A Yummy #TasteAndBelieve Challenge!

I participated in a In-Home Party Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Weight Watchers Sweet Baked Goods. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Any reason to get together with friends is a good reason, am I right? When that reason involves the words “salted caramel” and “brownie,” I’m all in. Girlfriends and chocolate go hand-in-hand perfectly.

I got together with a few friends from my bible study this week to treat them to some decadent sweet and salty indulgences…but I had a little surprise for them! I had sampled one (or a few!) of these little bites of heaven before our little get-together and I couldn’t wait for them to give them a try AND let them guess just which company was behind their yumminess! See what I did with that twist there?!

Besides my favorite pairing of salted caramel and chocolate, I love adding fruit to the mix when chocolate is involved, so I set out a cute little tray of the brownie bliss treats and strawberries and made sure all signs of packaging were out of sight.

WW Close Up Treats

These treats are not only yummy, they are also adorable and look great on a platter, don’t you think?! They wouldn’t last long though!

WW Grabbing Treat

As we chit-chatted, everybody grabbed their sweets and took their first bite…and nobody could stop there because YUM. My favorite part was watching everyone try to figure out the company of origin for the brownies – it was a good excuse to take just one more bite…or many!

WW Answer

After all the guesses were submitted, I finally revealed that these yummy salted caramel brownie bliss treats were made by…

WW Reveal

Weight Watchers Sweet Baked Goods! Surprise! I wish I could have passed them off as my own creations, but it was fun to reveal that each treat was just 90 calories and 2 points for Weight Watchers PointsPlus!

WW Reveal 2

Did you know there is a whole Weight Watchers Sweet Baked Goods line? It includes yummy treats such as Triple Chocolate Brownie Bliss, Mint Chocolate Brownie Bliss, Peanut Butter Brownie Bliss, Chocolate Crème Cake, Lemon Crème Cake, Red Velvet Crème Cake, Carrot Crème Cake, Chocolate Brownie, Coffee Cake, and Cookies! WOWZERS.

WW Me with Treat

If you’ve been wanting to give one of these treats a try, NOW is the time because you can be a part of the Tasting is Believing Challenge! Until May 31, 2015, buy any Weight Watchers Sweet Baked Goods product, try it, and if you don’t love it, get your money back! Find these treats at your local store for a suggested retail price of just $3.29 per box!

The #TasteAndBelieve Challenge has me convinced! Which of these Weight Watchers Sweet Baked Goods will you try as part of this yummy challenge?!

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Hands-on-Prints Books: Engaging Kids in Reading!

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Hands-on-Prints books. I received books to facilitate my review. This post contains affiliate links.

We are a book-loving household. We have books of all kinds coming out of our ears. I’ve really tried to trim down our selection over the years, but I can’t seem to stop adding to our collection when I find something that looks good!

The introduction of Kindles in to our home has helped slow the rapid growth of our stacks and stacks of books, but there is still nothing like holding a physical book in your hands, especially when it comes to children’s books.

Hands On Prints All

I’m thrilled to introduce a new series to you that will really engage your children in books through great content, wonderful illustrations, and their senses!

Hands On Prints Books

Christinia Cheung earned a Masters in Early Childhood Education and established a Montessori school that celebrates differences in personality, learning preferences and cultural backgrounds. Through these experiences, she was compelled to write her Hands-on-Prints books.

Hands On Prints Boys

This series of five books inspires simple and complex learning about the world, especially incorporating sight and touch to create an interactive visual experience for children. Hands-On-Prints books really are a unique set that my children and I are greatly enjoying!

Our family favorite is Around the World from A to Z!

Hands On Prints AZ

Around the World from A to Z takes kids on a journey to explore the activities, famous landmarks, and cultures of countries. Rock climbing at Mt. Rushmore, martial arts at Mount Fuji, and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef are just a few of the fun adventures highlighted in Around the World. My boys loved seeing what activity would be on the next page and finding the location on the map in the upper right corner of each page!

Hands On Prints AZ Finger 2 Hands On Prints AZ Finger

Each page also features a raised, textured cursive letter of the alphabet for little hands to trace! Our oldest showed his younger brothers how to trace them correctly and I’ve caught them doing it over and over again. This book has so many things to get kids involved in learning! We are big fans!

