Hello friends!! I’ve been spending the month of January planning, dreaming, diving into what really matters to me this year as well as what steps I need to take to make important things happen. However, before I can forge ahead I need to take a look back. I believe a little bit of reflection allows us the opportunity to see how far we’ve come, assess where we currently stand, allow feelings of regret about areas we may have fallen short in, experience the pain of something hard + difficult we may have had to face and then guess what? We MOVE ON! That’s right. It’s what I call “Reflect and Release”. We feel all the feels, we reflect on the progress or lack thereof and then… we close the chapter with gratitude. Gratitude for all of the good things. Gratitude for another year…another chance to make things better. Gratitude for a fresh start, a clean slate and a heart filled with new hopes and dreams. So here I am today reflecting on 2018 and all that it brought with it… Icicle mornings and a visit from Jay’s parents A BFF weekend with Ella’s bestie, Elise, (including a “rainbow pancakes” breakfast), another visit from Jay’s parents, long walks with Hamilton down by the river, planting tomato seeds, pulling out landscaping plants, RiverTown’s Daddy Daughter Dance, and Ella’s first gymnastics competition of the year with her new gym, Florida Elite. A trip to Savannah for another gymnastics competition, new landscaping, a family reunion in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Ema turning 19 and coming to live with us in St. Johns to finish school, and lots of tomato plant watering. New Spring flowers for around the house, a visit from Clara with bath bomb experimenting, Ritualistic coffee runs with Ema in the mornings after we dropped Ella off at school, Ella’s very last gymnastics competition of the season at Regionals…and little did I know…her very last competition as a gymnast ever. *tears* and an unexpected love note from my sweet Ella pie. Lot of sidewalk chalk art in the driveway with Em + Ella, wildflower picking after school, riding scooters in the rain with the girls, recipe experimenting from the Magnolia Table Cookbook, Ella deciding to walk away from her 4th and final year in gymnastics, *insert tears*, a visit to Mt. Dora to see Ella’s bestie perform in the school Talent Show, implementing a daily walking program with Em, and my beautiful Emalyn receiving her high school diploma! (WaHoo)!! A girls camping trip to Salt Springs with my mom, baking hummingbird cake + cupcakes with Clara, faithfully walking 10k steps every day, horseback riding camp for Ella, a dinner with my cousin Karson and her family at Marker 32, celebrating Father’s day with a unicorn freak shake at new smoothie place, a visit to Mt. Dora to watch Elise’s recital and drumroll please…harvesting our very first tomato. Cultivating my love for maidenhair ferns, lots of outside dog baths for Hamilton, a summer painting class for Ella, our first visit to Sweet Pete’s, Ella deciding to try cheerleading to replace gymnastics, creating 10k steps challenges between Clara, Jay + I to push and encourage each other every day to do better, and my sweet Em going back to Mt. Dora to secure a job at Starbucks and continue her education. We harvested lots of cherry tomatoes from our thriving tomato plants, Clara visited a lot and became a dog walker through the Wag App, Jay and I ate at Preserved for a special night out – (now one of our favorite dining experiences), Ella ran her first 5k with her bestie, (Elise), and Ella started 4th grade at a brand new school (Freedom Crossing Academy) AGAIN this year after our new neighborhood was re-zoned. Clara and I experimented with making slab pies, we went to Julington Creek Fish Camp with my mom + Rick when they came up for a visit, my cousin Karson and her daughter Riley stayed with us for a few days when they were evacuated from South Carolina due to Hurricane Florence, our family dog, (Hamilton), turned 17 this year, Ella attended her first NFL football game when she went to see a Jags game through the “Honor Row” program at her school and Clara continued to walk the cutest pups as a Wag Walker. Ella became a little more independent and took Hamilton on lots of walks around the neighborhood by herself, Clara came to visit and while she was here she painted the cutest UCF pumpkins with the Ivory Ella brand logo, we participated in a neighborhood garage sale and I purged sooo much, I did some door decorating for Ella’s class, Ella and I traveled to Orlando to spend the weekend with her bestie + her bestie’s mom at the Omni Champions Gate so the girls could celebrate their “double digits” birthdays early. Ella got her first pair of prescription glasses days before she officially turned 10, Ella chose to have a birthday DAY with Jay + I instead of having a party and asked for a Breyer horse themed cake as well as horse themed oreo cookies to bring to her class, I helped organize a “Pie Bar” for Ella’s class for Thanksgiving, we stayed home for Thanksgiving this year and enjoyed the company of Clara, Mom + Rick and Jay’s parents. (I was missing Ema). I made a dream of mine come true when I traveled to Waco, Texas to visit Magnolia Market with my cousin Karson (recap post coming), I experimented with dried oranges as part of my Christmas decor, (go see this post) I baked stamped Gingerbread Cookies (recipe coming January 30th), we visited friends and family in Mt. Dora the weekend before Christmas and to also participate in our first-ever family 5k, I discovered the wonderful Comfort + Joy Apothecary I can’t seem to get enough of and are now my new favorite things to gift. Although it took a lot of time and effort to create this post, (scrolling back through all the images of 2018 and choosing my favorite memories), it was so worth it and I’m so grateful I did it. I’m mainly grateful because being able to reflect on everything 2018 brought to my life excites me even more for what’s ahead. My eyes were opened through this posting process to so much good that surrounded me this year even though there were definitely some difficult situations and circumstances mixed in with everything. Sometimes it’s so hard to see the good right in front of you but when you take a step back your whole perspective can change. Thanks for taking a look back with me friends. Now I can officially move forward… KEEPiNG iT REAL You have no idea how relieved (and proud) I am to finally have this post completed. Looking forward to posting the Gingerbread Cookies recipe and my word of the year for 2019 before the end of January. (that’s only a few days away). Eeeks!!