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Ever since Allen was born, I've made a cake for his birthday but no other cakes throughout the year. His first birthday cake was my first attempt cake decorating since switching to gluten free and dairy free ingredients. It was really hard! Actually it was kind of goopy. Or the fondant was goopy. But I'm learning more with every attempt.
Obviously since these are birthday cakes for my son, I don't really make them with the blog in mind. I just like to share them here. For this city skyline cake, I can't take much credit for the process because I pretty much followed somebody's idea I saw online. I had decided I wanted to make a "city" cake because Allen loves building cities from blocks or really anything he can get his hands on. I was going to do a rainbow gradient frosting instead of the sunset type look but he saw the sunset in the video online and had to have it.
How I Made the Cake
I basically tried to replicate what was done in the video so if you'd like to make this, I'd refer to that video. (That's right, I'm not including a recipe today. I'll still briefly discuss what I did though!) The only difference in the method was that my acetate sheets for making a stencil never got delivered so thankfully I had help from Cakes by Tina to free hand it. Meaning she freehanded it for me because seriously, I don't do that stuff!
She also wrote "happy birthday" on it for me (I would have left it blank if I were on my own) and helped fix the new buttercream I tried.
To finish things off, since Allen was losing his mind over a solar system cake he saw on Pinterest while I was already knee deep in everything I needed to make the city skyline cake, I decided to quickly add some planets - a little red speck for Mars, a yellow dot with white rings "painted" on in white gel food coloring for Saturn, and a bright star looking planet for Venus. He knew what they all were instantly.
I won't link to the buttercream recipe I used on the outside because I messed it up so bad (forgot to double the vegan butter when doubling the batch). It's probably a good recipe but I have no idea at this point. However, I will say you'll want a recipe that doesn't use shortening. Since Crisco isn't technically gluten free, the only safe brand I know to use is Spectrum. It's a good product but I can't get the food coloring to incorporate into frostings and fondants that use Spectrum shortening.
This city skyline cake was actually for Allen's fourth birthday. Which means I never shared his third birthday cake. As a matter of fact, I haven't shared much of anything this past year. I have every intention of continuing to blog but I'm not in a space where I can do much of it at the moment so I wanted to give you guys an update on everything that's been going on.
Update on the past year (or more)
I figured now would be a good time to give an update on everything I normally would have written about throughout the year when I wasn't posting. Yep, I'm still one of those traditional bloggers who actually write what I want to write despite today's reader demands of "just get to the recipe already" and Google's demands of staying on topic. The recipe + writing style blogs are the type I've always enjoyed and that traditional style is what inspired this blog too.
Anyways, this past year has been absolutely packed with stuff keeping me busy. I feel like my entire life has changed. Exciting stuff for the most part but I've definitely had to put a hold on the blog posts. Here's what happened:
I stopped sleeping 😬
Ok, that's a little dramatic and not as accurate as my body feels it is. When I returned to work after my maternity leave in April 2018, I began working half time and fully remote and planned on keeping it that way because I intended to homeschool.
In early 2020, my position was becoming obsolete so I had to switch teams. I did a trial on a new team with just two extra hours a day as a compromise. I added those hours to the beginning of my day so I wouldn't have to pay our babysitters the extra two hours since Allen would typically be sleeping during that time. Plus I could catch him at the right time for lunch together, hands on activities, and gradually transitioning to more homeschool-like material as he got older. This meant starting my work day at 5:30am.
My trial with the team ended and my other position was gone. I had no choice but to stay on but they would only let me on permanently if I agreed to full time. So double what I was working before. I know, I know - "everybody" works full time and does just fine and it's such a cushy work from home job with good benefits and blah blah blah...but none of that changes the fact that I'm just not in a place where I can do that right now. Especially with the homeschool plans. They told me there would likely be half time opportunities going forward but I stuck it out for an entire year and didn't see things slowing down.
During that year, I slept about 4-6 hours a night...usually closer to the 4 hour mark if I'm being honest with myself. It was awful but I had to do what I could to make it work. I became so stretched for time that instead of my evening workout, I ended up doing them after everyone had gone to bed - sometime between 9pm and 1am. I probably would have been healthier to skip them but I just couldn't let them go. I enjoy it too much.
We paid off the house
We've had a goal to pay off our home for a long time now. We had a date in the near future where we expected to pay it off and decided with the way things were going with my job, we needed to buckle down and get it paid off ASAP. We probably didn't have to but it was going to make things so much easier. You probably see where I'm going with this.
I started a business
I've been taking web design and development courses for fun for a few years now and in January 2021, I began doing subcontracted work for somebody's web design business on the side. I started finding clients of my own and decided to make it official that April by forming my own LLC - Slipstream Web Design.
Why would I do all this if I already was already too busy to even sleep? Well, it made me immensely happy. So happy that I would have formed this business even if I didn't know my time was about to free up...
I finally quit my job
I pretty much made up my mind that this needed to happen the second they made me double my hours so we made it a goal with a timeline. It was clear that a half time position wasn't going to open up and I was sleep deprived to the point where I was worried about my long-term health. We met a few financial goals then without hesitation, I happily left my decade-long career as an actuary in early July!
We got pregnant!
My job was no longer a deciding factor in personal family decisions such as this and it never should have been. We were able to move our date up by quite a bit and are now expecting a little girl - Erika Claire really, really soon. "Really, really soon" meaning my due date is in under two weeks.
We went on our first and last vacation as a family of three
Before having another child, we wanted to take a sort of non-romantic "babymoon" as just a family of 3. About two weeks after my last day at work, we drove to Colorado and had a blast. I'm really happy that it was so memorable for Allen and that he's old enough to really retain these memories. I'm also glad we got to celebrate our family's transition by doing something really special together.