Maple Alps

Easy Ways to Cut Down on Refined Sugar

HealthAmanda Walter | Maple AlpsComment

I have a definite sweet tooth. I didn’t always have one, and actually, as much of a sweet tooth I have, I prefer savory things. I do, however, go through periods where it seems I can’t get enough sweetness into my mouth. It’s a strange thing. Or is it? After reading up about refined sugar, I found the obvious: that too much can be really detrimental to our health!




I also found that sugar can be found in many of the products we buy in the grocery store. I had no idea about that until I took a no sugar challenge, where not even trace amounts of added sugar were allowed. I was reading every single label on every single product in the grocery store and found that there is a lot of unnecessary sugar out there!




Now, I’m not against a sugary treat every now and again, but I think it is important to limit how much sugar we put into our bodies! Your mother always told you that too much of a good thing is not good. And she was right.

Easy Ways to Cut Down on Refined Sugar | www.maplealps.com




Cut down on sugary drinks

This is pretty straight forward. Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Beware of bottled juices though - some hide large amounts of sugar that are not naturally occuring. Try some of the following if you think you absolutely cannot handle plain water:


Infused water

If you can’t stand the taste of water (I personally love it), feel free to infuse it with fresh fruit, vegetables, or herbs. Not only does it spice up your water, it makes it look extra pretty too! You can easily do this by adding them to your water pitcher or glass, or even buying a fancy one that is made to infuse (check this one out from Amazon).

Herbal Tea

I love having some herbal tea in the morning or before bed. It’s hot, so it’s more comforting to drink than water, but contains zero sugar when you don’t sweeten it!




Make your own food staples

There is a lot of refined sugar hidden in a lot of staples you buy in the store, like bread and granola and even sauces in a jar. You can even find extra amounts of sugar in canned foods (like canned fruit) that are unnecessary. By making your own, or cutting your own, you can avoid these ingredients and choose exactly what goes into your food.


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Cut Out Sugary Desserts

Many desserts are just calorie dense and provide few nutrients. If you need something sweet after you eat, try to have a bit of fruit or splurge and have a small piece of dark chocolate.



Eat full, whole-food meals

By eating full, whole-food meals, you can generally reduce the temptation to snack in between. Especially the sweet kind. Personally, my parents never really allowed me to eat between meals growing up, so this isn’t hard for me, but I know it can be a challenge.



Replace Sugary Condiments

Many condiments such as ketchup and BBQ sauce are filled with sugar. One tablespoon of ketchup, for example, may have up to 4 grams of sugar in it! Use some low sugar options to substitute for condiments. There are plenty of options, including different fresh or dried herbs and spices and homemade sauces.



Beware of Processed Snacks

Watch out for foods that are marketed as healthy. Things such as granola bars and protein bars and dried fruit can contain large amounts of sugar - sometimes even more than a chocolate bar. You can make your own trail mixes that don’t contain extra sugar, or make your own crackers to add to soups!



Read Labels

Did you know there are at least 56 names for sugar?! Check your labels for sneaky sugars hiding out in the ingredients list. Watch for anything ending in “-ose.” Here are some common names you should look out for: High-fructose corn syrup, Cane sugar or juice, Maltose, Dextrose, Invert sugar, Rice syrup, and Molasses Caramel.




 

Intentionality Spotlight: Naida of Meaningful Word

Intentionality SpotlightAmanda Walter | Maple AlpsComment

Readers. I am so excited today to introduce you to Naida, of Meaningful Word! I met her a few years ago at an expo and fell in love with her designs. We even have some of her work on a couple of tees we own! She has a true gift of making words come to life! I won’t say much more other than her story moved me, and I can’t wait to share it will all of you today!

Intentionality Spotlight: Naida of Meaningful Word | www.maplealps.com

First some easy stuff, tell us a bit about yourself. What is your
work, your passions and interest?


Hello, I’m Naida. I’m a Melbourne based Graphic Designer and Illustrator with a passion to create colourful pieces and experiences. When I’m not drawing or thinking about design concepts, you’ll find me taking photos, finding new brunch locations or exploring nature with like-minded individuals.



I absolutely love your work! How did you get started with art and ultimately Meaningful Word and your shop?

Thank you, I’ve always loved to draw ever since I was young. When I think about my art journey it took me a while to understand that 1 - this ability was a gift from God, and 2 - that it can be use for the church and ultimately for His glory.

