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Gathering with Intention and Simplicity

LifestyleAmanda Walter | Maple Alps9 Comments

Growing up, our family had an open door policy. This means that anybody could come and be with us in our home whenever they wanted - and they would be treated like family. Nothing was off limits. Thanksgiving, Christmas, any and every long weekend holiday - anyone could come. This hasn’t changed. Now that I’ve moved away, I still hear about who came to what dinner or spent the night and it always is fun and surprising to hear about.

A year ago or so, we really tried to be intentional about having more people over to our home, but life gets so busy. This is true for anyone. There’s an increasing trend of being so busy with what we do in life, that we tend to neglect those we do life with. It seems that the art of hospitality is getting lost.


Related: The Myths and the Calling of True Hospitality


Relationships are so important. A few weeks ago on Instagram, I asked you to share some topics you would like to see on the blog. A few people mentioned the theme of hospitality and hosting others. Today I wanted to share with you how to host with intention and simplicity. These are some easy steps we took that worked for us when we decided to be intentional about sharing our home and showing hospitality to others.  I think it’s a very important thing to gather together to encourage one another, so I hope these tips help you as much as they helped us!

Gathering with Intention and Simplicity | Hosting Made Easy |



Write down some names

Write down the names of some people you would like to reach out to. Those you would like to get to know more, those who are going through a hard time and need ministering to, those who come to mind when you sit down to write down names. Pray about and over your list. I want to encourage you not to just think of your friends or those who can invite you back over. This should not be the purpose of your visits.


Find a reoccurring day in your schedule that always works for having some company over and start making phone calls.

For us, weekends are almost impossible to have people over, so we chose one day (sometimes two) during the week to have people over. Maybe the weekends work best for your schedule - that’s great. Block that time off and start calling the people on your list. Fill in the slots, week by week (or month by month depending on how often the schedule you set allotted for). We aim for twice a month. 


Don’t focus on a fancy meal

Make sure you have asked about food allergies or sensitivities before planning your meal. People will feel most at ease with an easy, light, healthy meal. There is no need to be formal when you are wanting to focus on relationships. The point of this practice is to touch hearts with warmness, not impress them with your cooking skills (though I’m sure yours are great too).


Make your home inviting

While every surface does not have to sparkle, your home should be tidy and neat. No one truly likes a dirty place. Light a candle or pick up some fresh blooms from the grocery store (or from your garden). Make sure any table linens you use are clean. You can even use cloth napkins (We do, but that’s because we don’t have any paper ones)! Serve your simple meal in pretty dishes rather than straight from the pot. Little touches like these will make your home even more inviting. Fun tip: if it's warm enough and if you have outdoor furniture and sufficient shade, sitting outside is a great idea!


Related: True Hospitality Made Practical: Three Easy Tips

Gathering with Intention and Simplicity | Hosting Made Easy |


Worry about souls, not table spreads

Make sure your conversation also has a purpose. Be encouraging, not critical. Be kind about everyone you speak of. Listen carefully and be interested in what your guests say. Help them feel at ease during their stay and offer a prayer for them before they leave.


Remember that they are there to visit with you, not your house

There is no need to be stuck in the kitchen all day. There is no reason to slave over polishing every corner of your house (or every piece of silverware) for their arrival. Your guests love you and they love your authenticity. They will appreciate the simpleness and ease in which you present your hospitality.

Relationships are so important! Gather with intention!

Do you gather with intention? Tell me about it below!




Beginners Guide to Gardening: 7 Tips

LifestyleAmanda Walter | Maple Alps4 Comments

Hi! My name is Colleen and I’m the author of Frenchie Farm, a blog dedicated to urban homesteading, healthy living, and clean eating. My husband, Ben, and I live on our family farm in the Chicago suburbs with our toddler, 2 french bulldogs, 2 goats, and 10 chickens.

I’m a city girl at heart and never anticipated that I would fall in love with a more simplified lifestyle. When my husband asked me to move to his family’s farm about three years ago, I thought he was crazy. I lived in Chicago for 5+ years, and I wasn’t on board with suburban living, let alone living on a farm. Somehow my persuasive husband convinced me that it was a good idea, and I’m so glad that he did.  We remodeled his grandparents’ old house into the farmhouse of our dreams and dove head first into creating a homestead of our own.

