Archive for May, 2009

The Square Foot Garden Project In Alaska

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Square Foot Garden Coming Together - Beds Made, Anti-Moose Fence Going In

Square Foot Garden Coming Together - Beds Made, Anti-Moose Fence Going In

My friends, family, and I have been working on building a garden in Alaska the past several weeks. Last year my friend Mandy told me about the square foot gardening concept so I purchased the Square Foot Gardening book. I designed my first one in Nevada last year and wanted to try my hand at gardening in Alaska (you need a very large fence that includes an electric fence to keep the moose out.) Several people wanted my plans for what I was doing so those are attached.

My Cheetah Learning team wanted me to create a special promotion for people who wanted to earn Project Management professional development credits by creating their own garden. We have a 60 hour (and 60 PDU) online course called Cheetah Action Project (CHAP). Check out all the great projects people have done with this class. You can get a $50 discount on this course by using the promotion code “silverbells.” Click here for more information.

1. Project Plan Square Foot Garden – squarefootgardenalaskaprojectplan

2. Design Plan Square Foot Garden – sqfgardenbeachcomber1

3. Planting Calendar Square Foot Garden. planting-calendar-2009. I just picked out the seed packets for the vegetables I wanted to grow. Put the date I wanted to harvest them, and then the amount of days it would take for them to get to maturity. And subtracted that to find the date I needed to plant the seeds. My main constraint is that I have to be away for June and July for business.

Lessons Learned May 14, 2009

Planting Layout based on starts available and what will easily grow in my area.  Next year, I get my vegetables started inside earlier.

Planting Layout based on starts available and what will easily grow in my area. Next year, I get my vegetables started inside earlier.

1. We didn’t know that the garden would be so hammered from north winds so we had my cousin Bill, the mason, who was visiting from Rhode Island, build a 4 foot rock wall on the north side to protect from the wind. A large stand of evergreens about 40 feet from the south side of the garden protects it from the south winds.

2. We had expanded the garden width by two feet – because we had extra 14 foot 2 x 12’s.

3. When I shared my planting calendar with my neighbor who has been gardening in Alaska for 25 years, she told me a great book to get on gardening in Southeast Alaska and said that I would need to start with plant starts if I expected any produce by August. So I purchased the starts that I could, got extra starts from some neighbors who planted more than they could use and revised my planting layout and tossed the calendar – all the plants are going in at the same time this weekend.

4. For the most part the garden has come out like I expected and I’m very happy with the outcome of this project.

Plants in, protected with 2000 worms to keep them all company.

Plants in, protected with 2000 worms to keep them all company.

Creating Your Own Rules for Learning – Power Learning Radio Show 29

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Creating Your Own Rules For Learning

Creating Your Own Rules For Learning

Scot Nichols – the Executive Director of the Center for Advanced Learning Concepts , and I do a weekly radio show that is broadcast over short wave radio worldwide at frequency 11885 every Saturday and Sunday. You can also hear it streaming over the weekend at You can hear past shows Power Learning radio shows at

This week’s show – show 29 – is on how to create your own rules for learning. As part of that show to illustrate how to discover your own rules for learning, Scot and I explored our own unique rules for learning.

Healthy Cocktails

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

Michelle LaBrosse,  PMP

As part of my effort to teach project management through cooking, I’m posting my healthy cocktail recipes.

Project Initiation – for some unknown reason after my 44th birthday I became unable to drink alcohol without getting very violent stomach upsets (I now think this was a wonderful gift). But I am also known as the Chief Party Officer for my company. So, over the past several years, I have worked on making non-alcoholic adult beverages. The amazing thing about these drinks, they are also good for you.

Here is the research my trusty intern Erica dug up on how the ingredients in these drinks help you stay healthy:

Ginger Root - Available in Most Grocery Store Produce Sections

Ginger Root - Available in Most Grocery Store Produce Sections

Ginger – History and medical benefits from: and

Asian, Indian, and Arabic people have been using ginger for its medicinal properties since ancient times. China has been using ginger for over 2,000 years to remedy various ailments including stomach upset and nausea. Pythagorus was an avid user of ginger in Ancient Greece. King Henry VIII of England used ginger to protect himself from the plague. In the past, ginger has also been used for treating arthritis, colic, heart conditions, colds, flu symptoms, menstrual cramps, and headaches.