Hands On Prints Chartres

Several years ago, The Hubby and I visited Europe and one of our stops along the way was in Chartres, France. We explored the gorgeous and incredibly unique cathedral in this town and were fascinated by the story of its construction. Because of that visit, this next book is a sentimental favorites. Geometry through Architecture: The Chartres Cathedral details all the ways shapes were used in the building, particularly as symbolism in the stained glass windows. I loved looking through this book with Big J and showing him our own pictures of the cathedral from our visit. He is his mother’s son – very interested in reading and history – so this was a great connection point for us!

Hands On Prints Coconuts

Other books in the Hands-On-Prints series include Nuts for Coconuts, A Persistent Vine, and Do I Have To? What If I Don’t Want To?

Hands-On-Prints books take children on adventures that develop their knowledge and a sense of discovery! I love how these books encourage kids to think outside of themselves and their normal circumstances. They truly do inspire the best in young learners!

Which Hands-On-Prints book would be most interesting to your child?

Leave a comment with your favorite to be entered to win! Giveaway ends Tuesday, May 26th at 9PM CST!

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Vino Van Gogh: Paint + Sip Fun with Friends (Giveaway!)

I received tickets to this even from Vino Van Gogh in exchange for a review. I was not compensated in any other way for this post and all opinions are 100% my own!

I’ve seen people I know doing these canvas painting parties all over the place and coming home with the most beautiful creations to hang in their homes. It looked like fun, but I had never tried it myself, so I jumped at the chance to attend a Vino Van Gogh event here in Omaha with one of my best friends!

Vino Van Gogh is different than most canvas painting classes because places because they hold their events at popular restaurants, so when you order food and drink you’re getting it from a place like J.Coco or Nosh or, in our case, Nebraska Brewing Company! When you look at the Vino Van Gogh event calendar, you can see the location of the event as well as what the painting will be for that night. I chose our event based on both the location and the painting – we were thrilled with both!

I knew this would be the perfect thing to do with my dear friend, Val – a relaxing night for two busy mamas who don’t get to see each other often enough! We chose the Vino Van Gogh event at Nebraska Brewing Company and the painting “Cherry Blossoms.” It was fun and relaxing and we enjoyed it so much! Here are a few highlights from the evening:

Vino Van Gogh Collage 1

Vino Van Gogh Collage 2

Your registration for the event includes the cost of the class and all supplies. Drinks and food are not included, but each location offers their own specials for Vino Van Gogh participants! I’m not a wine drinker, but I did enjoy some yummy food after we were done painting!

Vino Van Gogh Group

One of the most fun parts of this evening was seeing all the different interpretations of the same original painting! Carl was a great teacher who both taught us and encouraged us to make the paintings our own. I love watching people be creative, whether it comes naturally or not!

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Our finished masterpieces! Mine is now hanging in the hallway as both beautiful art and a great memory with a wonderful friend!

Vino Van Gogh Giveaway

If you’re in the Omaha area and have been wanting to try a Vino Van Gogh event, you’re in luck because I’m giving away two tickets to the event of your choice!

To enter, just tell me in the comments the last time you did any kind of art! For extra entries, you can like Vino Van Gogh-Omaha on Facebook and tweet this message:

Tweet: Win 2 tickets to the #vinovangogh event of your choice in #omaha from @homewiththeboys! #giveaway http://ctt.ec/FlaPX+

Leave a separate comment for each entry! This giveaway will close Friday, May 22nd at 9PM CST! One random winner will be notified by email!

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The Night at the Theater That Recaptured My Heart

I received the tickets for this show from Omaha Performing Arts, but I was not asked to write a post in exchange for them. I just couldn’t help myself.

I’ve always been a lover of musical theater. The first show I saw was a tour of Phantom of the Opera in Minneapolis during high school and I was mesmerized. Phantom is not my favorite musical of all time, but you never forget your first show experience.

There have been many more memorable musical theater experiences since that first one, with Les Miserables in London and The Lion King in Las Vegas topping the list. As music majors in college, we went to shows in our area all the time. But with kids and life, we haven’t been to many shows in the last few years.

