DIY Terrariums: Put Some Spring in Your Step!

Happy March! We’ve entered the final stretch of winter—some areas are still experiencing cold temperatures, but spring officially begins this month.

 

Now is the time to reintroduce green to your life by building your own terrarium. This simple and low-maintenance indoor garden will freshen up your home and spirit for the upcoming season.

 

What You’ll Need:

  • Sturdy, clear container
  • Pebbles for drainage
  • Potting soil or sand (no fertilizer)
  • Plants (succulents or mosses work well)
  • Decorations (optional)
  • Water and spray bottle for maintenance

 

What to Do:

 1. Consider using fun, unique containers to house your terrarium. Unexpected displays such as a domed glass cake tray, large conch shell or even a hollowed lightbulb can make your mini-garden reflect your style and fit in wherever you need more greenery.

 

2. Layer the bottom of your container with pebbles. This creates a drainage system for plant roots in case of overwatering. Adding potting charcoal can also be beneficial to some terrarium styles. This layer will help keep water free of impurities and prevent mold growth.

 

3. Fill your container with soil or sand, leaving enough space to house your plants or any decorations you plan on using. Fertilizer is not recommended for terrariums, since plants need to adjust to permanent soil and have limited space to grow.

 

4. Pick your plants. While many types of plants can thrive inside a terrarium, they have vastly different needs in soil, sunlight and water. It’s important to pick plants that best suit your living environment for stress-free care.


5. Make it your own! There’s an endless amount of accessories that can bring some personality to your new terrarium. Consider a woodland fantasy or Easter theme for spring. 

Aquatic Tips and Tricks

 

Keep a spray bottle full of water nearby to hydrate and refresh your plants. The force of water can easily disturb terrarium settings when it is poured from above.

Closed terrariums thrive in a humid environment. While some plant varieties can be fully self-sustaining, it’s important to keep an eye out for mold and occasionally allow the container to air out.

For a more aquatic look, plants like Anubias can be planted in tall vases and submerged in water. Once spring flowers begin to bloom, you can also preserve them in water and bring their beauty inside.

 

How will you personalize your spring terrarium? Share your homemade ecosystems with us!

 

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Aqua Illinois Director of Operations Colton Janes Creates a Forum for Sharing Management Best Practices

Leaders are Readers

By Colton Janes

I once received a note from Harry S. Truman (via Rick Fox) that said, "Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers." I believe this to be true.

Earlier in my career, I accepted a management role with little prior experience. I understood that I could learn the hard way through inevitable personal failures and then eventually time-based, experience-reaping successes, or I could stand on the shoulders of giants and glean as much as I could from seasoned managers who had already documented their learnings.

I chose the latter, and some 40 books later, I continue to reap the benefits.

I began reading works from various authors on a number of professional topics. Amongst my favorites were Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, The Oz Principle by Roger ConnorsTom Smith and Craig Hickman and The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. These books taught me about change management, the power of accountability and building a healthy work culture.

After a little while, many of my peers began to ask me about the books I was reading. This made me realize that many of us who work in water and wastewater don’t have a forum for swapping management best practices. Recognizing this knowledge gap, I talked to Laurie Dougherty, the executive director of the Illinois section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) about starting a book club.

She liked the idea, and she helped me turn it into reality. 

After spreading the word, we had 40 people sign up for what we titled the Leadership Book Club. We planned our first virtual meeting for Wednesday, January 25, and most of those who joined the book club attended.

The goal of our first meeting was to set the course for remaining meetings. Using a webcast format, we had a lively and interactive discussion about what participants hoped to get out of the meetings; best, as well as worst, practices of managers with whom the attendees have had experience; a poll of which books to choose for future meetings; and time for questions to answer as a group. 

We determined that the group would meet one hour each month, and among the chosen books were Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, as well as one of my favorites, Switchby Chip and Dan Heath.

I'd love to encourage members of our Aqua family to join in the discussion. If you're interested in participating, email me at CJanes@AquaAmerica.com. Book recommendations are also always welcome.

