Maple Alps

Guest Posts

Beginners Guide to Gardening: 7 Tips

Guest PostsAmanda 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


Five Secrets for Sustainable Shopping Success

Guest PostsAmanda Walter | Maple Alps4 Comments

Shopping is a time-consuming adventure that many gladly take part in. Confessedly, I was no different. I loved the thrill of going into stores, hearing their relaxing music, and seeing the bright new trends on the shelves. Whether I was shopping to take my mind off a problem or to just window shop, none of it was sustainable. I was picking out pieces that I would soon forget about. I just didn’t know it yet. And how could I? When you’re shopping, sometimes it can feel like you really need that super cute blouse. You can’t wait to wear it to work or out to brunch with your friends. And I was just the same. But after a while, I started growing weary of the superficial feel of it all. I had countless tops, pants, shoes, and bags that I no longer was excited to wear. No longer do I take an amiable stroll throughout the shops, eyeing the mannequins, shoes, and accessories. Because now when I approach the stores, I have a solid plan in mind.


The Focus of Fast Fashion

Everywhere you look, whether it’s on social media or the magazines at the grocery store, you’ll see ads. The main thing these ads are doing is busy pressuring us to look better by paying more money. Fashion is one of the worst culprits. You’d think that four seasons is plenty, but you’d be wrong! The thing about fast fashion giants such as Forever 21, Topshop, and Zara is that they are constantly adding new shipments and styles into their stores. Fast fashion is all about making the consumer feel like they’re suddenly off-trend even though they just had a massive haul a week ago. With new trends and styles continuously flooding in, it lends that “must have it” feeling to shoppers who didn’t even know they needed it, much less wanted it.

But it’s fine to splurge every once in awhile, right? Because it’s not like you’re always stocking up on pricey jeans and jackets. Surely there can’t be much harm in grabbing a $10 hoodie. However, a big problem of the inexpensive clothing is that it’s cheap. Not just cheaply priced but cheaply produced. With big stores like H&M, they have outsourced their work to massive factories. The factory workers put in many long hours in order to put together clothing to be shipped back to the stores. These workers are underpaid and not taken care of properly during their shifts. It’s also very cheap to order clothing in bulk from these factories. Large, popular brands like H&M can even get away with reselling items for a fractionally higher cost than manufacturing. For smaller brands, they’d never make enough profit if that’s how they operated. But for big brands, they drop the prices to entice shoppers to give in and buy a nicely priced blouse or a pair of pants. And because millions of people shop at these brands, the fashion industry is raking in the cash. It’s a dark picture to think about. The good news is that many indie fashion labels are beginning to burst into the scene. Lots of people like a good DIY project or knowing someone handmade something. There are definitely ways that you can buy beautiful, reliable clothing that will stand the test of time while even remaining stylish.


The Simple Guide To Sustainable Shopping

So now I want to break something down for you. It’s something I’ve been compiling over the last several months. I want to share my sustainable shopping tips and tricks.

Five Secrets for Sustainable Shopping Success |


#1: Avoid Shopping

Perhaps this is the most obvious tip. However, if you take a day to reevaluate your wardrobe, you could be surprised. Document what you have. Try to work with it. But let’s be serious, we can’t avoid shopping forever…


#2: Limit Your Shopping Trips

Okay. So you’ve got to grab a pair of jeans because the ones you have are just a bit too snug. That’s fine. Hold onto that. When you go out to shop, shop with intention. Don’t go for one thing and end up coming home with multiple bags. And when you do shop, shop for quality over quantity. Seek out brands that have sturdy clothing. Try to stay away from the fleeting fads. If you invest in a nice pair of jeans for $150 that will last you, it’s going to be a lot better in the long run than if you had snagged a pair for $15.


#3: Seek Out Consignment Shops

If you’re not willing to give up shopping so easily, there are always solutions. Rather than heading to outlets or shops, try consignment stores. There are many different sorts. From local consignment stores with specifically chosen consigned pieces to polished online storefronts with practically new pieces for a fraction of the price. A couple of the more upscale consignment shops are ThredUp and TheRealReal. They specifically carry luxury brand clothing. That means no poorly-created clothing for cheap prices.

Some of my second-hand finds:

Five Secrets for Sustainable Shopping Success |
Five Secrets for Sustainable Shopping Success |
Five Secrets for Sustainable Shopping Success |

#4: Turn To Eco-Friendly Brands

It’s time for the next step. Like I mentioned before, there are people and companies out there who strive to bring their own handmade and ethically made goods into the world. They’re created with care. You just have to find them. From awesome fun printed slip-ons by Inkkas to iconic white shirts by Anne Fontaine and more. There are countless indie fashion labels out there. You just have to find the time to locate the ones you love. Fashion labels which bring sustainability, elegance, and minimalism into their very designs are drawing in clients who are hungry to veer away from fast fashion.


