I Baked a Basic Pie Crust (oh yeah! and pop tarts!)

My library has subscribed to an online continuing education program called Universal Class, through which anyone with a library card can sign up for classes for free.  Pretty awesome right?  Well, I volunteered to be a guinea pig and signed up for Pie Making 101.  This post is what I turned in to my teacher.  Today’s assignment was to make a pie crust.  I took it a step further, and OMG was that crust flaky!

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My mom always thought of making a pie crust as a meditative task.  After making one today, I can see why she would describe it that way.  There’s something about the rhythm of mixing the flour, shortening and salt that inspires an inner quiet.  Rolling out the dough is kind of similar as well.

I have to admit that I don’t have a pastry blender.  I also don’t have a stand mixer or special attachments for my hand mixer.  I remembered my mom using a fork with really long tines to mix her ingredients, so that’s what I ended up doing.

Little bits of dough

I mixed the flour, shortening and salt until it looked right: lots of little bits, no huge clumps of anything.  Then I added the water one tablespoon at a time, mixing slowly until the dough started to clump together.

Dough!

I formed the dough into a ball with my hands, then split it into two separate pieces and placed it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.  I used that time to run to the store and pick up a rolling pin.

Unbaked Pie Crust

I used the wax paper method to roll out my dough.  The wax paper slid around too much on my table, so I dampened a towel to put down under it.  It worked pretty well.  I was able to transfer the crust to the pie tin with no problems.

I didn’t realize until after I blind baked it that I should have rolled the dough out just a little bit more.  I also over baked the crust just a smidge.  I’ll do it better next time.

Margarita Pie!

I didn’t want the dough to go to waste, so I chose to make a Margarita Pie  (http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Margarita-Pie-II/Detail.aspx) with one half of the dough, and homemade pop tarts (http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Home-Made-Top-Tarts/Detail.aspx) with the other half (photos below).  I just tried the pop tarts and those were pretty tasty.  The crust was so flaky my husband had to eat his pop tart over the sink!  I’ll call that a win.

My Ubuntu Life: F-Spot

I spent almost a full day goofing off on the internet with my Ubuntu machine.  I watched Hulu with it and had no problems.  I figured out how to change my background, screen saver, and screen resolution (that helped with the font size on every screen).  I opened Word Processor and closed it after a second.  With nothing to type in there and no real reason to work with it yet, it didn’t make sense to mess with the program yet.  DH said my expression said “OMG the 90s just shat on my computer.”  It wasn’t that bad, but I don’t think I’m ready to mess with it too much yet.

Today I played with F-Spot.  I took pictures of DH’s cooking adventures today and used them to test out F-Spot.  I only took 11 photos, so I don’t know how well it does with bigger uploads.  It seemed to work just fine for my needs.

Basically, I took my SD card out of the slot in my camera, plugged it into the slot on my computer.  Ubuntu immediately recognized it and asked what to do with the info on the card.  I chose F-Spot from the drop down menu, added my tags and clicked upload.  I could edit the photos if I wanted to but nothing really needed very much work, plus I know nothing about editing, except for removing red eye.

I really liked that I could use F-Spot to upload my photos directly to Flickr.  I just had to give my approval on both programs and click “complete.”  I couldn’t see a way to do it as easily with Snapfish but I’m pretty sure that it’ll be just as easy to upload as with Windows.

Although I haven’t had a chance to mess with everything F-Spot has to offer, it seems to work well enough for my needs.  So far open source isn’t too bad!

My Ubuntu Life 2/25/11

DH and I planned on using my old laptop as a Linux/Ubuntu machine once I got a new one.  I’ve been interested in learning about open source software from a user’s perspective for awhile now, but I wasn’t willing to make the leap and ditch Windows completely.  Getting a new laptop (which I sorely needed) for my regular internetting/gaming/productive needs would allow me to also learn about open source stuff on my old laptop.  Well, things happened as they often do.  Even though I got a new laptop we ran into problems installing Ubuntu on my old machine, so it sat unused in our second bedroom until now.