Editor’s note:

As a manager of 100 employees, Colton Janes believes in a hands-on, team-oriented approach, working directly with operators to improve standard operating procedures and to optimize existing systems to meet company goals. He enjoys exploring new and innovative management practices and is an avid reader.Description: http://c.ymcdn.com/email_image.aspx?t=GipMMI1fMpTbfh87m%2fZW17KY7KM2RI5FHzHHABnUxmwNvmS9Pbg6Ac2DVK8RVPxHtqzvqjFDV0oG%2bGtn%2b72FwZsEK3rbkvtTsLSXW3oFe6vf74MHzFhf5pBgm508uJrN

 Prior to the creation of the Leadership Book Club, Janes got in the practice of sharing reviews on the books he read with his colleagues. The following review of The Effective Manager is one of them:

Last fall I was driving home from work on a breezy Midwestern afternoon and thought to myself, “I didn’t talk to Brian this week…yup, didn’t talk to him once this entire week. I’m a terrible manager.” I tried to rationalize my actions since it was a busy week and there were fires that needed dousing, but after a few stoplights I thought there has to be a better way. A few months later I was turned on to the Manager Tools podcast. I binged on these for a few weeks and bought The Effective Manager so I could write this review.

Few managers have been trained on how to manage employees. Many “fake it until they make it” or do what the person before them did. Although management theory is helpful on a strategic level, tactical step-by-step instruction has a place in creating repeatable managerial results. Instead of discussing “absentee managers” or other forms of lackluster management, can we all just agree that nearly every manager has room to improve?

The Effective Manager by Mark Horstman focuses on four critical behaviors to best manage people:

  1. Get to know your people
  2. Communicate about performance
  3. Ask for more
  4. Push work down

Each behavior has a management best practice to ensure success.

The first behavior, “Get to know your people,” is accomplished by weekly 30-minute one-on-ones (O3s):

All of our data over the years show that the single most important (and efficient) thing that you can do as a manager to improve your performance and increase retention is to spend time getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of your direct reports. Managers who know how to get the most out of each individual member of the team achieve noticeably better results than mangers who don’t. The most efficient way to get to know your team is to spend time regularly communicating with them. 

Weekly meetings are required and structured in a specific format to increase effectiveness. The focus of this meeting is to get to know the employee, so the first 10 minutes are given to them to discuss anything: kids, sports, home life, weather, work, projects and pets are all free game. The second block of 10 minutes is for the manager to discuss whatever is deemed necessary (i.e. projects, performance, upcoming changes or budgets). The final 10 minutes is set aside for coaching and delegation.

An example of this working successfully can be seen in Pat Wren, the regional supervisor for Northern Illinois, who has 12 direct reports. He meets with all of them weekly and continues to get rave reviews. Employees feel valued, heard and up-to-date with company news.

Second, communicate about performance through the feedback model. I believe this is the real test of an effective manager. Providing quick and consistent feedback allows for gradual adjustments with little lag. This behavior has four parts:

  1. Ask: Ask for permission to give feedback. Example: “Can I give you some feedback?”
  2. State the behavior: Focus on behaviors, not attitudes or hard-to-define items. Example: “When you…”
  3. State the impact of the behavior: Describe how the behavior helped or hurt. Example: “Here’s what happens when you…”
  4. Encourage effective future behavior: The goal is improvement, not dwelling on the past or punishing. Example: “Keep it up!” or “Can you change that?”

The third behavior, “Ask for more,” is about coaching your employees. Coaching seems intuitive to most managers, but it requires planning and time. Horstman explains a simple process to build a coaching plan.

  1. Collaborate to set a goal: What skill or behavior does the employee need to get better?
  2. Collaborate to brainstorm resources: Note all the resources that could be helpful. This should be a safe place where no suggestions are dumb.
  3. Collaborate to create a plan: Create a plan for quick wins to gain momentum.
  4. The employee acts and reports on the plan.

The final behavior, “Push work down,” is about consistent delegation. As we move higher in title and responsibility, expectations change. It is less about what I can do and more about what we can do. Sometimes very strong performers get promoted but never embrace delegation. Initially they seem to excel, but in time they burn out. Becoming overwhelmed and stressed by the increased workload often leads to resignation or forced resignation. The best practice is simple: Pass tasks down so you are free to do more.