Although historically, there have been a multitude of uses of ginger, present day research has confirmed that ginger is beneficial in remedying several common ailments. For example, the American Pyschotherapy Research Laboratory in Salt Lake City and Japanese researchers found that motion sickness can be curbed by consuming ginger. Researchers in Denmark have discovered that ginger blocks substances that cause blood vessel inflammation in the brain which leads to migraines. Ginger is so effective that medical professionals often recommend the consumption of it to prevent or treat nausea or vomiting that occurs as a result of motion sickness, pregnancy, and cancer chemotherapy, digestion problems, common colds and flu-like symptoms, and inflammation.

Just Blueberry Juice

Just Blueberry Juice

Blueberries – History and medical uses of blueberries found on,, and

Blueberries have long been gathered and used by native Americans. They used parts of the plant for medicine, the leaves for tea, and the blueberry juice to relieve coughing. Blueberries and blueberry juice have been proven to have powerful medical benefits when ingested. Blueberries have one of the highest levels of antioxidants of all fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals that our bodies produce as part of our aging process. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods helps curb age-related problems including short term memory loss and coordination. Blueberry juice not only protects against negative side effects of aging, it has also been shown to reduce bad cholesterol in the blood which contributes to heart disease and strokes, decrease urinary tract infections, act as an anti-inflammatory, stimulate the immune system.

Cranberries – Cranberry and cranberry juice history and medical uses from: and

Cranberries, like blueberries, have been used as both a food and a medicine for many years. Native Americans have used cranberries to treat bladder and kidney diseases. England settlers used the cranberries in America when they arrived to aid in appetite loss, scurvy, and digestive problems. The most common medicinal use of cranberries is for preventing urinary tract infections. Cranberries prevent bacteria from attaching urinary tract walls. Medical professionals recommend ingesting cranberries (in supplemental form or juice) to help prevent but not cure urinary tract infections. Even though this is the most common and often referred to use of cranberries, there are several other medical purposes for this berry. Not only do cranberries (and cranberry juice) contain many vitamins and minerals, but it is a source of antioxidants that fight aginst heart disease and caner. Cranberry juice can also help prevent ulcers from forming by preventing bacteria that causes ulcers from attaching to stomach walls. Cranberries are high in vitamin C and contains other components that help prevent gum disease and plaque buildup.

Green Tea – Green tea history and health benefits from: and

People have been consuming green tea for at least 500,000 years and many cultures have been using it for a variety of purposes. The Chinese are one such people that have been consuming and using green tea for its many medicinal benefits. Research has demonstrated that ancient Chinese cultures used green tea to treat many ailments from headaches to depression. Chinese and Indian cultures both used green tea as a diuretic, an astringent, a stimulant, and to maintain a healthy heart. Today, research has been conducted to uncover what exact medical benefits arise from consuming green tea. Out of the three main varieties of tea (black, oolong, and green), green tea has the highest concentration of free radical fighting anti-oxidants. Recent studies on green tea have concluded that drinking it can reduce the risk bladder, esophageal, breast, ovarian, lung, skin and several other cancers. Green tea also reduces total cholesterol and improves the ratio of good to bad cholesterol found in our bodies. Consumption of green tea has also been found to control the body’s blood sugar levels, prevent liver disease, prevent tooth decay, and boost the body’s metabolism. The many health benefits associated with green tea are due what the plant is made of including polyphenols (powerful antioxidants) and stimulating alkaloids like caffeine.

Grapefruit Juice – The grapefruit’s history is relatively more recent than that of other fruits.  The grapefruit was discovered just in the 18th century in Barbados and botanists think that the grapefruit may be the result of a natural cross breeding between the orange and a citrus fruit called the pomelo.  The grapefruit has many health benefits that are similar to those of an orange including their high levels of vitami C and antioxidant properties.  Grapefruits contain a carotenoid phytonutrient called lyopene, which has anti-tumor properties.  Lycopene is highly efficient in fighting oxygen free radicals that may cause cell damage.  Grapefruit juice is one of the most antioxidant rich juices available.  Grapefruit juice also contains phytonutrients called limonoids that prevent tumors from forming.  Other research done on this delicious fruit have show that it can lower cholesterol, prevent kidney stones, protect against colon cancer, and can help the the productivity of liver detoxification.  Grapefruit juice has many valuable health benefits but it is recommended that you discuss the addition of this fruit to your diet if you take medications because it could interfere with the breakdown or distribution of your medication.  To learn more about this fruit go to or