I didn’t realize how much I missed live musical theater until last night.

Omaha Performing Arts gave me two tickets to the first night of Once, a musical that tells the enchanting tale of a Dublin street musician who’s about to give up on his dream when a beautiful young woman takes a sudden interest in his haunting love songs. Once was actually a movie first and became well-known because of it’s Oscar-winning song, “Falling Slowly.” I’m pretty sure you’ve heard it. It was then made into a stage production and won EIGHT Tony awards in 2012.  From what I had heard, I was sure it would be a good show.

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Good is not an adequate or accurate word to describe what I experienced watching Once. From the moment my good friend and I walked in to the musicians jamming on stage pre-show, we were in awe. They weren’t like actors up there – they were musicians playing their own music and drawing me in to the show.

Once

 

photo credit: Joan Marcus

I found myself holding my breath from the beauty of the music several times during the show. Irish influence, a cappella, raw love songs – there was a little bit of everything in Once and I wanted more of all of it. When the first act ended with the singing and dancing of the song Gold, I had chills and tears and all the feelings.

Once Tour 1005 Small

 

photo credit: Joan Marcus

I fell in love with live musical theater again last night. Once was everything musical theater should be and everything I had been missing but didn’t even realize. Captivating melodies, GORGEOUS harmonies, soulful dancing, and acting that made me feel almost like I was interrupting someone’s real-life private moments.

** I feel like I should mention there is language that may offend some people, including several f-words. I am not a fan of foul language, but it did not turn me off from the musical at all. Just wanted to throw that out there. **

I may have been in my own city watching this musical, but I was transported to my past experiences in London and Vegas and Minneapolis and so on. And it was pretty great to experience it with one of my dearest friends for her birthday!

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If you need me, I’ll be looking for more opportunities to head to the theater with my hubby, my kids, my friends – anybody who wants to go – because it has recaptured my heart and I can’t get enough.

Are you a musical theater fan? What was your most memorable musical theater experience?

If you want to see Once in Omaha now through May 17, 2015, get your tickets here. And if you’re NOT in Omaha, follow @OnceMusical on Twitter to find out when they might be near you and GET YOURSELF THERE.

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That Special Thing About My Mom {One of Many}

This post is part of a Mother’s Day partnership with Shari’s Berries. I received free product, but was not compensated in any other way for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

This past Mother’s Day weekend, my parents agreed to have the boys at their house while The Hubby and I went to run a race. If you know my mom, this wouldn’t surprise you in the least.

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My mom has always been the woman who welcomes people in, and of course, she gladly welcomes her grandchildren any time. We are so blessed by their willingness to watch the boys and the ways they make the weekend fun for them.

It was in the original Mother’s Day plans for us to come back from our race and to indulge in some beautiful, yummy treats from Shari’s Berries with Mom. They asked me to pick out some wonderful gifts for my mom that we could all share. But on Saturday, Mom came down with a stomach bug and ended up being quarantined in the basement while Dad tried to corral the crazy that is our boys.

By the time, we arrived on Mother’s Day, Mom was feeling a little better and the Shari’s Berries treats had arrived, but you know how it is with the stomach bug – decadent treats (and taking pictures with them) were not a good fit for the day. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been sick like that, the last thing I want is for people to be around. But Mom always makes the best of every situation and we were welcomed in as if she had been healthy all weekend. This is what makes her my wonderful mom. She’s not just a good hostess, but also never makes anyone feel like an inconvenience, even in the most inconvenient circumstances.

Shari's Berries Treat Box

Later in the day on Sunday, we opened up the Shari’s Berries treats – because Mom insisted – and enjoyed the scrumptious gourmet chocolate covered strawberries. Fruit and chocolate are always a good combination, but Shari’s Berries takes it up a notch with delicious toppings and lovely presentation!

Shari's Berries

Mom was able to enjoy a treat from the Mrs. Fields box that was a little less rich – the cinnamon sugar cookies were soft and perfect for a stomach not quite ready for chocolate decadence! There was also toffee fudge in that box that I hope she’s been able to enjoy by now because YUM!