The first time I ever thought of God having a part in that area of my life was when I was in high school. It was Friday night during lifegroup when the youth pastor said “Praise God” after I told the group about an award I received. I was brought up in the church, but I didn’t have a relationship with God so I was unsure why she said it. It actually rather annoyed since I did all the work – Silly me.

Fast forward to my final year of University where I focused all my attention on getting a job after I graduate because the design industry can be very competitive. It’s not just about having an amazing folio, but your industry experience and who you know that sets you apart. It’s funny how scripture says ‘Man may plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps’ (Proverbs 16:9) – because this was very much the case for me. I landed an internship with a design studio in the city where I got to work on some exciting projects for clients like Melbourne Fashion Week, Australia’s Next Top Model and for other up-coming fashion designers in Australia – It was a dream!

Intentionality Spotlight: Naida of Meaningful Word | www.maplealps.com


I had a lot of fun and learnt a whole lot, however, the more projects and more time I surrounded myself in that atmosphere, the more I found myself changing and what little connection I had with God was fading. I was in a dream role, but something wasn’t right and I was watching many things fall apart. But little did I know that God was working on me – out of the mess He was able to make something beautiful. I had to see all my plans crumble, to be at a point where I was left alone crying to God for Him to speak comfort into my life and redirect my path. He was asking me to surrender my career to Him.

Thus then Meaningful Word and a new career path were born as a result of my encounter with God. Meaningful Word started as a small challenge for myself to memorise verses – hoping that if I spent enough time and make it look visually appealing enough, I’d store it somewhere in my mind. It was also a means to create something for God rather than what I was doing in the past (helping the rich get richer, and creating things that looked beautiful, but had no substance to it). God was asking me to trust in Him and to use the gift He had given me back to Him to help others. Ever since then I’ve seen first-hand the fruits of surrendering to God. When you give it to Him, He blesses it, multiplies it and lets it be a blessing to others. I had planned my own way, but God’s plan exceeded it all – far more than I could have hoped for, and for the better.


I love how your art really brings Biblical truths and stories to life. Where do you get the inspiration for it? Is it hard, or does it come easily?

Well I guess it comes naturally. The verses, quotes or stories I post are actual reflections and thoughts from my devotionals that week – the things I’ve read, heard or experienced. I like to post scripture because I truly believe that the messages in it are just as relevant now as they were then. I just love how Hebrews 4:12 describes the word as ‘living, powerful, sharper than any two-edge sword’ and is a ‘discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’ – yep, still relevant!

My process starts with the message/text and then I consider what are the key parts of the text that I what to highlight. Vibrant colour palettes, patterns and nature drive my style and approach on each piece I create.

Intentionality Spotlight: Naida of Meaningful Word | www.maplealps.com

What is one other specific area in your life you find that intentionality is absolutely critical? How do you exercise mindfulness in it?

Investing my time wisely. This is in the form of time with God, time I spend with others and on my health and wellbeing.

Devotional time is super important for me because I just know I’m going to have a lousy day if my priorities aren’t right. Time with others is investing in solid relationships and to also empower the next generation. I’m a strong advocate that the Creative Arts has a place and can be used for the church – we need to encourage this more!  We all have a talent that can we used for God, we just have to give it back to Him.

And lastly, rest. In the past I used to think that ‘resting’ is for the lazy, but God has shown me that rest is just as important. Our mind, body and soul need to recover, and the best way I like to rest is on the Sabbath in nature with others – far, far away from a computer screen.


If you would give one piece of advice about {this area of intentionality} so someone who struggles with it, what would you tell them?

Ensure that your relationship and time with God is your first priority, because the rest follows. Start small. It’s not always easy to know where to even begin and yea, you may find you don’t want to pray or read your bible, but the beautiful thing about God is He meets you where you are. Start small, and have a conversation. Open your heart and ‘taste and see’ His goodness - you will not be disappointed. Start small & be consistent – After all, habits are formed in 30 days.



Find Naida at her Etsy shop or on Instagram


 

Blessings to Ponder in the Springtime

FaithAmanda Walter | Maple AlpsComment

One of my favourite things about nature is that the lessons it teaches us about God are literally endless. I’ve heard nature being called God’s second book, and I can truly see why - the more I learn about the things of nature, the more I see God’s creative hand in it, and the more I see how intentional He truly is. What an amazing Creator.

In just the Spring alone, for example, so many beautiful Bible promises come to life every day just walking outside.

Blessings to Ponder in the Springtime | www.maplealps.com



When I smell the rain, I think of the blessings God wants to pour down.


Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;

   his going out is sure as the dawn;

he will come to us as the showers,

   as the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:3, ESV)



For I will pour water on the thirsty land,

   and streams on the dry ground;

I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,

   and my blessing on your descendants. (Isaiah 44:3, ESV)



When I smell flowers, I think of how God takes care of me.



And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin (Matthew 6:28, ESV)



When I hear the birds singing, I want to sing praises to the Creator.


Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! (Luke 12:28, ESV)


“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32, ESV)


When I see the trees growing back their leaves, I think of the blessings I am continually receiving.

And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. (Genesis 9:3b, ESV)

…Let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy (Psalm 96:12)

When I hear the water rushing again after being frozen, I think of God’s provision for us.

You make springs gush forth in the valleys;

   they flow between the hills;

they give drink to every beast of the field;

   the wild donkeys quench their thirst. (Psalm 104 10, 11, ESV)



they shall not hunger or thirst,

   neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them,

for he who has pity on them will lead them,

   and by springs of water will guide them. (Isaiah 49:10, ESV)



And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17b, ESV)


When I see blue skies above or the twinkling skies in the clear nights, I can’t help but praise the Lord!


The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1, ESV)



When I see and smell the new buds springing, I think of the newness that God wants to bring to my life too!

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19, ESV)

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What blessings do you ponder in the Springtime?


 

How to Cultivate a Slower and Simpler Life

LifestyleAmanda Walter | Maple Alps9 Comments
How to Cultivate a Slower and Simpler Life | www.maplealps.com

Start waking up a little earlier

Wake up a little earlier to establish some good morning routines. It will slow down your morning and you will be able to face the day with renewed energy. Starting earlier will give you more time to breathe and brace yourself for the day - and with time for a hot drink as an added bonus! Waking up earlier and facing the day with purpose as opposed to letting it just happen to you will help you take control of the tone you set! Trust me.



Related: Tips for Starting Your Morning Right



Cultivate the love of homemade goodies

Taking time to gift homemade goodies for your family, friends, and neighbours brings back that community feel that I think our society has lost to some extent. Take time to get to know your neighbours and bring them homemade gifts. This can be as simple as a loaf of bread or a jar of homemade granola or jam to let them know you’re thinking of them. Go the extra mile and package it in an attractive manner that will show that you put thought into it. The process of making these goodies in itself is a good way to relax and pour your heart into something for someone else.



Related: An Aspiring Minimalist’s Guide to Gifts



Make time for family and friends

Spend time with your family. With the exception of your spouse, you don’t generally get to choose your family members, so you should cherish them that much more. It doesn’t have to be elaborate - just eating dinner together can make a huge difference in the culture of your family unit. Once in a while, extend your circle and invite some people over to join you and your family. Building relationships around the dinner table is so special.



Related: Gathering with Intention and Simplicity



Consider getting a pet, or two

Having a fur baby to love is a great thing! Having an animal companion to care for and have as company helps you slow down and think about something other than yourself. Dogs are great to walk, and [some] cats are great lap companions. There are also all sorts of pets out there. Pets aren’t for everyone though. If you’re not into pets, or allergic, you can start with a pet rock! I’m mostly kidding.



Take up a slow hobby

Take some time to be creative and pick up a slow hobby. This could be anything from gardening to crocheting. Maybe you want to pick a pen pal or start a card ministry. You could even paint or build model ships - whatever your sweet, simple life loving heart desires!

How to Cultivate a Slower and Simpler Life | www.maplealps.com

Read more

Like with hobbies, stopping to read is a wonderful way to not only slow down, but to learn about the world in the process. Set some time aside to get comfortable with good lighting and a hot drink to accompany your book. By the way, you can find a few of my favorite books here! Try reading all sorts of things and you might even find some new interests!




Related: Fun and Creative Ways to Learn New Things (Without Going Back to School)



Add Houseplants to your Home

House plants are so great. They add life to your living space, help keep your air pure, and reduce stress! Not to mention that they are super pretty and make you feel fancy. Consider finding the perfect house plant for your home!



Related: 6 Reasons to Add Greenery to Your Life



Go For Walks

Taking some time to just go outside and breathe in the fresh air. You don’t have to go for hours at a time - even just 15 to 30 minutes of walking outside will recharge and energize you. For a bonus, bring a friend or family member with you and use that time to talk and bond. Relationship building is always important.



Be Intentional about your Phone Usage

A lot of us are letting our phones rule our lives, instead of using them as tools. Consider making a phone free zone or implementing rules to make your usage more intentional. Start practicing not to rely on your phone as much.



