The dog epitomizes my state of being this morning. I could understand this feeling if I had been drinking. However, I have been extremely allergic to alcohol for almost four years now so I have no idea how I could have the Monday Morning flu. I think it’s standard post project blues - we worked like crazy to get the house ready for Thanksgiving, had a heck of a party with guests here until late Saturday. Now we’re working on getting the rest of the house finished for a huge birthday party on February 6th. We’re up to two working toilets in the house, two more to go. Trim is going in today. Tile work should be done in another two weeks. Since we have not found a home entertanment specialist willing to work for beef yet, I am exhibiting the Peter Principle and have been promoted to entertainment system designer. The interior designers are all coming over Friday for an Italian cooking lesson and to give me ideas on furniture (I don’t have that female gene - it was replaced with the engineering, PM gene). Time to snap myself out of it, take the little pooch for a walk, and get back to work!!!
Archive for November, 2009
It all started out like your normal thanksgiving by installing a toilet in the master bathroom (see previous posts about hosting thanksgiving in the house currently undergoing a major remodel). Having taken possession of my Turduckin created and shipped by my favorite specialty foods grocer Bob Kane in Simsbury, CT on Wednesday, game was on for the Thanksgiving gravy. A turduckn is a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey - between each layer, Bob packs a surprise of cornbread, cranberry stuffing. For an easier and tastier gravy, I used an oven roasting bag coated with a mix of a half cup of fresh milled hardy white wheat berries, a half tsp of finally diced fresh rosemary and a half tsp of fresh ground pepper. I placed the turduckin in the bag, dotted it with 1/4 cup of diced salted butter, sealed up the bag and cooked it in a 325 oven until the meat thermometer registered 165 F. While the turduckin was roasting, I simmered turkey giblets (neck and accessories but not the liver) with all the leaves from one celery stalk, a tbs of whole peppercorns, and 1 tsp of salt in a 2 quart sauce pan. (I got the turkey giblets from the back up turkey I was cooking in the event I bombed the turduckin as I have in years past - I am a good project manager after all and had a risk management plan - this also served to help with the gravy making).
When the Turduckin reached the magic number of 165 F internally (which was an hour after the turkey was done), I let it sit for about fifteen minutes, then had the toilet installer, Kent, help by lifting up the turduckin bag and all. I cut a hole in the bottom of the bag and drained the liquid out of the bag into my simmering turkey giblet stock. (Special note - Kent washed up after he installed the toilet).
Now came the real love. I made a rue of the fresh milled hard white wheat berry flour and 1/4 cup of butter (I did not whip the butter from cream milked from my own cow - I had a lot on my plate being thanksgiving and all). I gradually added in liquid from the pan dripping giblet stock mixture - one half cup at a time - whisking it into a smooth gravy. I have no idea how long it took to make the gravy - all the guests were on the third bottle of wine and no one seemed to notice.
The grand finale of the dinner culminated two weeks of frantic remodeling work - everything went off exquisitely. Family friend Elizabeth made the journey over the mountains from the bay area to make her legendery corn bread stuffing. My daughter flew in from college to strut her stuff with mashed potatoes, whipping them into velvety submission. Other great friends ditched their traditions to come share in the maiden meal in the part of my house that was finally done - the kitchen.
We wrapped up the food fest with my well rehearsed pumpkin pie. Since we had sampled one of them the night before, I was out purchasing more pumpkin pie fixens to create two more early Thanksgiving day. It was a bit tough locating more sugar pumpkins at that late an hour, so I substituted some bizarre orange squash - no one noticed.
While everything was fantastic - I am awarding the gravy first place. Since I was the only judge, and didn’t solicit others votes, you’ll have to take my word for it.
At my Italy cooking class, I learned far more than just cooking. I was in class with 22 other Americans - we spanned in age from 30 to 70. About 1/3 of us had some type of PDA - be it an Iphone or a blackberry. The rest had regular cell phones. Some people were openly technologically phobic making jokes about how they would rather get s$** faced than do facebook. It was clear that the folks without the PDA’s were not quite sure just why they would want one - some people were openly hostile about the technology saying they have envisioned running over their spouses blackberries.