This is powerful material. I have committed to training the Illinois management team on each section. These tools are an investment in becoming a better manager, encouraging positive company culture and helping employees shape their career paths.

If anyone wants to hear how the implementation is going, feel free to reach out.

 

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5 Iconic Aquatic Scenes in Romance Films

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! We hope, no matter how you choose to spend your day, it is made up of various expressions of love. One way we like to celebrate is with the classic romance film. If you are like us, cozy up with a blanket, some popcorn, and anyone special who also loves romance films, and prepare for a film binge. A romantic, water-themed, film binge.

Has anyone else noticed how many iconic romance scenes in film history have taken place in or around water? If you hadn’t, don’t fear: We’re about to run through five of the all-time bestwater-related love scenes.

Cozy up with a blanket, some popcorn and your Valentine’s Day sweetheart (whether that’s your significant other or your cat) and prepare for a film binge.

 

Titanic (1997) — “I’m Flying, Jack”

It’s impossible to talk about romantic movies without noting one of the most famous of all time: Titanic. Who could forget the moment Rose decided to trust Jack to hold her up on the bow of a massive ship overlooking the ocean? Plus, a first kiss with Celine Dion singing in the background can’t get any more romantic.

 

Spider-Man (2002) — The Upside-Down Kiss in the Rain

 

How about this for romance? The water factor may not be the most romantic element of this scene, nut it undoubtedly makes the moment even better. After Spider-Man saves Mary Jane’s life, she thanks him with an upside-down kissthat respects Spider-Man’s wish to keep his identity hidden. A kiss in the rain is iconic in and of itself, but an upside-down kiss in the rain is a whole new level of romance.

 

The Notebook (2004) — Rain Scene

Speaking of kissing in the rain, no romance film binge-watch session is complete without The Notebook. The movie’s most romantic, water-soaked scene is emblazoned across every advertisement for this film.

Not only does this scene begin with Allie and Noah in a boat on the water, but it also ends with the two sharing a kiss in a torrential downpour. If you weren’t teary-eyed up to this point in our list, the waterworks (no pun intended) are sure to come out when watching this film.

 

Dirty Dancing (1987) — Water Lift

As evidenced in Dirty Dancing, you can perform some pretty advanced dance techniques in the water. In this iconic scene, Johnny attempts to assist Frances (“Baby”) in perfecting her form during a lift with the help of the water. It may not be a classic display of romance, but this iconic movie scene remains just as adorable.

 

The Little Mermaid (1989) — "Kiss the Girl"

How could we forget The Little Mermaid’s unforgettable “Kiss the Girl” sequence? Considering the entirety of the story revolves around water, it’s difficult to choose just one scene to encompass the romantic, aquatic elements of this cinematic masterpiece. Despite Eric and Ariel’s devastating inability to seal the deal with a kiss during Sebastian’s “Kiss the Girl” serenade, there will likely never be a boat ride as romantic as this one—fictional or not.

Feel free to wipe the tears away, take a drink of water and allow the swooning to subside. Who knew a natural resource like water could be so dreamy?

Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Aqua!

 

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DIY Valentines: Water-Based Essential Oil Perfumes and Cologne

With Valentine’s Day less than a week away, we have a personalized gift suggestion. When it comes down to it, all perfumes are made up of the same handful of ingredients—including water. Why not create a chemical-free, do-it-yourself perfume for that dearest friend or loved one? You can create a unique fragrance or scent for each recipient, whatever you feel matches their taste and personality. Those materials are merely combined in a plethora of ways to create one’s own unique fragrance or scent.

The strength and potency of a fragrance depends entirely on the ratio of oil to rubbing alcohol to water in your uniquely handcrafted concoction, below is a general guide that can be modified to form the ideal scent for your loved one.