Orange Juice – Oranges are one of the most popular fruits around the world and orange juice is also widely used because of its delectable taste and its numerous health benefits.  Most commonly, we have heard that orange juice contains large amounts of vitamin C.  This is true–one orange provides you with over 100% of your daily vitamin C need.  Vitamin C is an antioxidant and can protect the body against free radicals that cause cellular damage like cancer.  One study by Italian researchers at the Division of Human Nutrition at the University of Milan found that drinking a glass of orange juice is more protective than consuming vitamin C by itself.  In combination with other components of an orange, vitamin C aids in preventing illnesses caused by free radicals including heart disease and cancer.  Orange juice’s many benefits also include protection against cardiovascular disease, lowering of cholesterol, being a great source of fiber, preventing kidney stones, preventing ulcers, and protecting respiratory health.

To read more about the health benefits of orange juice go to or

Pomegranate Juice – Pomegranates have been eaten for quite some time and have only recently become very popular in the United States because of their health benefits.  The pomegranate is one of the earliest cultivated fruits and records have traced the consumption of it back to at least 3,000 B.C.  Scholars have even speculated that Eve in the Bible was tempted by a pomegranate rather than an apple.  In many cultures, the pomegranate is associated with fertility and rebirth. Prominent Egyptians such as King Tut were even buried with the fruit because they hoped it would help them travel to their second life.  Until recently, pomegranates have been a constant mainly in diets of the Middle Eastern people.  When studies came out regarding the health benefits of the fruit, its popularity spread to the U.S. The fruit is full of antioxidants and studies have shown that pomegranate juice aids in destroying breast cancer cells, preventing lung cancer, preventing osteoarthritis, protects arteries, lowers bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol, prevents dental plaque, and protects the arteries from plaque buildup.  One study even found that drinking 1.7 ounces of pomegranate juice a day can lower systolic blood pressure by 5 percent.  To learn more aboutthe rich history and many benefits of pomegranate juice, go to and

Agave Nectar – Agave nectar is a wise choice for a sweetener because it is low on the glycemic index and therefore will not cause sharp rises or falls in blood sugar.  Agave nectar has anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.  The Aztecs even used agave syrup as an antibacterial to help heal wounds.  Agave nectar has also been found to protect against harmful intestinal bacteria.  Agave nectar is a sweet alternative to high-glycemic sugars.  It is also thinner than honey, pours and dissolves well in both hot and cold liquids.  You can find it in the cooking section or near the honey in most grocery stores.  To learn more about agave nectar go to and

Project Plan

Get ingredients

Seltzer water – 2 half gallons or 4 quarts
Blueberry Juice – 1 quart – no sugar added (or artificial sweetners).
Grapefruit Juice – 1/2 gallon – no sugar added
Cranberry Juice – 1/2 gallon – no sugar added
Pomegranate Juice – 1 pint – no sugar added
Ginger Root – 1 large root
Tazo Zen Green Tea Bags
5 oranges
2 Limes
Organic Cinnamon
Agave Nectar
Ice cubes – 1/2 bag or 4 cups


16 oz drink glasses

Project Execution

Blueberry Pie Drink

I got the idea for this drink from a Tazo Brambleberry drink – but then the little store in the little town where I live wasn’t carrying it anymore so I tried to make something similar on my own. Not to be a braggart or anything, but mine is better.


Fill the glass with ice
Sprinkle cinnamon on ice
Shake to coat ice with cinnamon
Fill the glass 7/8th full with seltzer water
Fill remaining glass with blueberry juice

Pink Flamingo Drink

This is a drink I order when I’m out at restaurants and bars with others.   I have found that when everyone is enjoying a cocktail, they just feel more comfortable if they feel like you are enjoying a drink too.   This drink is very refreshing and I often find people switching to it after they try it.


Fill the glass with ice
Squeeze a wedge of lime on the ice and shake to coat
Fill with 3/4 seltzer water
Put in 1/8th cranberry juice
Put in 1/8th grapefruit juice
Top with twist of lime

Tazo Zen Green Tea Has a Nice Flavor Excellent for Napili Iced Tea

Tazo Zen Green Tea Has a Nice Flavor Excellent for Napili Iced Tea

Napili Iced Tea

I came up with this concoction at a family reunion in Hawaii. My nephew showed up with some type of flu virus so I administered my hot green tea steeped in ginger root water remedy. I made a big pot of this. The next day, my daughters foot was still swollen from a bee sting three days earlier so I started my green tea/ginger root remedy on her. But she did not take a fondness to it. So, eyeing a bagful of oranges my brother had scored on the side of the road, I juiced one and mixed it together, and sweetened the whole mixture with agave nectar. She loved it, drank several glasses and the swelling finally started going down. The green tea helps the liver process toxins which was exactly what needed to happen to get the bee toxin out of her system and bring down the foot swelling.