It got me thinking about my own technological phobias - the X-Box. To my kids, I am like the 1950’s housewife who never wanted to learn how to drive when it comes to the X-Box and the WII. Actually anything related to home entertainment - I am a total techno tard.
I got reminded of this when studying home entertainment systems related to my Thanksgiving day bash. Okay so who has to figure out their home entertainment system, pick out a trim package for their house remodel project, revise tile and carpet decisions just to put a turkey on the table? If you’re a Project Management crack pot who installed an artificial deadline to complete a long lingering project, this is what you do in the spirit of the holidays. And I don’t think I’m the only nut job on the planet that has used some arbitrary deadline to finish up some type of home improvement project - look at all the crazy stuff people do to get their house ready for the “baby.” I mean that little blob of loveliness is not going to notice that ducky boarder in their nursery for quite some time when it would rather be sleeping with Mom and Dad anyhow.
So I digress, but the X-Box had kicked my technological prowess to the curb - NO MORE. Yes last night, I conquered my fear of the X-Box. Pink controller in hand, I managed to set up my X-Box to watch Netflix on the TV. I had purchased my first X-Box two years ago - just to prove to the kids that no, Mom was not a total techno tard. I even got my own pink controller and learned how to play golf on the thing (which I found extremely boring - I would much rather be out playing the real thing). But for some reason that little black box sitting next to my TV just really confused the living heck out of me - what was the total craze over this device? Last night though, I learned that the X-Box could download Netflix when I was studying home entertainment systems for the Thanksgiving day bash. WOW.
NOW - I have to do more remodeling of my remodel - it seems that NONE of the people working on my house over the past two years realized that it was important to have an Ethernet cable in the Entertainment center. I guess they were all techno tards as well. They certainly were all over 30. This also points out the importance of having a multi-generational team involved in the project. Had any of the contractors had younger folks on their team, I’m sure I would’ve had an Ethernet plug put into the entertainment center - they are damn near everywhere else in the house - including under the kitchen counter (but that was by special request for people wanting a faster internet connection working in the kitchen). Okay okay, yes that would be me.
Anyhow, as I get older, digital hearing aids optimized to my hearing loss - no I don’t worry so much about failing eyesight as I get concerned about falling behind on the technological band wagon. And what I know about learning - the more you learn, the more you are capable of learning. So bring it on - X-Box and Google wave - I’m not going to age my way out of the game. I say this as I get ready to launch my first Iphone App (more to come on that - it’s in the final stages of testing…..) When I’m 80 - in addition to finally making the A level on the community tennis team, I plan on being one of the oldest people creating an application for whatever is the latest buzz at the time. NO WAY am I going to out age the technology.
We’d like to give a BIG Cheetah thanks to our first-place prizewinner out of 31 contestants who participated in our Dare to Share story contest. She is someone who truly deserves the grand prize of Cheetah’s 60 PDU online Establishing a PMO course. Sheryl has used the riches that PM has brought to her personal and professional life to help others through volunteering.
She is a very busy person. Raising two kids and working full time as a PM for a large telecommunications provider, she still finds time to take on 3 volunteer positions: President of the Community Association, manager of her son’s hockey team, and she’s involved in Parent Council. Sheryl attributes her ability to juggle these responsibilities successfully to her excellent time-management skills, organization, planning, documentation, commitment, and follow through, as well as her most important attribute — PASSION for helping others and bettering herself.
Thank you, Sheryl, for sharing your talents and time to better your community.
We have finally found a way to use up 3000 pounds of beef - trade it for labor on finishing up a house project in Nevada. Just how did I end up with 3000 pounds of beef? Combine one inexperienced cow handler with an over zealous, non USDA butcher and you end up with 4 or 5 cattle turned into prime beef faster than you can say - medium rare. Yes this is the danger of running a business in a boss free zone - when you have people who genuinely need a boss, but don’t have one. We loaded up the local food bank with more beef than they can go through. But we still have a VERY LARGE freezer full of beef. The unique solution has appeared - thanks to Craig’s List. We saw a tile worker advertising that he would work for trade. He only wanted to trade “durable” goods, but we have found plenty of other trades people quite happy to work for beef. Everyone wins in this situation - well maybe not everyone if you consider the cow.
