Rosh Hashanah Hostess Gifts

I can’t believe the Jewish New Year starts in just a week! It always sneaks up on me as I’m finally getting into the groove of school. So I tried to plan ahead just a bit this year and pull together a few useful hostess gift ideas incorporating the traditional holiday food customs. L’Shanah Tovah!

A Feteful Life: Rosh Hashanah Hostess Gifts

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Fete Local: New Columbia Distillers + Green Hat Gin

A Feteful Life: Green Hat Gin

Well, it took two fete locals for us to feature a local distillery, which is about two more than I thought it would. Fortunately, we recently found our way to a tasting of the fabulous Green Hat Gin and a tour of the first craft distillery in DC since prohibition: New Columbia. Co-owners Michael Lowe and John Uselton graciously showed us around their distillery, explaining their craft and how they opened up shop. Oh and pouring a few small tastes of their outstanding gins, of course.

New Columbia currently distills a classic gin and two seasonal editions (a Spring/Summer and a Fall/Winter) — we’ve had all of them and they are all truly delicious on their own or in a cocktail. I particularly like the Spring/Summer edition, which features floral cherry blossoms (from a local florist) and rosemary sunbaked in John’s own backyard. How’s that for local? Plus, keep your eyes peeled for a rye whiskey on which they’re currently working.

In addition to crafting fantastic gins, New Columbia boasts spectacular graphic design (from local Design Army) and an awesome backstory to their gin’s name (it’s the moniker of the legendary bootlegger to Congress). AND you too can check out the New Columbia Distillery, which opens its doors for free tasting and tours every Saturday from 1 – 4 pm. Father’s Day is right around the corner and we can pretty much guarantee that dads would appreciate a tour and tasting far more than another bad tie (or good tie, for that matter). We intended to take both Mr. Fetes with us, but they were too busy being awesome dads. Don’t worry, we picked up a little something for them from the Distillery’s retail store. But if you can swing it, a tasting and tour followed by eats and drinks at nearby Union Market would be fabulous. Also, if you really want to get involved, get on the Distillery’s bottling party list — if you’re lucky, you might get picked to help label and bottle a batch.

If you are just looking for the gins, the Distillery retail store is open Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm. They are also in an impressive number of retail stores, restaurants and bars throughout DC, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware (you can check out all the DC spots right here). Pick up a bottle of the Spring/Summer edition and get busy making one of the Distillers’ favorite cocktails: Michael likes a classic gin + tonic and John’s into a Summer Rickey variation (btw, we learned that the Gin Rickey is DC’s official cocktail and you can expect to see something from us on that soon!).

A Feteful Life: Green Hat Gin

A Feteful Life: Green Hat Gin

A Feteful Life: Green Hat Gin

A Feteful Life: Green Hat Gin

A Feteful Life: Green Hat Gin

A Feteful Life: Green Hat Gin

A Feteful Life: Green Hat Gin

Japanese Children’s Day with CultureBaby

When I think of May, I immediately think of Cinco de Mayo. Little did we know, there’s another fantastic international holiday on the very same day: Japanese Children’s Day. And we have locally-run CultureBaby to thank for telling us about it! CultureBaby is a fantastic online children’s boutique specializing in international clothes, toys and accessories for babies and children. We first met founder Natalia Rankine-Galloway at Union Market’s Thread, where we oohed and aahed over their gorgeous children’s products, which celebrate global diversity while maintaining a modern design aesthetic. I really, really wanted a gold kiddo-sized Moroccan Pouf for my daughter, but I was totally taken in by this great tunic (I bought a dark blue and gold one) and picked it up for her 4th birthday present (she was totally taken by it too, btw).

I love that CultureBaby seeks out artisan-designed products from around the world that are also safe, non-toxic, and are made sustainably, ethically and under fair-trade conditions. And if that’s not enough, we obviously love and identify with a company  co-partnered by two smart ladies. I’ve continued to surf CultureBaby’s beautiful online shop, so I was really excited when Natalia asked if we’d be interested in sharing with you some of their wonderful products in celebration of Japanese Children’s Day. You all well know that we need no excuse to party, but these wonderful CultureBaby items certainly provide one. And since I LOVE fake shopping (you know, where I get to pretend shop what I’d buy for myself, but not actually buy it. what? are you saying that’s not a thing!?!), I’ve done you a solid and pulled together what I think would make a fabulous celebration — Happy Children’s Day!

UPDATED: Add to your celebration with this free adorable Kokeshi Doll party printable banner from CultureBaby! Just Click Right Here!

A Feteful Life: Culture Baby

1.  Koolmomo’s Kimono dresses look so comfy and party perfect! / 2. Make sure your toddlers party responsibly with this eco-friendly Confetti Push Pop! / 3. This Japanese designed chalk and wood cityscape is insanely adorable. In addition to this standard set, you can also chose from London or Paris. Love, love, love. / 4. This Koinobori is used principally to celebrate Children’s Day! Use it for the celebration and then hang it in your kiddo’s room. / 5. Monkey track flip flops!?! I wish these came in adult sizes. Really. / 6. French designer Madame Mo’s Yoko dolls are simply fabulous and Cam is quite happy Natalia shared one with us! / 7. Stylish jammies? We are in. / 8. Uncle Goose’s Kokeshi Doll Blocks are super cute and perfectly sized for the littles.

Disclosure: Natalia Rankine-Galloway gifted a Madame Mo Yoko doll and a Koi Fish Wall Hanging to AFL. No other compensation was provided and all opinions herein are our own. 

