Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas and Birthday Banners

 Last Friday I was reading the weekly e-newsletter I receive from Stampington & Company and in it they featured a project by artist Shannon Sawyer for a journal which they call a Christmas "To Do" list. It was Shannon's project that inspired my banners. The cover of the journal actually featured a banner similar to the one I made in that it used the words Joyeux Noel.

I also liked the idea of making another banner with the word "Peace". It would fit with the theme if I used French for that too, so I googlized the word and also made a Paix banner.

I enjoy working with paper but I'm not an aficionado. I don't craft with paper very often but I've always had an affection for pretty paper and I collect it when I see something that I really like. I tell myself that it is for another day. I never know when I might come up with the perfect project or have that special gift to wrap with extra special care. My holiday banners were perfect for breaking out my paper stash.

Quite a few years ago, pre 9-11, I flew a lot of what United called Shuttle. I loved working those trips. We had busy days that went by fast with 16 to 18 hour layovers in great places! Shuttle is gone now and so are those great trips that I remember with affection... Anyway, back to my banners. The paper I used for the banners I'm blogging about today, were purchased way back in the 90's while I was on one of those wonderful Shuttle layovers in Salt Lake City. I remember this because there was an unbelievable scrap-booking store in the mall across the street from our hotel that had all kinds of beautiful paper and supplies for crafting with it. I shopped there more than once... I was like a kid in a candy shop. I occasionally think about that store and wonder if it's still there.  

The tools I used for my project were tools that I had on hand. Paper scissors (my sewing scissors are cherished and remain "pure" by never touching paper! ...gosh, that sounds a bit snobbish on my part but at least you know how I feel about my sewing scissors, and it is true that there are mineral additives such as clay in paper that dull scissors quickly.), pinking sheers, two rotary cutters with two different blades, rulers and a cutting mat, a glue stick, a tiny round hole punch, a heart shaped hole punch, some bakers twine and my computer and printer. I also used some semitransparent template plastic that I had left over from a quilting project I did years ago. Since I'm not serious about crafting with paper I do not own a paper die cutting machine like a Cricut, or a Sizzix but I imagine that if I had one I could have done all kinds of fancy shapes and actually cut the letters out of paper rather than just printing them. ...*sigh* I might have to consider a die cutting machine one of these days.

The first step was to figure out what shape I wanted to make each individual banner and how big I wanted to make everything. Once this was done, I cut out a template from the semitransparent plastic. I used this template for the letters and since I could see through it; it would be easy to center the letter in the shape. I then went to my computer to play. I opened up Word and experimented with fonts and found the one that gave me the "feel" I wanted. I then played with the formatting, trying to space the letters so I would have room around each letter to cut out the shape that I had made from the template plastic. I did print out a couple of drafts on plain paper to make sure I had the spacing right before I put my fancy paper in the printer.

Once I had my letters printed out on the fancy paper, it was just a matter of cutting everything out and putting it together. Using the template, I traced the cut lines for the letters and the rest of the assemblage was cut with the rulers and a rotary cutter. Just a note about the bottom backing layer that has the pinked edge... I cut this layer out with a straight/plain edge and then pinked the edge after all the layers were glued together. Once all the individual banners were assembled I punched tiny holes at the top on each side of each individual banner so I could string the bakers twine through them and make my banner swag.

I was feeling inspired and was having so much fun making my Christmas banners that I decided to make a couple of Happy Birthday banner swags while I was at it! By the way, Mother Nature was in a stormy mood today and it was pretty much overcast all day, that's why my pictures are on the dark side.

After making three banners with the pennant shape (Joyeux Noel, Paix and this birthday banner) I thought it would be fun to try a square shaped banner...

For this banner I used a rotary cutter with a squiggly blade to cut out the bottom backing layer and I added paper punched hearts.

All in all I had a ton-o-fun and I have 2 days of dishes sitting in the sink to prove it! Maybe I should switch gears and go get a little work done! Or... New Years is right around the corner! I think I NEED a banner for that! : D  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pumpkin Pie

 I only make pumpkin pie around this time of year and it is one of my favorites! The filling is really nothing special, I use the recipe that can be found on the can of Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin with just a few alterations.

Here is the recipe as I make it:
1/3 cup Agave Syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Approx. 1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 can (12 fl. oz) Carnation Fat Free Evaporated Milk
1 unbaked 9-inch (4 cup volume) pie shell 

Combine all ingredients except the pie shell in a blender and blend well.
Pour into pie shell
Bake in preheated 425* oven for 15 mins. Reduce temp to 350* and bake 40-50 mins or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.  

Typically I think most people make pumpkin pie too sweet so I cut the amount of sugar in half. I also reduce the amount of cloves by about half too. Another choice I make, that makes the pie lighter, is I use fat free evaporated milk. Those are the only alterations I make. For the pie shell, I use my oil crust recipe that can be found here: Pie Tutorial

The thing that I think makes my pumpkin pie special is how I dress the pie up with a leaf edge. It is easy to do, it just takes a little extra time. When I divide up my pie dough I make one of the balls a little bigger than I would if I were making a 2 crust pie. This will make a slightly thicker bottom crust plus you don't need as much dough for the leaf edge as you would if you were making a top crust for a fruit pie. I roll out the big ball and place it in the pie plate as usual.

I roll up the extra, hanging over dough and form a ledge that I will place the leaves on.

Just a note about the pie plate. Kaitlin commented in my pie tutorial that a pie plate with a lip will give the crust something to sit on. I guess I really never gave it much thought and my "go to" pie plates have this feature.

Anyway... The next step is to roll out the second dough ball to make the leaves. I use a leaf shaped cookie cutter and cut as many leaves as will fit on the dough. I don't worry about how many I'll need because I always end up with more than enough. Once the leaves are cut I use a table knife and lightly score the leaf veins in the dough being careful to only score the dough and not cut all the way through.

Now I use the knife to pick up the leaves and place them on the pie shell, overlapping them slightly.

I add the filling and the pie is almost ready to put in the oven. I learned the hard way that if you don't protect the pie edge, it will burn so it's important to cover your edge before it goes in the oven. There are commercially made rings that are for this purpose but it's not necessary to own one. It is easy to construct your own barrier from strips of aluminum foil. Just tear off a few strips about 3 to 4 inches wide and loosely cover the lip of your pie plate and your leaf edge. When you do this be careful that the aluminum foil doesn't dip into your filling... still leave it loose however. I happen to have a mangled piece of aluminum that I saved years ago from something (I don't remember what) that I purchased from the freezer section at the grocery store. It works much like the commercially made rings would. I just place it on top of my pie plate before putting it in the oven.

I will bake the pie for the maximum amount of time, a total of 65 minutes... plus if it looks like it could bake longer without burning or getting too brown, I'll leave it in for another 10 or 15 minutes just for good measure. That way I feel confident that it is done and I won't need to "mar" the pie surface by testing it with a knife. In the photo below I had an oopsy-doodle moment and accidentally dipped my aluminum protector in the pie. Oh well... it was still very tasty! 

Now here is a little bonus that the kids enjoy! Actually, I'm pretty much of a fan too... I ball up the unused pie dough and roll it out as if I were making a crust. I put it on a square of aluminum foil and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar. I bake this along with the pie for the first 15 minutes (while the oven is set for 425*). I remove it from the oven when I turn down the temperature to 350*. YUM!  ...a little treat!