You’ll need:

  • Essential oils (30-40 drops or 2.5 tbsp.)
  • Distilled or filtered water (2.5 tbsp.)
  • Rubbing alcohol (10 tbsp.)
  • Vegetable oil or glycerin (Optional—0.5 tbsp.)
  • Dried flowers or flower petals (Optional)
  • A container for storage (the darker the container, the longer the scent remains potent)

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What to Do

 

  1. Slowly combine essential oils with rubbing alcohol.
  2. In a separate container, combine water and glycerin or vegetable oil. Using a carrier oil is optional, but doing so helps the fragrance stick to skin and last longer.
  3. Pour both mixtures into a dark, sealed container and shake for several minutes to blend scents.
  4. Allow the mixture to sit in a cool, dark place for up to two weeks. Remember to shake the container daily to promote blending and to prevent any separation.
  5. Optional: Drop dried flowers or flower petals into the container and decorate as you wish for an extra personal touch before delivering your concoction to your special someone.  

Hacks for the Perfect Perfume

Perfumes generally consist of at least three different scents rationed through a 20-50-30 percent methodology to account for the presence of a top, middle and base fragrance note. The top note is typically the initial scent in a fragrance and has the shortest lasting power—it is the perfume’s “first impression.” The middle note, or the heart of the perfume, is the primary scent that lingers on the body for hours. The base note is the final scent to remain on your skin at the end of the day. Top, middle and base notes are rationed in the 20-50-30 percent process, respectively.

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Some popular essential oils to consider when creating your handmade Valentine’s Day love potion are jasmine, rose, ylang ylang, sandalwood and lavender. However, feel free to step outside the box and create the most fitting fragrance mix for your gift recipient.

Reminder: Keep the natural strength of an oil in mind when choosing your preferred fragrance oils, don’t forget to add water and remember to have fun while dabbling in the art of perfume-making this Valentine’s Day!

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Building with Water: An Icy Endeavor

Say it with us: Ice is the new brick! It may seem physically impossible, but some of the world’s most breathtaking structures consist entirely of frozen water.

Whether permanent, semi-permanent or temporary, these renowned structures push the boundaries of traditional architecture and have us wanting to travel the world just to catch a glimpse of their beauty. 

 

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel — Finnmark, Norway

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel rests in the county of Finnmark, Norway and was first introduced to the world in 1999. It is the largest, northernmost ice hotel in Europe and the second ever constructed in the world.  

Like Sweden’s IceHotel, the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel is reconstructed annually. The hotel consists of 30 rooms, a chapel and ice gallery, all of which adhere to a new theme each year. Sorrisniva is open for reservations from mid-December through the beginning of April every year.

 

IceHotel — Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

Sweden’s IceHotel—the first in the world—was founded in 1989 and has been rebuilt every year since its inception. With 55 rooms, 10 restaurants and an ice chapel, the IceHotel undoubtedly attracts a lot of attention. In fact, artists from all over the world apply for an opportunity to contribute to the hotel’s building and design every year.

The hotel, built naturally with ice and snow from the nearby Torne River, is open annually from December through April and ultimately melts in the summer—only to be rebuilt again the following year. Those who book a stay at the incredible IceHotel in the winter months have a chance to see the Aurora Borealis firsthand.

 

Hôtel de Glace — Quebec, Canada

The Hôtel de Glace (“Ice Hotel”), originally built in 2001, was the first ice hotel in North America. This 44-room hotel is furnished with deer furs for warmth and contains a chapel, spa and even a slide constructed of ice. It generally requires 50 workers and an estimated month and a half to construct the building, which consists of 30,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice. The hotel is available for booking from January until March, and rooms start at $450 per person.

 

Winter Carnival — St. Paul, Minnesota, United States

After a New York reporter referred to Saint Paul, Minnesota as “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation” in 1885, the city’s population decided to take a stand. They created what is now known as the Saint Paul Winter Carnival and have since constructed a total of 36 ice palaces as chief attractions to the annual carnival. Unfortunately, the city is unable to build an ice palace for every carnival and the latest structure was constructed in 2004—nearly 13 years ago!

Ice Palace — St. Petersburg, Russia

In 1740, the world’s first known ice palace was commissioned by Russia’s Empress Anna Ivanovna to celebrate Russia’s victory over the Ottoman Empire. The empress requested the construction of an enormous ice palace to commemorate the victory. In 2005, Russian historians teamed up with ice sculptor Valerij Gromov to recreate the ice palace.

From hotels to palaces to everything in between, buildings made from ice are impressive both as works of art and feats of engineering. For more winter wanderlust, check out our guide to water-tastic vacations

 

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