Picture to the left are our Mama’s on their new ranch near Minden, NV. Those are the Sierra Nevada mountains in the background. Lake Tahoe is just on the other side as is Heavenly ski resort. You can see these beautiful animals right on route 395 heading into Carson City, NV. Yes, I watched a lot of Ponderosa as a kid - it looked like a very fun place to live. We also now have chickens and are looking at getting a couple of weaner pigs. Some people approach mid-life by getting fast cars and motorcycles, seeing as I did that a while ago, I thought I’d go green acres.
We found this fantastic ranch that had been severely neglected - purchased by an investor hoping to convert it into building lots. The area is very big on land preservation and is fairly over built as it is. So, we lucked out and got an 88 acre new home for the herd for a very good price. We have some work to do on the fields, and we’re learning a lot. We have discovered that we can grow our own wheat on the land (see blog post several down on my wheat milling experiments).
Today is “Dare to Share” day at Cheetah Learning. When looking at sharing your time and talents, we contemplated all the reasons that stop us from sharing with others. Sometimes it’s fear of the unknown - like in how much of my time is this going to take, do I have the skills to really help out in this situation, am I opening myself up to liabilities that I am not prepared to cover? When you become conscious of the reasons why you don’t want to share, you can create strategies to reduce your risks so you can share your time and talent with others in a way that helps everyone. Lets look at how you can best share your time and talents with others so it enhances everyone’s life:
1. Your time (well and other people’s time as well). For any project, be it one that is voluntary or one for which you are getting paid, it literally pays to do a project agreement. As part of the Project Agreement you identify how much each party can contribute to doing the project. You can get a free project agreement template on the Cheetah Learning Free PM Tools Download. And committing to how much time you can spend on any one project can be as simple as stating up front how much time you can commit to helping them. For example, I perpetually get asked to “look at someone’s computer.” Now I am NOT a computer tech support person, but yes I do know a lot about computers. When I get asked to look at someone’s computer - I now say - if I can’t get it fixed in 15 minutes, it is most likely beyond my capabilities. I can take a quick look at it, but I might not be able to help you.
2. Your talent (and other people’s talent) - For many professionals who have consumer oriented skills, you are probably used to others asking you for free advice, help on their projects etc. It is a VERY GOOD idea if you have a policy up front on how you are going to share your talent with others in a non-paying way. For example, a friend of my daughters is very good at fixing Subaru’s. So good that now he actually gets paid to do it. However, he gets requests all the time from people who don’t have the money to fix their Subaru’s to fix their cars for free. You can set a friends and family rate and parameters on how you are going to share your talents with folks who might expect you to do the service for free. Sometimes, you’re trying to get experience in a new field so you volunteer your time to learn new skills. Make sure you are upfront with people on your capabilities so you don’t over promise and under deliver.
3. Your risk - this is a look before you leap situation. Helping people by loaning them equipment or loaning them your time and talent does create risk for all parties. I had to create a standard hold harmless contract with my neighbors who were asking me to borrow this or that piece of equipment and the expectation that it was returned to me in good working order. When doing scholarship programs, we have a third party administer them to reduce our risks. Consider the risks that could happen from your sharing efforts and make sure you work to reduce both the chance of those risks occurring and the impact if they do occur.
If by your very nature you are a generous person and would like to stay that way, do some upfront work on the impact of your generosity and you’ll create a much better life for yourself and others. To learn more you can:
A. Listen to my “Dare to Share” podcast.
B. Download our Free Project Agreement template.
C Share a story of how you have helped others and earn a free 5 PDU course on building your Project Management Strengths. Your story will be entered into our competition to win our 60 PDU online Establishing a PMO course.
D. Participate in our survey of how you share with others and get 50% off our most popular 40 PDU online course Project Turnaround.