Shari's Berries Both Boxes

I wanted to share pictures with you today that captured the welcoming, loving spirit of my mom on that Mother’s Day, but instead my words will have to do. I’m not sure any words or pictures could accurately capture what makes her the mom I love so much. Just know that there has never been a person who was not welcomed with open arms in her presence and her home, even at the most inopportune times. Like when you’ve had the stomach bug and three crazy boys in your house on Mother’s Day weekend.

I love you, Mom. Thanks for being who you are – an amazing example of unconditional love, making the best of every situation.

What makes your mom so special? How did you celebrate her this weekend?

 

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Sensible Portions Puffs: Snacks for the Whole Family!

This is a sponsored post from Hain Celestials. I was compensated for this post, but all opinions are 100% my own.

I know I’m not the only mom who has kiddos CONSTANTLY asking for things to eat, right?! I’m always on the look out for better-for-you snacks to feed the whole family when they need to munch on something. The boys have found a new favorite in Sensible Portions Puffs from Hain Celestials!

Puffs

Made with organic corn and no fillers, Sensible Portions Puffs are baked and deliciously seasoned bite-size poppable treats for the entire family to enjoy! Sensible Portions Puffs are made with the belief that an after-school snack, or a movie-watching treat, can be fun and delicious while also being a better-for-you, smarter snacking option.

Puffs Eating

The boys take after me and like something a little salty for an afternoon snack along with some fruit or string cheese. I don’t want them to fill up on junk, especially with dinner right around the corner. Sensible Portions Puffs satisfy that salty craving with their four yummy flavors: Veggie, Cheddar, Tomato Basil, and Sour Cream & Onion.

Puffs Boys

The boys loved all four flavors, but the Cheddar were definitely a favorite! The Hubby enjoyed all of the flavors as well, while I had a strong preference for the Veggie Puffs! These really are the perfect thing to snack on – low-calorie and without any nasty fillers! You can grab your own at WalMart stores for just $2.88 a bag!

I want your family to be able to give Sensible Portions Puffs a try, so we’re giving one of you four bags – one of each flavor! To enter, just tell me about your favorite better-for-you snacks for your family! For an extra entry, tweet this and come back to leave a separate comment telling me you did:

Tweet: Enter to win 4 bags of #SensiblePortionsPuffs from @homewiththeboys! http://ctt.ec/3dJF1+ #giveaway

Leave your comments by Monday, May 11th at 8PM CST to be entered!

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It’s a Henkaa Mother’s Day Giveaway!

I was given this dress as part of Henkaa Mother’s Day celebration! I was not compensated in any other way for this post, and all opinions are 100% my own!

I’ve had my eyes on a Henkaa dress for quite a while. Maybe obsessing a little bit.

A Henkaa dress is the perfect item for any woman to have in her capsule wardrobe because it can be worn so many ways. And a Henkaa dress is the perfect investment for a mom because it can be worn before, during, and after pregnancy – not many clothes in our closet can do that, right ladies?! I wish I had a Henkaa dress when I was having babies!

My first Henkaa dress, the Iris Midi, arrived last week and I’ve had so much fun styling it! The fun thing about the Iris is that is has SLEEVES! Yes, sleeves, but it can also be styled as a sleeveless or strapless dress, too! Talk about versatile!

Henkaa Iris Midi Dress

The style on the left was for a date night with The Hubby! The fabric of the Iris is so luxurious – perfect for getting fancy and throwing on some heels for a night out! In that style, the halter top was made by tying the sleeves behind the neck.

For the style on the right, I went a little more casual with some of my favorite fair trade accessories from (affiliate link) The Root Collective and Work of Worth! This would be a great look for brunch or a baby shower. I love that the sleeves make this dress a piece I can keep in my closet year-round!

I can’t wait to try the Iris in many more styles! Here are a few of the 15 ways it can be worn:

iris-lineup

 

Henkaa has tons of tutorials and inspiration from real women to help you make the most out of your convertible dress. The tutorials helped me figure out how to wear new styles in not time at all!

Did you know Henkaa also has a versatile bag in their line-up? The monogram multi-way bag is perfect as a diaper bag, daily carry-all or travel companion and can be worn as a handbag, cross-body bag, shoulder bag or backpack! Detachable straps and TONS of compartments on both the inside and outside make this a bag you will take with your every day to carry whatever you need – diapers, books, gym necessities, and more!

