moment, the idea struck, and I asked myself the infamous question that all Pinterest perusers ask themselves – how hard could it be? And I set off to build my own gnome ornaments.

The Salt Dough, (we called it bread dough), recipe was so easy that I had everything in a cupboard.

I mixed a batch up, dug deep into my childhood memory and began crafting as my mother had long, long ago.

A plastic bag to keep the dough moist, a garlic press to create the beard, a paint brush dipped in water to moisten the different gnome parts together, a copper wire for a hanger ( a paperclip would work, too – but I was out!) and into the oven my little friends went.

I baked them at 250 degrees for 2-3 hours. Painted them the next day and couldn’t be more happy with the way they turned out.

I’m going to chalk this one up as mission accomplished.

The Recipe

Salt Dough – 1 cup flour, 1 cup salt, 1/2 cup water – bake at 250 degrees for 2-3 hours until firm but not burnt. Easy peasey!


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