In Kyle’s situation - Kyle and his family created their own luck. Kyle is the star basketball player for this small town, Haines, Alaska - being named the statewide MVP his sophomore year by bringing in the only state championship title in basketball the town has ever had. In Gladwell’s Outlier’s book, he points out that most athletes are born in January. Kyle’s birthday is in November. He wasn’t born into a famous athletic family, didn’t live in a school district that was known for it’s sports prowess, didn’t have any of the precursors to “success” outlined in Gladwell’s book. Kyle’s “luck” is from consistent hard work and a drive to succeed that is palpable throughout his life (he is the Valedictorian of his high school class as well). Kyle just signed on with the division 2 basketball program at University of Alaska, Anchorage. In 2008, UAA was ranked #4 in Division 2, had a winning season of 18 wins and 6 losses and made it to the final four of the NCAA tournament. Another good score for Kyle Fossman.
As Gladwell points out in his book Outliers, for young people to be successful in sports, they have to get more time on the court. Kyle’s family went to extraordinary measures to insure that happened. They spent thousands of hours coaching his high school team, found all types of opportunities for him around the country to play in leagues during the off season. And all summer long, you can see Kyle running “Cemetary Hill” near his home in Haines, wearing a weight harness so he gets a more rigorous workout. When 75% of the population from age 17 - 24 is unfit for military service, this shows a dedication that not many young people will undertake these days.
My deepest congratulations to the Fossman family and to Kyle - this success is not about luck. It’s a testament to their hard work, dedication, and drive to completion.
While I was making my third batch of homemade pasta, I was thinking that while I was getting better at the pasta skills, my skills to put on a Thanksgiving bash might be a bit rusty and this year might be even harder than most. Every project starts with “boundary conditions.” Those are the pre-requisites you need to even start the project. This year, we are going to attempt to do thanksgiving dinner in a house that isn’t completed - where the new kitchen is done, cabinets in, and all the appliances are working. But it has never been used. The reason, the small little house that I call home, is too little for the 12 people who are coming to dinner AND we like having this tight of a deadline to push us closer to finishing up the house.
For most people, Project Turkey, starts with a well seasoned kitchen. For my “Project Turkey” this year it starts with having to move into the kitchen and get part of the house ready for a party. This means finishing the entry way tile, putting the bathroom fixtures in on the hallway powder room (right now the only functioning bathroom is in the daylight basement and the stairs are not in the house yet so the only way to get to the bathroom is to go outside and around the house to the ground floor entrance), installing a door to the powder room, AND getting the kitchen set up (with dishes, utensils, cooking tools, verifying all the appliances do in fact work). The pilgrims put on their first feast with far fewer amenities than I have to work with - I am not expecting anything to arise that we can’t efficiently handle. Yes I have a high risk tolerance for this project.
Since I love complexity and challenges, have been doing Thanksgiving dinner now for almost 25 years, this has added a lot more excitement to this holiday for me. I am practicing on the food elements as well - made a pumpkin pie the other day just to flex my Thanksgiving cooking muscles. It was very easy:
- 1 small sugar pumpkin (2 - 3 pounds)
- 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- Pie crust (I cheat and get mine at Trader Joe’s).
Cut the top off the pumpkin, and remove all the seeds. (you can cook these as well for a nice snack). Put the pumpkin in an oven proof dish you can cover. Put in a 350 degree oven and cook for 1 - 2 hours until it gets soft. Let the pumpkin cool. Scoop out the insides and cream with sugar, eggs, cream, and pumpkin pie spice. Pour into dough lined pie pan. Cook in the 350 degree oven for an hour or until a butter knife comes out clean. Let cool for several hours or overnight.
Jean Steinmetz, PMP - my right hand, left hand, colleague extraordinaire who has been working with me since 1997, took the initiative to create a Cheetah Mobile out of the company mini-van. Now this is the main vehicle I drive when I find myself on the east coast, but when I’m gone, Jean gets to drive this moving billboard. Since I had a flight out in the early AM, Jean and her daughter (who was born the same year I started Cheetah Learning), came over for a sleep over to get the mini-van, bring me to the airport in the early am, and to make Tortelli de Zucca. I was able to use my new found pasta making skills from Italy and my fresh milled flour.
I had to pick up the pasta maker and the farm fresh eggs (a VERY IMPORTANT PART OF FRESH PASTA).
I had the fresh milled flour, the Parmagiano Reggiano cheese and the pastry bag.
Jean and her daughter brought the canned pumpkin (okay so we cheated on this).
We had to run out and get the Ricotta cheese and the almond biscotti cookies.