Slice up about 1/2 cup ginger root
Boil in 4 quarts water and let steep for at least 1/2 hour
Add in about 10 Tazo Zen Green Tea bags.
Let steep another ten minutes.
Mix in 1/2 cup agave nectar
Fill 16 oz glass with ice
Fill cup about 2/3 full with ginger root green tea.
Squeeze juice from one orange – mix in with green tea
Stir and enjoy

Pom Power

This is a very easy drink and it was the first one I started making in lieu of alcholic beverages.


Fill a 16 oz glass with ice cubes
Fill 7/8th full with seltzer water
Fill remaining with Pomegranite juice
Top with a twist of lime.

Project Control

When making drinks for a large group, it really helps to have the supplies close at hand.   After two or three people try the drinks, the whole party usually wants them so be prepared.   Get a nice ice bucket, slice up several limes ahead of time, and squeeze the orange juice ahead of time.   Don’t skimp on the quality of the ingredients here – using fresh juices with no sugar or artificial sweetners added makes a big difference.  For people who want their drinks a little sweeter, add Agave Nectar.   Pre-sweetened juices I have found have way too much sweetner added, even cranberry juice.

Project Closeout

What I have found in my three years of having to live life as the Chief Party Officer without drinking alcohol, people will still have a great time at a party without alcohol as social lubrication – especially if you can maintain the festive attitude that comes from mixing drinks.

The Chicken Noodle Soup Project

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Project Execution on the Chicken Noodle Soup Project

Project Execution on the Chicken Noodle Soup Project

I am considering using cooking to help people develop project management as a habit. I’ve often wondered if you become a good cook because you’re good at project management or if you become a good project manager because you’re good at cooking?

There are five phases to every project – initiation, planning, execution, control and closeout. Every meal or dish you create is itself a project – you get an idea for what you want to make (you initiate it), you have to figure out the ingredients and equipment, go procure anything you need to prepare the meal, and figure out when and where you’re going to make it (this is planning), then you have to prepare the meal (this is project execution), then you have to make sure it tastes like you wanted it to (project control), then you assess how you can make it better the next time (project close out).

I have found time and time again, that the more successful people are with the smaller projects of their life, the more likely they will be successful with the larger projects of life. So it just makes sense to teach people how to be more successful with the smaller projects of their life – like cooking.

For the first attempt to teach project management with cooking, I am going to revisit a concept I posted several days ago on flu remedies, my recipe for Chicken Noodle Soup.

Project Initiation is the first phase of the Chicken Noodle Soup Project.

In initiating the Chicken Soup Project, I wanted to do a bit of research as to just why Chicken Noodle Soup has been a cold and flu cureall for centuries. I had my trusty intern – Erica research this. Here is what she found:

We have all heard that when we are ill, a bowl of chicken noodle soup is a comforting remedy. Chicken noodle soup has a long history of relieving symptoms associated with various illnesses. During the 12th century, healers began recommending ‘the broth of fowl’ to their patients. Also around this time, Rabbi Mosche ben Maimonides, an Egyptian Jewish physician and philosopher, wrote about the many benefits of chicken noodle soup. He used chicken soup to treat a variety of illnesses including respiratory problems like the common cold.

Present day researchers have set out to determine whether or not chicken noodle soup actually does have medicinal uses. One pulmonary specialist, Irwin Ziment, M.D., who is also a professor at the UCLA School for Medicine, found that chicken soup contains contains an amino acid that is similar to a drug called acetylcysteine that is prescribed for respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis. This amino acid is released from the chicken when it is cooked and heated. Another pulmonary specialist who has spent time studying the benefits of chicken noodle soup is Stephen Rennard, M.D. He is the chief of pulmonary medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Rennard found that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties. Colds and respiratory illnesses are many times caused by inflammation from neutrophils (inflammatory white blood cells) that travel to the bronchial tubes. Rennard used a chicken noodle soup recipe from his wife’s grandmother to show that neutrophils were less likely to accumulate when chicken soup was added.

