Maple Alps

intentional living

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.


vegan pantry maple alps




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


 

My Evening Routine

LifestyleAmanda Walter | Maple Alps1 Comment

Earlier this year, I shared some tips for a great morning routines, and as you guessed it, I'm here again to talk about more! This time, I'm just going to share my evening routine. 

There is something about a morning/evening routine that makes one feel accomplished and at peace. It also adds the structure that I need.

Tips for a great evening routine | www.maplealps.com

Tidy Up

This is honestly just so that my morning will go much smoother. I don't think that tripping over articles and coming out to a sink brimming with dishes is the best start to a day, do you? Making sure the kitchen is cleaned and that everything is off the floor is the absolute least I can do to help my morning go well.

Get Ready for the Next Day

Not only does this also contribute to a smooth day, it helps me think about what I will need, and kind of acts as closure for the day's events. I like to pack my lunch for the next day, and even my bag gets packed and gets put by the door. I even choose and set out my outfit. This prevents me from running around in the morning (and waking up my husband!) while looking for the items I need. Although, I forgot my socks this morning and had to sneak back into our bedroom to get a pair. Oops!

Look At To-Do List

I don't know about you, but if I don't look at my to-do list before bed, I wake up (often in the middle of the night) stressed out about what is or what isn't on that list. Looking at it gives me a sort of game plan for the next day and I feel more at ease and in control. Even if the next day does not go as planned, it's alright because I already got the sleep I needed the night before!

Turn Off Electronics

I try to turn off my electronics an hour before I actually sleep. It helps me wind down, and gives me a really good excuse to takle the books and magazines stacked on my nightside table. Honestly, besides the whole electronic screen keeps you awake thing, it's nice to not have time disappear because I was mindlessly scrolling on my phone. I like to keep my phone out of my bedroom. 

Related: What Happened When I Created a Phone-Free Zone

The Basics

Obviously, I brush my teeth, floss, and wash my face! A warm shower helps me sleep, and I cannot go to sleep without getting the day off my skin! Just thinking about everything that gets on me during my day grosses me out, and making sure I get it all off puts my mind at ease (and makes my skin happy).

Pray

I like to end the day the same way I start it out - in conversation with God! I love to fall asleep in Jesus’ arms.


Related: 7 Ways to Increase Your Prayer Life

 

 

What is your favourite part of your evening routine?


 

 

5 Ways to be Intentional About Your Phone Usage

LifestyleAmanda Walter | Maple Alps6 Comments

Phone usage has been a hot topic since…..well, since phones came out. Studies and scares about phone radiation are always talked about and campaigns against texting and driving produce thought-provoking, heart-wrenching television ads. Not to mention all of the studies about how your phone is the most disgustingly nasty germ infested electronic you own. I see my phone as a necessary “evil.” I need it to call my mom, and it’s required for work, but sometimes I find myself unnecessarily using it (like adding simple numbers...what?!) and giving it time I will never get back. There have been moments I’ve wanted to throw my phone out of the window. Let me explain:

5 Ways to be Intentional About Your Phone Usage | www.maplealps.com

One thing that really hit me was realizing that I hardly know anyone’s phone number by heart anymore. In school, I remember memorizing my best friend’s number (I still have it memorized to this day!), but I don’t remember the last time I had to actually punch in a number.

I also rely on my phone too much to remind me of things. While this is fantastic, and I would have had to write it down anyway, I can’t help but feel that my brain is shrinking (okay, it's probably not...) when I don’t want to remember a simple task or take the time to write down a particularly great quote I want to remember.

The last thing: simple math. I’ve recently started being more intentional about NOT using my calculator app to figure out simple discounts in the store. I make my students figure out 20% of a number all the time, so I figured I should start practicing what I teach! Besides, that way when they ask when they will ever use it in real life, I could reply, “Well, I just did it Tuesday when I needed to figure out the tip for my hairdresser!” That’s logical, right?


 

Limit your mindless scrolling

Endless scroll through Instagram or Facebook can be an addictive, dangerous trap! Set a timer if you must, or limit your social media usage to a desktop version. It is amazing how much time goes by when you decide to scroll through social media on a phone.

 

Take advantage of do not disturb

There are these fantastic settings most phones have: a do not disturb and airplane mode option! Take advantage of it during quiet moments, driving moments, or if you’re like me, use airplane mode before sleeping or taking a nap.