With all the ingredients- this is what we did to make 40 Tortelli de Zucca (ravioli with pumpkin filling).
Pasta - 2 cups of flour (fine grind), 3 to 4 eggs.
Put the flour in a pile on a clean counter. Make a well in the middle of the pile of pasta and put in 3 eggs. Combine with your hands. If the dough needs more moisture, add in a fourth egg yoke. Wrap the dough in saran wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Filling - Mix 8 oz of pumpkin with 8 oz of ricotta, 3 tbs freshly grated parmagianno reggiano cheese, a tsp pumpkin pie spice, and three crushed almond biscotti cookies. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Making the Tortelli’s
Divide the dough into thirds. With the first third, put it through the pasta maker, starting at the first setting and going to the thinnest setting (it will get very long).
Make the Tortelli’s - Using the Pastry bag, put a 1 - 2 tsp dollop of pumpkin filling on half of the dough - about 1 to 2 inches apart. Use the other half of the dough to cover the section of the dough with filling. Press the top dough into the bottom dough. Use a small wheeled cutter to break the tortelli’s into 2 - 3 inch squares.
Cooking the Tortelli’s - you want to boil the tortelli’s that you wish to eat. Freeze the rest. Drop the fresh tortelli’s into boiling water. Boil three to five minutes. Take out with a slotted spoon and drain.
Serving the Toretelli de Zucca - melt some butter in a fry pan. Place one layer of toretelli’s in the pan, coat with the butter, letting the outside get just a little bit crisp if desired. Put on plate, and sprinkle with freshly grated parmagiano reggiano chees.
They came out GREAT - this is why I’m sharing the recipe with you.
Project Close Out
What a mess - thank god I have a cleaning lady and that we wore aprons.
Here is the story of how I got into milling my own flour from wheat.
I was watching the Green Channel on the reality show where the families are living on food they can get within 100 miles of their homes. The biggest challenge they were facing was how to make their own bread as the wheat was hard to come by. A natural foods grocery store was able to get them the whole wheat berries, but they had to grind the wheat themselves. The bread they made was dense and coarse. I thought back to this book I had recently read called the “Blue Zones” - its about areas of the world where people live the longest. I remembered the mountain people of Sardinia. The men lived the longest - they primarily ate the local cheese and locally made bread that was made with locally grown wheat. Then I recalled all the research I have done on how food impacts learning - we have our students eat a diet of complex carbohydrates and protein to improve their ability to retain a lot of information in a short period of time. As simple carbohydrates found in highly processed foods spike blood sugar which increases the brains beta state and makes it harder to stay calm, relaxed and focused in tense situations. I was thinking, maybe, just maybe the reason why people are getting fat in the very developed parts of the world is that they are eating too much of the simple carbohydrates - and NOT because they have a self-discipline deficiency. But because it takes much more of that type of food to get the proper nutrition that the body needs. I recalled reading something that people rarely overeat meats, cheese, fruits, and vegetables - they get satiated on reasonable portion sizes of those foods. HOWEVER, people routinely overeat commercially processed breads, cakes, cookies, candies, pastas, white rice. COULD WE BE EATING TOO MUCH OF THIS STUFF BECAUSE OR BODIES ARE TRYING TO GET THE PROPER NUTRITION?
So I thought, let me experiment on myself. I have tried diets such as the Atkins diet, the south beach diet - these severely restrict your carbohydrate intake. Over time I just felt like I was missing out on too much of life to stay on them. When I took a four month sabbatical last year, I lost 30 pounds just by eating more of the food I made myself and relaxing. Since I neither want to take off four months again, OR severely restrict my consumption of the staff of life - bread - I figured, let me see what happens to my food craving patterns if I make my own flour from wheat like the folks did on the 100 mile experiment. I’m pretty healthy to start with - so I’m doing something right already - but I don’t eat that much bread and after reading the Anti-Cancer book last year, I do my best to stay away from refined sugar.
To start with - I needed to get a machine to grind the wheat berries into flour. I talked with a friend of mine who’s mom has been grinding her own wheat for years. His biggest complaint was the bread was too dense and coarse. So I was committed to making bread that was lighter. Dense and coarse bread is nice as a novelty and to use for making toast - but I prefer lighter breads for sandwiches. I found the Pleasant Hill Grain company via google, and ordered the the Nutrimill Grain Mill that could do fine or coarse grinding on the wheat.