When Amanda reached out and inquired if I would be interested in writing a “Beginners Guide to Gardening” post, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. Although gardening comes naturally to my husband, I’ve always struggled to succeed at it. I was determined to develop my own green thumb when we started our homestead, and I’m so happy to share the following gardening tips. I promise that these 6 tips are beginner friendly and will help you create the garden of your dreams!

Beginners Guide to Gardening: 7 Tips |

STEP 1: Seeds versus Plants

If you are a beginner gardener, then I would strongly recommend purchasing mature adult plants rather than growing vegetable plants from seeds. Although planting a garden from seeds is a more cost efficient option, it also requires significantly more planning and prep work, which can be tricky for a beginner gardener.


STEP 2: Do your Research Before Purchasing Plants

Taking time to prepare and plan for your garden is essential for success! Before you head out to the nearest store and randomly start purchasing vegetable plants, consider the following:

  • Keep in mind your climate and the length of your growing season - this will be dependent on where you live geographically
  • Create a list of best suited plants for your geographic location - be sure to do a quick Google search to determine which plants thrive in your climate zone


STEP 3: Planning your Garden Space

Determine how much space you want to dedicate to your garden.

  • Are you planting in pots or directly in the ground? Some plants excel in pots (i.e. strawberries because you can easily control the water intake), while other plants thrive in the ground (i.e. pumpkins, squashes, and gourds perform better when planted directly in the soil because it provides them adequate space while also giving stems direct soil contact)
  • Each vegetable plant has different spacing guidelines. Be sure to read the instruction tag on the vegetable plant before planting!
  • Do your best to resist the urge to plant your veggies too close together. Confession - we still get really excited when planting our veggies and sometimes try to squeeze in a few extra ones. DON’T! Overcrowding vegetable plants will prevent your veggies from reaching maturity, so it’s definitely not worth it.
Beginners Guide to Gardening: 7 Tips |


STEP 4: Purchase Necessary Materials

Now that you’ve taken the time to research and plan, it’s time to purchase your planting materials! The below items can be used as a general guide, but be sure to reference your specific gardening plans when creating your own list:

  • Planters (if using)
  • Organic garden soil
  • Gardening gloves
  • Small garden shovel
  • Watering can
  • Labels (if you have a larger garden, it can be easy to forget what you purchased!)
  • Tomato Cage/Trellis (if applicable) - check out our blog for a DIY version that we recently made!
  • Patience (HA, my husband thought I should add this bullet point because I’m the most impatient person when it comes to waiting for plants to grow!)


STEP 5: Plant your Garden


The day is here, it’s time to plant! Refer back to your specific gardening plans and START PLANTING!

  • Remember, be sure to read the instruction tag on the vegetable plant before planting.
  • Follow the instructions on the tag and have fun!


Beginners Guide to Gardening: 7 Tips |


The hard work of researching, planning, purchasing, and planting is behind you. Now you need to make sure those vegetable plants stay healthy and keep growing!

  • Water your plants every day for the first week.
  • After the first week, you can get away with watering a few times a week. As long as the soil is always moist, your vegetables should continue to thrive.
  • I tend to avoid this one, but don’t forget to weed your garden! If weeds take over, your plants won’t grow and thrive.



Seriously, fresh produce from your garden tastes amazing. Not only is it super satisfying to know that you’ve grown your own (organic!) food, the taste and overall quality of the food is unlike anything you can purchase from the grocery store. Enjoy those yummy veggies and consider dehydrating, canning, or freezing the extras to have on hand all year round.


Beginners Guide to Gardening: 7 Tips |

Well friends, I hope you’re feeling motivated and excited to start planning your garden! I would love for you to stop by Frenchie Farm to let me know how your garden turns out this year. I’m happy to answer any questions and most importantly, have fun!


Follow Colleen and her adventures on Instagram and Facebook


Easy Ideas to Live a Slower and Simpler Life

LifestyleAmanda Walter | Maple Alps3 Comments

The slow life has always fascinated me. I grew up in the city, where almost nothing was slow but was always drawn to a simpler, quieter way of life. I begged my parents early on to find a place in the country. 

Even when you live in a busy city, there are plenty of ways to cultivate a slower and simpler life. Today, I share a few that go deeper than avoiding crowded shopping centers.

