What a year 2013 has been. The end of the year always sets me into a bit of a panic (that I hadn't accomplished everything I wanted within the walls of 365 days), mixed with lots of excitement (for a clean slate and fresh start in the new year to come). 'Tis the season for reflection and excitement for a new beginning. This time last year, I was feverishly reapplying as a cottage food vendor in DuPage County, having already been approved in Cook prior to my move home (my parents are saints for letting my reclaim their kitchen for this small business pipe dream). I was determined to make it into this farmers market season as a CFO (cottage food operator). Someway, somehow. And I did. Also during this time last year, I began on my journey transitioning into a plant strong lifestyle. Looking back, this year provided me with a lot of perspective. Throughout the course of this year, I reinforced my passion to make a difference, however small, with my farmers market business by adapting recipes and continuing to educate myself on more healthful approaches to baking. Being surrounded by food and culture and people who care about those things too was all I ever really wanted. And by doing the farmers markets, I was able to do that - in meeting countless vendors and customers that live their lives on similar wavelengths. Now, in the coming year, I plan to continue my "food" education, and possibly even enroll in a plant-based nutrition certificate program. I hope to continue to be able to speak even more intelligently to the needs of my customer base along with furthering my education on my own personal nutrition choices (as a plant-strong eater) as well. In the coming months, I also hope to become re-approved as a CFO for next seasons farmers markets and be able to offer a wider selection of products that are safe for everyone to eat by introducing more soy free and naturally sweetened products, along with adapting whatever I can to be gluten free. (Trust me, I have been busy adapting and experimenting with new recipes whenever possible. I even made flax meal sugar cookies for the holidays - and would you believe it, they were more delicious than the originals?!) I was speaking to someone about my business recently, and I recall saying, "All I really want to do is help people." Which is the complete truth. I want you to have your cake and eat it too. Sure, sweets are still an indulgence no matter how they are made, but if you are fully educated about what is in them, and can pronounce all of the ingredients, they definitely become more of a beneficial splurge than not. Especially if they still accomplish the nostalgia of a home baked treat fresh from a loved one's oven. At least in my book. Which is why I am so grateful the cottage food law exists, because if it didn't I wouldn't have the same opportunities to put my passion into production. And if we can all continue to learn and grow from each other, the transfer of information will continue to evolve and nourish the importance of the movement for food advocacy and education. What greater gift can we give ourselves than knowledge? So, as you gear up for the last remaining days of the year to enter into the clean slate of 2014, what will you be hoping to accomplish? We here at Smashed Muffin will be hoping for your most "smashing" year yet. Along with continuing to maintain an appreciation for the sweet things in life (food related and otherwise). So, from our kitchen to yours, happy holidays. We can't wait to see what the new year brings...!