I’m off on Fridays and DH chose to work from home today.  Today I took care of mom so my sister could go to her follow-up appointment for her ankle.  When I came home I found my old laptop right next to my new one.  “Check it out!” DH said.  “I broke your laptop for you!”  I turned on my old laptop and found that he had “broken” it and turned it into an Ubuntu machine.  So here’s a question… do I call my old laptop my Ubuntu machine or my Linux machine?  I want to be mostly correct when I talk about these things, and I’m tired of writing old laptop.  I guess I’ll call it Ubuntu machine unless I hear differently from all of you internetters out there.

Why Explore Open Source?

As many of you know, I work in a public library.  As some of you may be aware, libraries don’t necessarily have a lot of money but we serve a population of hundreds of thousands (depending on the size of the system/region served).  We need computerized systems that allow us to create library accounts for patrons; circulate library materials; bill for lost, damaged or late materials; add and delete materials for the system; and provide an easily searched catalog of these materials for our patrons and staff.  The library term for these is an integrated library system (ILS).  There are a number of ILSes available in the wide wide world and they can be very expensive.  Once a library has signed on with a particular ILS it seems as though they’re partners for life.  There’s a running joke among some ILS customers that if your system wants a new feature for your ILS it’ll cost you $10,000.  Sad, but true.

We all know how difficult the current economy is and how huge the deficits are.  Unemployment rates are still sky high, and those who haven’t been laid off are living as though tomorrow will be the day they get a pink slip of their very own.  Historically speaking, library use rises while library funding is decreased during recessions.  This recession is no different.  If things continue as they are, I think it will become very difficult for libraries to pay such high fees for many of these ILSes.

So, why not look at open source?  There are a few open source ILSes out there.  Unfortunately I don’t know enough about open source anything to speak knowledgeably about deploying and using it in a community so slow to accept change as many library systems are.  (Please don’t get me wrong!  There are a lot of nimble, change oriented library systems out there, but there’s a reason libraries have the reputation for being stuffy, dusty and old fashioned.)  I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to be able to be the person that knows about open source products and can speak from experience when guiding people towards or away from these products.

My First Impression

The desktop is very clean looking.  I like that there aren’t any icons cluttering it up but I’m also glad that DH installed the dock (that bar thingie with magic buttons).  I immediately gravitated towards that and started looking at all the stuff that popped up.  Big blank screens with nothing but a menu at the top are a bit intimidating for someone used to icons for everything even though I often use the menu in Windows.  The dock definitely made Ubuntu more welcoming for a first time user.

I also like how quickly everything loads.  I can remember how slowly this particular laptop moved and how painful it was to goof off on the internet.  Everything looks really weird though.  The fonts are different and they’re small.  I’ll play with the settings in a minute to see if I can figure out how to improve this part of the Ubuntu experience.  Also, I’m coming from a completely Windows user background, so I’m used to the way clicking/double-clicking works there.  Here it’s different, so I’ll have to learn this style of clicking.

OK, so I’m gonna go explore some more… try different things and see what I can learn without resorting to books, videos, and how-to guides.  I’ll report back as I learn!

Project Management Training

Yesterday I completed the project management training that work sent me to.  The class was pretty small – only 8 people total.  And 5 of those 8 were library employees.

I’d been wanting some kind of project management training for awhile.  It’s a subject/skill set that I felt a bit weak in but it was also a skill that potential future employers would like to see.  You can imagine how excited I was to get the email telling me that our Executive Committee wanted me to attend this training.  My supervisor wasn’t too thrilled though.  I can understand where she was coming from.  After all, I had 2 new clerks starting on Monday and I’m already going to be away from work for 4 days next week to attend the California Library Association conference.  Attending this training meant that I would not be at work for 8 days out of the month.  But, what the Executive Committee wants, they get, so I went.

The class itself was a project management class which used Microsoft Project to apply some of the fundamentals.  We tend to perform many of the steps covered in this class when we plan a program or project at work.  If you look at it from the perspective of “I’m already doing this, why are they making me attend this class?” you won’t get as much out of it as you could.  The class showed us how to formally come up with the specific pieces of the project plan.  We were forced to think realistically and objectively when we looked at how to “sell” our project idea, and then do it again later when we came up with the amount of money needed for contingencies during the risk management phase.  We learned a common language that we can use with other (non-library) project personnel.  We also learned quite a bit about Microsoft Project while we were doing this.

