Creativity is probably frowned upon in Ann Marie Saternus' profession, something that can get a gal a long, unplanned "vacation" without pay.
So this self-employed CPA spends her inventive energy on baking. Lots of baking.
"If people are looking for somebody to bring dessert, they ask me," says Ann Marie, an Arlington Heights resident. "Baking is far from what I do for a living, which is pretty nuts-and-bolts and somewhat boring, and you have something pretty when you're done."
She produces birthday cakes for loved ones, miniature wedding cakes for friends celebrating an anniversary and well-laden sweets tables for holiday gatherings, graduations, showers and fundraisers for Catholic Charities and other groups.
When entertaining at home, Ann Marie turns her kitchen island into the sweets table. Variety and quantity count, visual interest weighs into the equation, too.
"I like things of different sizes, shapes and heights.
"I'll put a four-layer torte at one end of the table and I use a variety of footed cake stands to present things on different levels."
Allergies and special diets are taken into account, because, "God forbid," someone shouldn't be able to eat dessert at her house.
"My husband (Christopher) keeps telling me I like the heavy stuff," she says, "so I like to have some balance."
Cheesecake is a must; Ann Marie has 13 varieties, including a raspberry ribbon. Her cream puff ring is another must-have, and she always serves four or five kinds of cookies, like chocolate-dipped pistachio, raspberry sandwiches dipped in chocolate, slice-and-bake lemon cookies with lemon cream on top and sugar cookies, "nice and plain for people with allergies."
"Sometimes to be healthy I will make fruit salad, but that's unusual," she laughs.
In her pantry she keeps two shelves of cookbooks and a collection of specialty cake pans - among them a giant cupcake, a gingerbread house and rose blossoms - that would make Betty Crocker's heart go pitty-pat.
She subscribes to Taste of Home magazine, buys the publication's specialty booklets and collects Pillsbury recipe pamphlets like some women accumulate jewelry.
Two of her baking sheets are dedicated to cookies only.
"It's probably just craziness on my part, but I'm worried that the cookie sheet would discolor and pick up flavor."
During the upcoming tax season Ann Marie will scale back on baking, but we can start building a sweets table of our own with this week's trio of recipes (her recipe for Key Lime Bars is at dailyherald.com/food).
That sounds a lot better than filling out my 1040.