Related: 5 Ways to be Intentional About Your Phone Usage



Learn to Love Tidying

Keeping a neat and tidy space allows you more time to enjoy and slow down rather than trying to keep up with keeping your home clean. Consider adapting more of a minimalist lifestyle and surround yourself with that things that bring you joy.



Related: So You Want to be More Minimalistic



Be Content with What You Have

Surrounding yourself with only the things that bring you joy helps you to be content with those said items. Loving your things helps you care for them! I know it sounds strange, but I challenge you to try it for yourself!



Related: Why I God Rid of a Lot of My “Stuff”

 

How do you practice living a slower and simpler life?


 

6 Reasons to Add Greenery to your Surroundings

LifestyleAmanda Walter | Maple Alps6 Comments

I don’t know about you, but I have a black thumb. It seems, however, that with practice, my plant killing tendencies are slowly reversing and turning into plant nurturing ones. Granted, I have not been successful in keeping many plants alive - I am just so forgetful and one of those over thinkers when it comes to keeping them alive! I used to fear for any added pets or children, but it turns out that cats are easier to keep alive than a sweet little succulent plant. Go figure.

My mother and grandmother always had plants, and they were gorgeous, so it’s amazing to me that that knack of keeping small trees and flowers alive did not transfer over to me. Too bad. Guys, I even struggle with keeping fresh basil alive!

I used to cringe when people gave me potted plants as gifts, because I knew that if they ever came back, that plant would not be a thriving thing of beauty. No, it would be shrivelled and black - or worse, the pot would be left and the plant dumped out.

Anyway, now that I have experienced some success in keeping some small plants alive, my eyes have been open to how wonderful having some greenery around can be! I mean, I always knew it was a good thing but I guess I never truly embraced it.

If you’re like me and hesitant to bring home (or accept as gifts!) some greenery, this post is for you!

6 Reasons to Add Greenery to your Surroundings | www.maplealps.com

Improves air quality. By reducing carbon dioxide and increasing humidity. Even NASA had a study on this years ago. Check out this excerpt:

“Both plant leaves and roots are utilized in removing trace levels of toxic vapors from inside tightly sealed buildings. Low levels of chemicals such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde can be removed from indoor environments by plant leaves alone.” When talking about the relationship between plants and space travelers, NASA notes that plants, "provide nourishment for the body when eaten as food, and they improve the quality of indoor air. Plants take the carbon dioxide from air to produce oxygen that humans can breathe."

Pretty cool!

Creates a mood. Especially when your plant pots are super cute and match your decor. Am I right or am I right?

Fosters creativity. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a space with natural settings, I feel much more creative. In the Summer I love working on my deck for this very reason. I do some of my best writing outside, and when I can bring the outside in, it fosters my creativity.

Reduces stress. Or is this just me?

Adds life to your surroundings. Plants are living things. Add some literal life to your surroundings by putting some plants out.

Creates appreciation for nature in general. I promise once you start taking care of these, you’ll start appreciating others’ gardens and houseplants more! You may even start recognizing and putting a name to the leaf!

6 Reasons to Add Greenery to your Surroundings | www.maplealps.com

So you’re sold. Now you want to get out and buy all the green things. There are still some things to consider, however. Here are some tips to choose the best houseplants for you:

Consider your plant abilities. Are you like me with a black thumb? Find some easy-to-care-for plants that will take talent to kill. Succulents are a good start. Do some research as to My personal favourite are snake plants, as I can successfully keep them alive, PLUS they are gorgeous.

Consider the size of your home. How much space do you have in your home? Can you handle having a larger plant, or are smaller ones better? Plants need space to get breathing air too! Do you have a lot of windows to let in sunlight, or do you need to get a plant that prefers shade?

Consider the humidity and temperature. Some plants require more humidity than others. If you want a tropical plant, this is definitely something you will want to consider as they need more humidity. Keeping plants that require more humidity away from your heat and air conditioning units is definitely something you’ll want to think about as they dry the air and change the temperature, obviously.

Consider your family and pets. Does your family have any allergies to any of the plants you plan on bringing home? Are the plants toxic to your fur babies? Do your research before bringing home your new plant friend.

Do your research, whatever you decide. Know how to water, fertilize, and care for the plants you bring into your home. Like people, each plant has unique needs for the best care. Most importantly, have fun learning and don’t give up!

 

Do you have houseplants? What kind? Any tips for someone with a black thumb?