To celebrate Mother’s Day, Henkaa and I are teaming up to give one Iris convertible dress + one monogram multi-way bag to one of you beautiful ladies! I’M SO EXCITED!!!

Henkaa Mother's Day Giveaway

To enter this marvelous Mother’s Day giveaway, tell me which color Iris dress you would pick and where you would wear it to celebrate Mother’s Day – fancy brunch, moms’ night out with girlfriends, a day of shopping without kids, or something else fun!

This giveaway ends Sunday, May 10th at 8PM CST. One random winner will be chosen and announced Monday, May 11th! Only open to those with a US shipping address. Must be 18 or older to win. One entry per household please.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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The Divergent Series: Insurgent

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Summit Entertainment. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Just a few months ago, The Hubby and I saw Divergent for the first time. I had not read any of the books at the time, so it was all new to me. And I loved it. I immediately picked up the first book and read through the entire series very quickly. I have SO MANY THOUGHTS on all of it, so let’s have a book club about some time, ok? I’ll add that to my list…

Since we JUST saw the first movie, we were fortunate to not have to wait long to see the second movie and I was positively giddy about it opening around my birthday! The Divergent Series: Insurgent was released March 20th in 2D, Digital 3D, IMAX® 3D and RealD™ 3D – basically any way you want to see it in the theaters! The movie did not disappoint – made for a great date night!

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This second installment of the series (based on the book series by Veronica Roth) is full of action, excitement and suspense, a lot of heart and emotion, intense stunt work and visual effects – all great things to watch on the big screen!

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photo credit: Lionsgate

I’m actually not writing to review the movie today – I have all sorts of thoughts on book vs. movie – but I do want to share a few things that stood out to me in watching these films.

While the whole Divergent series was targeted towards young adults, I found myself very intrigued by the story line. We all find ourselves wondering where we fit in. We all want to believe we are doing the right thing, but what do we do when that conflicts with what someone else thinks is right? I’m definitely not a teenager, but I connected with the journey of Tris as she tries to find her place, overcome evil with her gifts, and above all, seek the truth. I think her flaws made her even more relatable to me.

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photo credit: Lionsgate

The Divergent Series: Insurgent is a movie teens and adults can both enjoy! The theater was packed with people of all ages when we saw it which always makes for a fun experience! Check out this trailer:

 

Get your tickets to The Divergent Series: Insurgent and enjoy a thrilling movie this weekend!

Have you seen The Divergent Series movies? Read the books? Let’s discuss!

Warning: spoilers may appear in the comments!

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Tieks Review: My Thoughts on the Popular Ballet Flats

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

When I received my first pair of Tieks as a gift, I was VERY skeptical.

Would these flats really be worth the price tag of $175 and up?

Would they actually be comfortable?

Would I wear them enough to make it worth it?

I was pleasantly surprised in all categories and more when it comes to my Tieks, so let me tell you more…

Tieks

I have the Wild Copper Tieks, a mixed metal flat with a bit of a wild side! They are made of 100% premium, soft, full-grain leather. The back is cushioned and has never given me blisters as most flats have done, at least initially. I absolutely love the non-skid soles, and while there is no significant arch support, the cushioned instep is very comfortable.

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I’ve worn my Tieks everywhere and with everything from jeans + a graphic tee to dresses + tights. They are fun, but also classy. They fit my busy mom lifestyle, but also look great for a date night! They really are the ultimate versatile flat.

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Oh, and I didn’t even mention how they fold up super small and come with a carrying bag! I wore boots on plane to a conference this fall, but kept my Tieks in my purse in case my feet were hot. Tieks are great to take along for travel because they take up so little space!

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The shoes are fabulous and I’ve been keep tracking of how often I wear them with my StyleBook app so I can break down the price per wear – even in just a few months, it’s already around $10 per wear and I know they will last for a long, long time!

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Tieks is also excellent in customer care and social media connection! The box my Tieks came in was the cutest thing ever, with a perfect green flower wrapped around it! They have great fun with their Twitter and Instagram accounts, responding to customers and doing giveaways all the time!