On the Pleasant Hill Company site they also have a variety of types of wheat for sale (they are located in Nebraska - but I am not doing the 100 mile challenge). On the grains section of their site they give a whole explanation of milling your flour right before you use it as that preserves the most nutritional value of the wheat. Per their recommendation, I ordered the hard white and the hard red wheat berries.
I ordered this all a week before I went to Italy. It didn’t make it to my house before I left. Which I guess now is a good thing - there is no way I would’ve had time to eat the bread before I left AND you’re only supposed to mill the flour that you need - right before you need it.
When I got back from Italy - my mill and wheat were waiting for me at my house. The wheat shows up in these five gallon buckets that protect it from bugs and rodents. They also protect it from YOU. It took me about an hour to get the wheat container opened. I definitely burned a lot of calories trying to get the lid off the wheat.
I had also learned in Italy - that when eating very simple foods that were made fresh, I did actually lose weight while spending a lot more time eating. So the experiment was well underway, accidentally.
I went to work milling my first round of flour. I had managed to open the hard white wheat berries so that was what I was going to use. I made my standard bread recipe:
1 Package yeast
1 cup warm water
1 TBS honey
Proof the yeast - this means you mix the yeast, water, and honey and wait to see if the mixture starts to bubble - when it does, the yeast is viable and ready to use.
1 tbs good cooking oil
1/2 cup of walnuts (I like nuts in my bread)
enough flour to make an elastic dough (the amount is really dependent on the flour).
I use a kitchen aid mixer with a dough hook. When the mixer engine starts to smoke, I take the dough out of the bowl and knead it by hand for another 5 - 10 minutes. Kneading the dough is very important as it gets the wheat to release gluten that feeds the yeast and makes the dough rise.
Next, I lightly oil the bowl, put the dough back in the bowl, cover it with a clean kitchen towel, and put it in an unheated oven with a pan of water that has been boiled on the stove. This creates a nice warm moist environment for the yeast to work it’s magic on the dough.
I let it rise until the dough is double in volume. Since this was an experiment, I had no idea how long that would be. It took about three hours.
Punch down the dough, roll it out and make it into whatever type of loaf you would like. I divided the dough into two sections and made a baguette and a typical loaf of bread. For the typical loaf of bread, I rolled it out with a rolling pin, put cranberry sauce on it and rolled it back up.
Boil the pan of water again, and put the loaves back in the oven to rise.
I had to go to several meetings so they were left to do their thing on their own for six hours. When I got home, they had again doubled in size and were ready to cook.
I cook bread in an oven about 350 - 375 degrees for about 30 - 45 minutes. To test for doneness - you tap on the top of the bread - if it sounds hollow, it is done. The baguette was done in 30 minutes, the regular loaf, 45 minutes.
Well here was the moment of truth on this experiment. The baguette was great - I had one slice and was stuffed. Too full to eat a piece of the cranberry swirl loaf. So I waited until the morning and had a piece of the cranberry swirl loaf for breakfast. The bread has somewhat of a “nutty” taste - duh - I had put in walnuts. The texture is denser than store bought bread, but still light. And since I did the fine grind, the bread is not coarse - it’s more like the texture of a sponge cake. There is no sandy gritty feel to this bread.
Lets see how long it takes me to get hungry after I had that piece of bread. Typically after a bowl of cereal, I’m hungry about 2 to 3 hours later. I did only eat one slice of the bread. Usually when I have toast, I have two slices of bread. Right now, I am too full for another piece of that bread, or anything else for that matter.
This flour is very slippery when it gets on the floor. I’ve cleaned up the kitchen - it was getting kind of dangerous with that fine powder on the floor. Next I might try to use the flour to make my own pasta. I have to remember that you need to mill the flour right before you are going to use it to have the most nutritional value. I’ll be giving the flour I’ve already milled to friends and family as I did go a little overboard with the milling machine - I wanted to see what type of loading the machine could take (better to find out before the warranty ran out). It worked just fine through several hours of use.