#5: Begin Avoiding Fast Fashion Destinations

Starting out, you may find that eco-friendly fashion designers may not have what you were expecting. If you’ve checked out dozens of indie labels and still are struggling finding a classy pair of heels or the perfect clutch, don’t give up. Rather take a step away and use the last resort: fast fashion. For the reasons I talked about before, fast fashion is not the best mode of action. But sometimes, we don’t really have another choice. Heading to your nearest shopping center can work just fine. You just might end up finding a classic blouse that you can wear again and again. Not all fast fashion is poor fashion (or even style). And it definitely will do the trick in a pinch. However, if you want to seek out sustainable fashion at places like Zara or Topshop, go for it. There isn’t anything wrong in using major fashion labels as a backup plan or a minor substitute. Just don’t let it be your first choice and avoid the obvious fads that will be gone in a month’s time. There are so many other hardworking individuals who deserve your money and are willing to trade their sustainable products for it. 

Five Secrets for Sustainable Shopping Success |

That’s pretty much how I like to shop sustainably! What do you think? How would you choose to incorporate sustainability into your shopping?

Nadia Karpov is a founder of Happymalista blog where she documents her journey towards minimalist life style. As a slow fashion enthusiast, she constantly explores the subject and shares everything she learns along the way. You will find simple style, beauty, sustainable shopping, and travel tips on her blog.

To learn more, please visit Happymalista, Instagram, and Facebook

If you are interested in guest posting, check out the guest posting guidelines for Maple Alps, here. 

Five Secrets for Sustainable Shopping Success |

Capsule Wardrobe for Every Season // Guest Post

Guest PostsAmanda Walter | Maple Alps24 Comments

I recently spoke with a male colleague about women’s shopping habits and how expensive we can be for our partners. I personally can’t relate I have never spent more than fifty dollars for any item, in my wardrobe and usually I aim for twenty dollars and under. Whether budgeting or splurging, we all deserve to have a wardrobe that we love at our fingertips. In today’s retail climate, the style, availability and price range of clothing are vast and diverse.

So today, I thought we could have a conversation around creating a 10-piece wardrobe that suits all your needs.  

ten piece capsule wardrobe

What is it?

If you frequent Pinterest or YouTube you have likely heard the recent buzz word Capsule Wardrobe. If you’re anything like me, you looked at the photos and videos and still didn’t quite understand what it all meant. The featured articles lead me to believe a capsule wardrobe consisted of monochromatic clothing (since it was a recurring theme). According to Wikipedia, it’s a collection of a few essentials items of clothing, that don’t go out of fashion. Some people recommend having 12 to 33 items.


What are the benefits?


You have a limited number of items to mix and match.


You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create an amazing timeless wardrobe.


If you are always on the go or just like to travel light. A complete capsule wardrobe of 10 items can be conveniently stored in a carry-on bag.


What’s the budget?

Ultimately, the items you choose to purchase and the price point is up to you. I am going to share with you a capsule wardrobe for under $200.


Should my capsule wardrobe consist of high end items to ensure it lasts longer?

Your capsule wardrobe will last quite a long time, as long as you care for it properly. Here are 4 simple rules of thumb.

1.     Read the care-for instructions on your clothing label to ensure proper care.

2.     Wash any delicate items by hand to prevent fabric-stress and damage.

3.     Hang dry all your items to prevent shrinkage, fading, and discoloration.

4.     If for any reason you stain an item, make sure you use stain remover (as soon as possible) to prevent permanent damage.


10 Piece Capsule Wardrobe




Create a First Class Wardrobe on an Economy Class Budget

I did a little bit of research for the best place to purchase classic items for your budget. Without a doubt, Forever21 was the least expensive option. Also, they offer a wide variety of options for every style, shape, and budget. I know a lot people think I am way over 21 and have no business in this store, but if you are looking to get the biggest bang for your buck, this is the store for your capsule wardrobe. If you don’t live near a Forever21 store, they have a ridiculous online store selection but if you have never shopped there (proceed with caution).

If you decide to go with Forever21 for your capsule wardrobe, take it from me and…

·      Set aside a few hours to browse the store

·      Create a massive wardrobe (load up on several items for each section)

·      Hit the dressing room for a full session of fittings and photos

·      Because once you walk out of that door it’s a wrap.

o   No refunds, store credit only

o   Sale items and jewelry are final sale

Old Navy came in as a close second, they are reasonably priced and offer various sizes for all body styles. But this preppy favourite is best known for their classic style. So if you are a Trendy Tina, then you probably will not love their selection. The best thing about Old Navy is their Super Cash (discounts for a future date based on how much you spend) and Super Deals. There is almost always a sale, so definitely opt in to their email, you will not be disappointed. I love their return policy too. You have 90 days to exchange or return items for a full refund (this applies to both online and in store purchases).

Target came in a loose third. It was a complete flop! They don’t offer a wide variety of anything. Surprisingly, they were also the most expensive of the three; and their selection is definitely hit or miss at best.

What about you? Any recommendations for our readers out there on where to shop for the first class capsule wardrobe on an economy class budget? 

Chell Bee is a writer with a passion for encourage others to embrace their beautiful imperfections.
Connect with Chell Bee:
Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

This was a guest post by Chell Bee, who blogs at her lifestyle blog, Chell Bee

If you are interested in guest posting, check out the guest posting guidelines for Maple Alps, here.