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Last, but not least, is the Gavrieli Foundation. The foundation works through Kiva to contribute to women entrepreneurs around the world with the mission of helping fight global poverty. To date, over $1 million has been committed to creating opportunities for these women, their families, and their communities!

I know Tieks aren’t in everyone’s price range, but between these and good cowboy boots, I’ve found that really great shoes are worth investing in. Tieks are those really great, classy, timeless shoes and I will be wearing mine for years to come.

I’m dying to know: which color Tieks are on your wish list?

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Pen + Paper

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

As much as I love this online world – the writing, the connections, the inspiration – I’m still a pen + paper girl. I love to write – as in handwrite on paper. Beautiful journals and colorful pens make me smile. I enjoy writing in a real life planner. I love digital and I love paper. Yes, you can do both.

I’ve posted some pictures on Instagram from my morning quiet time and had people ask about the journals and pens I’m using, so why not write a post about it, right?!

Here are my current favorites in the pen + paper categories…

Pen + Paper Favorites

Paper

The Day Designer by Whitney English – I’m going to try to not be overdramatic, but this planner has CHANGED MY LIFE. I’m great at dreaming up big ideas and making long-term plans, but I get stuck in the day-to-day details. I need major help planning out my days and tackling to-do lists. The Day Designer has seriously revolutionized the way I think about my days and the efficiency with which I tackle all the different responsibilities in my life! I probably need to do a whole post on the Day Designer alone, but I just needed to tell you how much I adore it.

Prayer Journal by Val Marie Paper – Prayer is immensely important to me, but I have a hard time remembering all the prayer requests I want to pray. Val’s beautiful journal is laid out perfectly to jot down prayers for all the important people and areas in my life. I carry it with me in my purse at all times so I can pray or write down a prayer at a moment’s notice. I love that it is organized by month and includes sections for prayers for our world, nation, loved ones, friends, and personal requests, as well as Scriptures to pray and a place to record answered prayers!

Abide Journal by Naptime Diaries – Our Bible study went through this bible study/journal over the summer and we all just adored it. It is an invitation to rest in Him and Jessi included Scripture and devotions right alongside space to process your own needs to really abide in the Lord. If your life feels hurried, stressful, or disconnected, I highly recommend the Abide Journal to help bring you closer to Him.

She Reads Truth study packs – I want them all. There is just something about having a beautiful journal to write your Bible study notes in and She Reads Truth had done this SO well. The artwork is always gorgeous, the study sections for each day help me focus on the passage and write through my thoughts, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. I’m particularly excited about the Hospitality study starting October 27th!

Journals from DaySpring – I can’t even count how many DaySpring journals, but there are full ones all over my house. DaySpring has journals of all sizes and designs – literally something for everyone, including the guys! The All of Me journal is awesome for recording spiritual and physical health, and I always carry a spiral journal of some kind with me to take notes at church!

Anything Moleskine – I was late to the game on Moleskine, but I’m a full believer now. I’ve used the little ones to count my blessings or record exercise. I’ve used something a little bigger as a prayer journal or a doodle book. They just feel special, you know?! I even used one to make a “restaurant passport” book for The Hubby so we could remember all the great places to eat in our city and check them off as we go! We haven’t kept up on it so well, but it looks cute!

Pen

Pilot G2 Retractable Premium Gel Ink Roller Ball Pens – Great variety of colors, don’t bleed through the pages of any of the paper products listed above, and I love how smoothly they write!

Pilot FriXion Erasable Gel Pens – Oh my word. Where have these been all my lives?! Pens, available in many colors, that can be erased just with friction by using the rubber end of the pen! I use these ALL the time in my Day Designer in case I need to rearrange plans.

Sharpie Stainless Steel Fine Point Black Ink Pen – This pen feels amazing to hold in my hand and I love how it writes. And it looks super fancy, which is always fun! The Hubby also loves this pen. For the record, he had one first, so I’m just copying him.

Yes, I just wrote over 700 words about PENS AND PAPER. My love is deep, friends. And I hope you found some new loves to try!

What are your favorite pen + paper products?

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