Simple Ideas to Live a Slower and Simpler Life |



Start waking up a little earlier

There is nothing like the calm of the morning before the rest of the world wakes up. It's a special peace that isn't found at any other time, and unless you've experienced it, it's hard to understand. But trust me. Nothing will make your day better than a slow morning. Waking up late and rushing creates stress, but setting your alarm earlier will change your day completely. 


Cultivate a love for homemade goodies 

Not just consuming them, but also making them! There's something to be said about the process involved in making homemade goodies whether it be [bread], muffins, your own granola, or even something as simple as preparing your own dinner. We live in a world that promotes convenience, and while not bad, there is always a way to make time to slow down and make things yourself. You'll feel a sense of accomplishment, and when you sit down to enjoy your treat, you'll be glad.


Make time for family

Living a simple and intentional life is all about priorities. Surrounding yourself with the things you love also includes being around those you love! Make time for family. Set aside some intentional, phone-free hours to just connect with, pray with, and enjoy one another. You will feel refreshed and happy afterwards.


Write Letters

Good old-fashioned snail mail is good for the soul - and not just for the person receiving it. In this fast-paced world where a quick text is the norm, slow down to dust off your stationary. Taking time to pen a letter or a card is a great way to let someone know you're thinking of them, and a great slow living activity.


Get a pet, or two

I once heard that those with pets live longer. There have been many different studies conducted, and it has been shown that owning a pet makes for a happier life. Why not? I thoroughly enjoy my pet and loved all my pets growing up, so I believe it!


Get House Plants

There's something about a houseplant that makes life feel so simple and slower. Don't ask me why! Watering it and taking care of its needs is a nice way to slow down and reflect. Of course, I have a black thumb so sometimes it becomes frustrating for me, but the more I practice, the longer the plant successors live! So far, I find that snake plants are able to resist my plant-killing tendencies.


Take up a slow hobby

My personal hobbies are pretty slow. You already know that I love to [crochet] and I often pair it with listening to audiobooks or podcasts. I also love getting out in nature and enjoying it in awe-filled silence. I don't even run with music on! Writing is another hobby that allows me to sit in a quiet room and pound out my thoughts. Get out and try something new! Find something you enjoy doing, and do it - even if you're not the best at it! Practice does make perfect.


Go for more walks

Going for walks is the perfect way to slow down. Apart from all the physical health benefits, it's a really great way to clear your head as well. Take along someone for company and enjoy a connecting conversation!


What are some of the ways you embrace a more simple life?


Kitchen Essentials for Your Plant-Based Kitchen

LifestyleAmanda Walter | Maple Alps10 Comments

Everyone has their kitchen staples, and I'm often asked about mine. Today, I am going to share with you 11 things that I could not live without in my kitchen - the things that get used pretty much every single day. On a slight side note: it's really important to make sure you have quality basics in the kitchen. Don't be like me and cheap out on a $30 blender when you absolutely need it every day for smoothies and sauces! It will start flashing lights and smoking, and blenders are not supposed to do that. True story.

This post contains affiliate links

Glass Containers

I love these glass containers. I pack up my lunch (leftovers, anyone?) in these babies and the next day, I'm ready to go! I like them especially because they are made of glass, and I don't have to worry about the grade of plastic and the possible effect on my food. 

Ceramic Electric Kettle

I love my ceramic electric kettle (Get one from Amazon) and use it every single day! The ceramic is just a really nice touch and it saves a bit when it comes to utilities - I had been using a stovetop kettle for a few years, but since I got this guy, I've never looked back!

Fun Utensil Holder and Bamboo Utensils

I like to keep my bamboo close since I use it constantly. It helps to have a nice utensil holder home right on hand. I'm very picky about what goes into it - only my bamboo!

High-Speed Blender and Reusable Straws

Daily smoothies would not be possible without our awesome blender. It gets daily use - and multiple times sometimes! Sauces, soups and smoothies wouldn't be possible without it. We also got these stainless steel straws and we love them - even though they get pretty cold with our smoothies. We've gotten used to it. They come with a brush for easy cleaning!

Mixing Bowls and Colander

These mixing bowls are my favourite. They're cute AND useful. I caved and got these stainless steel ones because my ceramic bowls were getting a little heavy for some of the recipes I was whipping up. They have this awesome grip at the bottom which keeps it from sliding around. This colander is a life saver too - vegetables don't get cleaned otherwise (and pasta doesn't get drained). 