I learned a little bit about myself as well.  I noticed that I tended to hang back a little bit during our breakaway group’s discussion of the project initially.  Later on, when we needed to name the activities needed to complete our project and the time they would need to complete, I spoke up a lot more.  During the risk management phase I also spoke up quite a bit.  I found myself becoming frustrated with my group when they wouldn’t listen to my input, even though I’ve recently dealt directly with the kinds of activities, vendors, and risks that we identified.

And, when one group member spoke in a condescending tone towards me, I just bit my tongue and said “That’s outside of the scope of our project.”  I also realized how easy it can be to expand the scope of your project without meaning to.  If even one team leader can’t see the boundaries of the project, it becomes so much easier for them to push the scope out far enough to make the project do more, take longer and cost more than it was ever intended.

The class was definitely a valuable learning experience.  Even though I don’t see myself undertaking a major project immediately, I know I will be within the next little while.  Having this foundation in project management will be helpful when  it becomes time to plan and oversee a future project.

Library podcasts

Well, I’ve decided that since the library gave me an Ipod, I should download some library-related podcasts.  Does anyone have a favorite?  Or even one they’ve heard is good?  Let me know!

Welcome to 2.0

My hunny went to a work-related conference where they stressed the importance of a professional web presence, especially in a web2.0 world.  So, he jumped in and created his first blog about professional development.  It’s about computer stuff, so beware if you’re not interested in technical talk.

Tee Hee!

I got my very first MP3 player today.  It’s an Ipod Shuffle, and I won it for completing the Learning2.0 training for my library.  My hunny’s hecka jealous, and has already threatened to steal it from me.  I’m super excited about it.

 On a sad note, it was my last day at CTV as a Library Clerk.  The crew put together a nice potluck for me, complete with sweets and savory dishes, and veggie dip and S’s mom’s deviled eggs.  Yum.  The bosses all showed up too, which was pretty cool.  I got my ginormous CTV carpet square, so I’ll see where I can use it at UCY to remind me of my favorite coworkers.  If all else fails I’ll use it in my study room at home.

*sigh*  I’ll miss CTV.  I’ve been there for 5.5 years – long enough to find my way around the library blindfolded if I have to.  Hopefully I’ll build up that same sense of security at UCY; I’ve heard good things about the crew there, so I know I won’t have to worry about getting along with them. 

Oh well, I should probably get back to my school work.  My task for the Library Management group project is to create a vision statement for our fictional library’s strategic plan.  I should work on that…

Thing #23: The End

My Reflections…

Well, I learned a lot from this program – way more than I thought I would.  It wasn’t that I was scared to play with the 2.0 stuff, it was more that I either didn’t know it was out there, or just didn’t have the time to mess around.  At least this learning program gave me an excuse to play.

There were a couple of tools that seemed to be pretty useful, and that I’ll probably continue to use in the future:

  • Zoho
  • Bloglines
  • WordPress
  • YouTube
  • Flickr

If I were to change anything about Learning2.0, I would allow more “at work” time to play with this stuff.  A half hour per week isn’t enough time to do most of this stuff, especially if we have to blog about it too.  I would also try to get the managers involved in promoting it among the staff.  I know that my boss didn’t with us, but I don’t know if that was the case with her main branch.

Either way, this was fun – I’d do it again if we offered something similar in the future.

Thing #22: Audio Books

*sigh* I can’t finish this one because I’m not at the library, and won’t be until Tuesday – AFTER the deadline for the prize stuff.  I’m pretty sure that NetLibrary has some pretty awesome stuff though.  It has to, if our library uses it, right?

Thing #21: Podcasts

For this assignment I looked at a couple of different podcast search engines.  Yahoo! came up with a lot of search results, but many of the links were broken, or not in any kind of order.  It didn’t seem very user-friendly, so I looked at Podcast Alley instead.  Podcast Alley seemed a lot easier to use, although it took a little while for some of the podcasts to load…

I don’t see myself using podcasts very often, but I have had teachers that used them to help us figure out the assigned reading and as a supplement to their regular lectures.  They worked OK, but they seemed excessive, especially since we saw the teacher 3 times a week anyway.

Either way, I found the FlyLady on Podcast Alley, so I’ll probably subscribe to it.

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