 

Do not let your phone be the first thing you check when you wake up

Start your day right. Phone notifications can be a stressful thing! If the first thing you see are you unread messages and emails, your mind will go right to those tasks rather than making sure your morning is quiet and sacred. I like to think of it this way: I want to read God’s Word before I read any of man’s word.

 

Don’t let your phone be the last thing you look at before you sleep

Be strict with when you end your phone time. Put your phone away at least an hour before you go to sleep. This will allow you to unwind, relax, and maybe even get to that stack of books on your nightside table. Maybe have a quality pillow talk session with your spouse. Pray and connect with your loved ones before sleeping, not your phone.

 

Create a phone-free zone

When I was in college, I made my dorm room an English-free zone. My roommate and I were only allowed to converse in German. It was good for me. Having a phone-free zone has been good for me too. For me, it’s my bedroom. It took a LOT of convincing my husband (mostly because he uses his phone as that alarm clock), but we finally did it, and I am SO GLAD we did. You can read more about our experience here.

 


What sort of ways do you make sure you are using your phone intentionally? 


 
 

What Happened When We Created a Phone-Free Zone

LifestyleAmanda Walter | Maple Alps1 Comment

When I was studying abroad and learning German, I decided to make my dorm room an English-free zone. I even made signs and put them on my door and bulletin board, just in case my roommate was tempted to practice her English on me (she never was…).

While my German-speaking husband would love it if we had an English-Free zone in our house (hehe, I’m totally rusty), I somehow convinced him to instead make our bedroom a phone-free zone. It took quite a bit convincing, but we finally managed to do it. For one month, no phones of any sort were allowed to enter our bedroom-at all. And honestly, it was the best thing we could have done - especially since the month we chose was an extremely busy one (you’ll read why in a few paragraphs).

I thought that today I would share what happened during this experiment. At first, I was not sure what exactly to expect, but everything I experienced was extremely positive. Spoiler alert: I’d do it again!

Creating a Phone-Free Zone | www.maplealps.com

 

Phone alarms could still be heard outside the door. The predominant argument that was brought up when I suggested a phone-free bedroom was that my husband uses his phone as an alarm clock. Now, alarm clocks are quite inexpensive and not hard to locate, but for whatever reason, we opt to use our phones instead. I’m more or less a minimalist - I get it - so I suggested just laying our phones outside the door. Guess what? We could still hear the alarms in the morning. Besides that, one was forced to physically get up if they wanted to hit the snooze button. Helped the waking-up process a tad anyway since you were that much closer to the bathroom. I actually use a silent alarm on my Fitbit because I wake up so early, so this was not a huge issue for me.

 

Pillow-talk replaced pre-bed scrolling. I suppose I should mention that on top of eliminating phones from our space, we also agreed to go to bed at roughly the same time (which was a real feat!). Instead of the usual [mostly mindless] scrolling and not talking to each other before praying together and drifting to sleep, we were actually able to talk and tell each other about our days. It was nice to connect in this way, as we are both extremely busy people. There would be weeks during the school year where we would go days without seeing each other or speaking much (the pastor-teacher combination is not really the most ideal at times). This really helped us to be grounded at the end of the day and to not waste any time.

 

Our space became special. Because we were not letting distractions from everywhere imaginable into our room, it almost seemed like a more special place. A place where the outside world could not get in. A place of refuge from the interruptions and the noise. I’ll add a note here that our phones were not allowed in at any time of the day, so it was always nice and still! I thought that I would miss listening to music or podcasts while sitting in bed, but I really didn’t. I had the rest of the day for that, so it was a nice way to wind down.

 

I started to read [print] again. Without the temptation of a phone on my bedside table, the pile of books I had been intending to read started getting shorter and shorter. I decided on a few that I was not interested in, and picked up some really great reads! I was able to actually re-house a few of them back in my bookshelf. I also felt kind of fancy reading or browsing magazines in bed. Am I the only one who feels fancy when doing this? Perhaps you shouldn’t answer that…

What Happened When We Created a Phone-Free Zone | www.maplealps.com

Honestly, after the month was up and phones came back into the bedroom, I was mostly disappointed. While I do try to be more intentional about not letting it take over, I do want to go back to making a phone-free zone again. It’s easy to fall back into the mindless scroll trap and lose time you will never ever get back.

All in all, it’s nice to set aside the device after using it all day. It’s a fantastic way to end each evening.

 

 


I’d highly recommend this experiment to anyone! I’d love to hear how it goes for you!