Bread Box

I love this bread box! Ours is used every day too - and there's homemade bread in there 90% of the time. Bread for breakfast is a true staple over here, so having it easily accessible is a bonus. Besides, it's pretty!

Garlic Rocker

This garlic rocker has literally changed my life. No more annoying and messy garlic press. This one is easy to clean and is sturdy! I've been using it for four years now and I keep telling everyone that it is easily the best money I've ever spent (I got mine from Amazon). 

Whisk Set

These whisks are a must-have for all of the sauces and dressings I mix up.  


What are some of your kitchen essentials?

Essentials for your Plant Based Kitchen |

Tips for Starting Your Morning Right + A Slow Morning Playlist

LifestyleAmanda Walter | Maple Alps3 Comments

Confession: I was not always a morning person. In fact, everyone knew me as a night owl. In high school, I don't even remember many nights I went to bed before midnight! It eventually changed when I realized the life-changing habit that is enjoying the morning by going to bed early and waking up early. It turns out that old saying my parents always so annoyingly quoted was right: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." I always added a "da" so it sounded like my name...

Now that I have a long commute, waking up early is a habit that I am glad that I have cultivated. Sure, I sleep in when I can on a Sunday, but even on a Sunday I like to get up early and start the day as soon as possible. 

Today, I am going to share with you some tips on how to start your morning right- even if you aren't a morning person. Mornings don't have to be dreadful!

Tips for Starting Your Morning Right |

Wake Up Earlier than usual

There is nothing like the calm of the morning before the rest of the world wakes up. It's a special peace that isn't found at any other time, and unless you've experienced it, it's hard to understand. But trust me. Nothing will make your day better than a slow morning. Waking up late and rushing creates stress, but setting your alarm earlier will change your day completely. 

Tips for Starting Your Morning Right + a Playlist |

Put Your Phone on Hold - Call Jesus Instead

Before reading anyone else's words, read words from Jesus. This is advice I've decided to follow and it has changed my life. When the first words influence the rest of your day, wouldn't you rather hear from your Creator? So instead of checking my texts or Instagram notifications as soon as I wake up, I intentionally choose to pray and read my Bible. I leave my phone in a different room so I don't get tempted or distracted.


Take a Refreshing Shower

Taking a shower really gets your day going. Wash off the gunk and tiredness from the night before and feel (and smell) like a new (and clean!) person when you emerge.


Drink a Glass of Water

Our bodies need water and studies show that drinking water first thing in the morning is actually good for us! It helps me feel more awake as well, so I'm glad to do it. 


Eat Breakfast

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. I usually have something quick on hand - whether it's simple like homemade granola or bread, or something a little more involved like homemade biscuit or pancake mix (the latter 2 are reserved for Sunday, usually). The freezer is always stocked with frozen fruit and greens for smoothies. It does take a bit of planning to prep it, but once you get into a flow, it's easy, and you'll always have a good breakfast at hand. The extra minutes from waking up early will serve you very well once you experience the joy of sitting down for breakfast instead of gulping something down, taking it to eat in the car (I'm way too clumsy for this!), or skipping breakfast altogether. Your body will thank you too.

Tips for Starting Your Morning Right |

Keep Things Tidy

If I leave my surroundings untidy when I leave, I think about it all day. There is nothing worse for me than coming home at the end of the day to a mess. Use the extra seconds in your morning to pick up last night's pyjamas off the floor (or avoid putting them there in the first place!). Air out and make your bed. Clean up your breakfast dishes. You'll be grateful you did so later.


Choose Your Soundtrack

My mornings at home end when I get into the car for my long commute to work. I'll listen to audiobooks or podcasts, or even an uplifting radio station, but if I'm home, I like to make some tea, read a bit and listen to some calming tunes. Sometimes I choose energizing ones - like when I worked selling knives one summer during college, I had my pep music going first thing to get me into the hype of sales. I think it worked. Anyway, music is a big thing for me. It depends on the morning and my upcoming tasks whether I choose my slow morning playlist (find it below!) or my go-getter playlist.

Start your morning right - even if you aren’t a morning person!

Are you a morning person? What kinds of morning routines do you have? Do you have a preferred playlist?