Chicken noodle soup is also a useful cold remedy because it contains bacteria and virus fighting ingredients including garlic and onions. Garlic is a natural antibiotic for which the body does not develop resistance. Onions contain an anti-oxidant called quercetin that also acts as an anti-inflammatory.

Even though chicken noodle soup is not a cure for a common cold, it has been proven to alleviate many symptoms that come along with a cold. It keeps you hydrated, can clear your nasal passageways, and acts as an anti-inflammatory.

To read more about the research conducted by Rennard, you can read the entire study at

To learn more about the health benefits of chicken noodle soup, you can go to the following websites:

After I had my curiousity sufficiently satisfied that Chicken Noodle Soup was a good thing to make and a good recipe to share with others, I got about planning how I would make it.

Project Planning – to make the chicken noodle soup I had to do a number of preparations – like I would for any other project.

Make sure I had all the ingredients:

Whole Chicken
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 quarts of water
2 tsp iodized salt
2 tbs whole peppercorns
2 tbs butter
1 bunch of celery
1 large onion
5 cloves of garlic
1 cup dry whole wheat egg noodles

Use the correct tools to reduce risk and improve the quality of the final product

1 roasting pan
2 pot holders
Oven pre-heated to 450 degrees
Cooking safety glasses
4 quart stock pot
Clean cutting board and sharp carving knife

Set my schedule and budget. Usually I make chicken noodle soup from the leftovers from a roast chicken meal so the cost of the extra ingredients are minimal. The most important thing though is the schedule as to develop the most savory broth. I usually let the chicken carcass simmer on very low heat overnight. So making chicken noodle soup definitely is a “project.”

Project Execution – here are the steps I take to make Chicken Noodle soup:

1. Roast the chicken – clean and dry one whole chicken, sprinkle it with pepper and place it in the roasting dish. Put roasting dish in the pre-heated 450 degree F oven. Cook at that temperature for 15 minutes then turn temp down to 350 degrees F. This sears the skin keeping the interior meat moist. The chicken is done when you can easily pull the drumstick off the chicken.

2. Remove most of the meat off the chicken carcass. Either serve the meat for dinner, or cover and put into the refrigerator – you will use it later for the soup. Toss the chicken carcass and the roasted skin into the 4 quart stock pot. Fill enough water to cover the chicken carcass.

3. Put the whole peppercorns, the salt and three whole stalks of celery into the stock pot with the chicken carcass. Cover and put on low heat overnight or for at least 5 hours.

4. In the morning or after 5 hours or so, strain the chicken broth, Keep the liquid and discard the bones, peppercorns and celery stalks.

5. Put in the refrigerator until you return home from work or after 5 or 6 hours. The chilling allows the fat to rise to the surface where it’s easier to skim off to make a lighter soup.

6. Chop the celery and onion into small 1/4 inch pieces. Saute in 2 tbs butter until the onions are translucent.

7. Put in the chicken broth. Crush the cloves of garlic and add them in the chicken broth.

8. Bring the chicken broth to a boil and add the noodles. Cook until the noodles are done.

9. Dice up the remaining chicken to 1/2 inch bite size pieces. (this is the chicken you pulled off the chicken before making the broth that you refrigerated). Put at least 1 cup of it into the soup.

Project Control

Salt to Taste – everyone’s taste for salt varies so it’s better to let people spice up their soup on their own. Tabasco sauce in the soup is also good.

A big part of cooking (and project management) is quality control. It starts with getting high quality ingredients, having the caliber of tools that help you create better results and using techniques that provide a higher quality outcome. The more you do both project management and cooking, the higher quality output you create. And when you combine the two, in the spirit of creating a high quality product, you get better at both.

Project Closeout

At the end of a meal, I review how I did and if I should do anything different the next time. One time, I put yams in my chicken noodle soup – they were an over powering presence. I have found the same with carrots. This is why I just stick with onions, celery, garlic and noodles.

For this go round with my chicken noodle soup – I was just showing my intern how to make it and we were testing out the idea of creating a video around this as well. I learned, that usually I make chicken noodle soup more as just part of making a roasted chicken dinner and doing it as a demonstration project – I ended up with a LOT of left over chicken. I am going to use it to make chicken salad for lunch tomorrow.

The soup came out GREAT – we served it with whole wheat saltines.