Morgan Day Cecil

Years ago I met someone. One of those people you wonder where they've been all your life. One of those people that literally light up a room and when they leave you want to follow them to stay close to that light.
That is Morgan. She's like this illuminating presence of everything inspiring and heartfelt and honest and real. She has been on a journey unlike most I have ever met. She has waded through the depths of valleys that many of us will never venture to (thank God) and has come through each as a testament  that we can overcome trials more radiant, beautiful, graceful and loving than we ever imagined possible.

Now Morgan lives thousands of miles away from me. But I am continually inspired by her through her Instagram shots, her Romance & Adventure blog posts, her endeavors and the goodies in her Etsy shop Maidservant of Encouragement.

I swoon over the designs she creates and think you will too. Until Feb. 6th here is your buy-one get-one free coupon coupon code: HIPHOME. 


True Success. What 2013 Taught Me.

I’ve blinked  and its already 24 days into 2014. For the past 23 days I had anticipated curling up under a quilt and spending a few minutes (hours) typing this blog post….board games with the kids and late night homemade pizza dinners with Mike have taken the front seat.

I’ve thought a lot about how to encapsulate last year into a blog entry nutshell. Its not possible. FB posts and Instagram photos give just a few pieces of the puzzle for all of us. 

Without a doubt, I have had an incredible year, I won’t lie. I’ve had lunch with the President of Cartier International in Normandy, France and chuckled as he said the words, 'eat cake, drink whiskey, talk shop'. I’ve started a magazine that was just named one of the ‘Hottest Launches of 2013”. I’ve won awards, spoken at events, been in meetings that would be the envy of any CEO in any part of the world. But that reality…and yes, for me that was reality~ still isn’t the entire story. The entire story will require a few hours, many pots of hot tea and a lot of honest, heartfelt words.

I won’t be that candid here. 

But I do want to share with you the ‘behind the scenes’ of 2013. Because, at the end of the day whether I am running a magazine or not.  Writing popular Huffington Post pieces or not. Jet setting to London or not. I am on a journey just like you. A journey that has the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. A journey that tests me at every turn. A journey of inward truthfulness and outward courage. And a journey that sometimes leaves me utterly rattled with anxiety and insecurity.

2013 was the hardest year of my life. 
Hands down. 
I am not sure I even would have the capability of repeating that year without a straight jacket. 

But 2013, for better or worse, allowed me to find out, for the first time in my 35 years, who I am at the core, what I truly value and how that shapes my future. For the first time in my life I drew close to incredibly wise mentors and truly authentic friends that walked the journey with me. They didn’t take (I’m naturally a giver)... instead I learned to receive. It transformed me.

Most of all, I fell more deeply in love with my family than I knew was possible. My children are growing and maturing more quickly than should be legal and each day they become my most cherished friends.

In 2013 I was utterly humbled and in awe of the man I married 15 years ago. We traveled some deep, treacherous valleys together over the past 12 months~ and my respect for him soared, watching as he battled through the darkness for us….for me…for our future. Even through the parts of the journey that made Mordor look like Disneyland he gave me a smile with the morning cup of coffee, left my vitamins in a wine glass on the counter before going to work (just for fancy-ness sake) and reminded me often of his love and devotion. That’s pretty powerful stuff. 

And now as I look ahead to 2014, we're already in the thick of it.  
December 31st brought about yet ANOTHER layoff for Mike thanks to shifts in the pharmaceutical industry...Jeez….again!? (having an "Are you there God, its us the Smith's" moment~). 
Some huge decisions lie ahead for CAKE&WHISKEY's growth and we weigh out a possible relocation with the uprooting of schools and daily life. 

Yet I’ve never felt more sure that this journey, with its manic twists and turns, is truly about searching out the tiniest bits of simplicity, joy and love along the way. If we can do that, we’ve found the key to true success. And that’s the only success I am seeking in 2014. 


Tangerine Mille-Feuille with Homemade Pastry Cream and Puff Pastry

Someday soon I will sit down with a pot of tea and give you a full wrap-up of 2013. For those of you that have followed this blog for years, you obviously were attune to the fact that my sweet Art of Homemaking was rather a quiet place in the blog world last year. How do I put a bow on and present in an understandable fashion such a year as 2013? There were so many moving parts...many that continue to move and have no bow yet. Many events and emotions and opportunities that have shaped me into a much different person heading into 2014. For the best.
So much to catch you up on...I promise...soon.

But lets chat about sugar and flour and butter for a bit until then, shall we?
I woke up this morning ready to tackle something. Something big. Something new. Something beautiful. Of course I do this every day from my studio computer. In fact, Issue Four just headed off to the printer.
But truly my creative being was crying out for something less... technological this morning.

Before the sun had even fully risen I had made a batch of pastry cream and started rolling out a block of puff pastry I made over Christmas break. This was my first attempt at puff pastry, in fact. I loved the process. Much more puff pastry to come in 2014.

early morning sun streaming onto the butcher block. My happy place

A couple of months ago, a friend across the miles, Chef Staib, sent me his beautiful new cookbook, A Sweet Taste of History. I spent the holidays pouring over the recipes and more importantly getting a great education in our country's cuisine foundations. This morning, his recipe for Mille-Feuille was calling my name.

Mille-Feuille, French for "thousand-leaf", has two of the best things desserts have going for them: buttery, flaky layers of puff pastry and silky vanilla pastry cream. His recipe used raspberries. It was below twenty degrees this morning so the grocery store in my fuzzy slippers didn't seem like a trek I was willing to make in the name of comfort baking. The bowl of tangerines sitting now for two weeks on my counter was Plan B.

Over the course of the early morning hours
and my inbox, phone and kids would allow...I candied peel, chilled pastry cream, baked pastry and constructed our Tangerine Mille-Feuille.

Below is the cookbook's basic recipe for pastry cream (with permission from Chef Staib). You'll have to grab a copy of the cookbook for your collection and for the full Mille-Feuille recipe~

**When I asked Chef Staib for permission to share his pastry cream recipe on the blog, this was the response...which I absolutely adore. Food and learning...totally gives validity to calorie consumption through desserts~

"Hope you had fun making the recipe… and eating it! Tangerine sounds delicious! Did you know that many wealthy people in American during the 18th century had “orangeries” and green houses. It was a great show of status to be able to serve fresh citrus from the garden rather than the fruits imported from the Caribbean and Spain"

Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 egg
2 egg yolks
5 Tbsp. cornstarch, sifted
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Set out a 9 X 13 glass or ceramic casserole dish. 

2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and 1/4 cup of the sugar to simmer

3. While the milk is heating, in a medium-sized bowl whisk together the egg, yolks, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and cornstarch until smooth.

4. Once the milk has simmered, add it, 1/2 cup at a time, to the egg mixture, whisking all the while, until it has been completely incorporated. 

5. Return the mixture to the pot and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the mixture begins to thicken. 

6. Pay close attention to the thickening mixture, and when the first boiling bubble comes through, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. 

7. Immediately pour the custard into the casserole dish spread it evenly, and lay plastic wrap directly on the surface. 

8. Refrigerate until the custard has cooled completely.