Modern Seder Plates for Passover

In the event it’s not obvious (and it surely is to those in the know), I was not raised Jewish. But my husband is and we are raising our children in that faith (with the added benefit of celebrating some Christian holidays with the non-Jewish members of our family). And even though I didn’t grow up celebrating Jewish holidays per se, I recall fondly celebrating various seders with friends and family. I love the customs and symbolic foods and, more recently, my childrens’ intense interest in the storytelling of the holiday. They’ve both proudly brought home handmade seder plates the last few years and we’ve used them for Passover. And while we’ll continue to do so, I’m looking to invest in a family seder plate as well. Here are seven of my favorites!

A Feteful Life: Modern Seder Plates

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St. Patrick’s Day Dessert: Chocolate Guinness Mousse

A Feteful: Chocolate Guinness Mousse

Two things: (1) Happy St. Patrick’s Day!; and (2) For the love of all things Irish, go make this Chocolate Guinness Mousse RIGHT NOW. It is out of this world good and earned high praise in my house, including: “Wow. This is good. This is like restaurant good.” and “Mommy, we are renaming this day Mommy Pudding Day! You and Ms. Suzanne should open up a sweet shop.” You’ll have to put some good work into it — there’s a lot of whisking involved — but it is worth it. The recipe I followed was for a pudding, but mine came out so dense and rich, it has to be a mousse. And I served it in small appetizer/cocktail glasses because of that. I also ended up making a straight whipped cream for the top (slightly over whipped, actually — you want soft peaks), instead of incorporating the Guinness syrup called for — I thought it would just be too much. But give it a go yourself and see what’s what.

Chocolate Guinness Mousse (slightly adapted from Epicurious)
(makes 15, 3-oz appetizer/cocktail glass servings, with a little extra)

Ingredients
8 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1, 14.9-ounce can Guinness Draught
3 ounces heavy cream
7 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate (70 – 72% cacao), finely chopped

Directions

In large nonreactive mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar.

Open can of Guinness and slowly pour into 4-cup measuring cup, pouring down side of cup to reduce foaming. Pour half of Guinness (about 7/8 cup) into heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan (drink the remaining Guinness yourself if not saving it for the whipped cream). Add 2 1/4 cups cream and whisk to combine. Set over medium heat and heat, whisking occasionally, until bubbles just begin to form at edges. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and whisk until smooth.

Slowly pour hot chocolate mixture into eggs, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Return mixture to saucepan and set over moderately low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and coats back of spoon, about 15 minutes. (Pudding will look separated.) Pour into blender and blend on high for 1 minute. Divide pudding among glasses, leaving space at top of each. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and set.

Beat remaining cream until soft peaks form. Divide cream among 6 glasses of pudding and serve.

A Feteful Life: Chocolate Guinness Mousse

A Feteful Life: Chocolate Guinness Mousse

St. Patrick’s Day: Plaid Chic Party

It’s that time of year again. When everyone searches for that tiny bit o’ Irish in them for a legitimate excuse to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Well, you’ve come to the right place. You know we need NO such excuse. We’re up to celebrate anything and everything and this year we’ve put together Plaid Chic party ideas that will rival the standard green beer shindig (although we love that, too). It’s gold. It’s plaid (even if it not authentic Irish tartan). It’s St. Patty’s, classy.

A Feteful Life: St. Patrick's Day: Plaid Chic Party

1. I’ve been looking for an excuse to make this oversized fringed garland and I think this is just the right occasion. These gold and ivory fringed babies were made following Oh Happy Day’s tutorial.

2. Find your family tartan and tie it on some champagne glasses for this super easy decor that will carry your theme throughout the party.

3. Class up your Irish whisky punch by serving it in a nice decanter, wrapped with tartan ribbon and spelled out in glittery letters. Another great plaid party idea from mint love social club.

4. We’ve made tinseled drink stirrers for a few parties recently and are completely hooked. Not only are they a cinch to make, people turn them into all kinds of party decor and personal accessories, including hair pins and pocket square bling. Pop one of those in a tartan-tied glass of champs and you are done.

5. Gold stamped cocktail napkins have also been making the rounds at several of our recent shindigs, but if you don’t want to fool around making them yourself, gold foil stamped are a great option. Many, including these, are made with an eye for weddings, but you can have them say whatever you wish.

6. These plaid celebration crackers are a little Christmasey, but I think they’d still be super fun to pop for St. Patty’s Day.

7. Loving the plaid fashions of Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass. If anyone can pull off chic plaid, it’s these two.

8. Faux gold mercury glass votives will warm even the coldest of Irish hearts and would be a great basic party accessory to have.

Valentine’s Inspired Jewelry

A Feteful Life: Valentine's Inspired Jewelry

My kids crack me up. Every time Kay Jewelers’ commercial for their Open Heart pendant comes on, my kiddos insist they’re going to get their daddy to get it for me for Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a girl who loves jewelry. But I like my Valentine to be slightly more subtle. To that end, I’ve pulled together a roundup of Valentine’s inspired jewelry — all the same sentiment, just slightly less in your face.

1. shoot an arrow through her heart with this sweet bangle from Stella and Dot. It’s super affordable, too.

2. wish for more time together or set the watch to remind you of an important time with this watch works pendant from Anthropologie.

3. she’s as good as gold and now she’ll know it with this Kate Spade watch.

4. my husband and I met in the month of August and this year we’ll celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary. I’d love to think of both with this JCrew numbered gold code ring.

5. plum druzy earrings — I love the rawness and color of these.

Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

A Feteful Life: Brussels Sprout & Kale Salad

We made this delicious salad this year for Christmas dinner and I just cannot get enough of it. Even my husband, who claims he doesn’t like brussels sprouts and kale, liked it! It doesn’t hurt that we added cranberries and used all of the dressing for about 2/3 of the greens.

A Feteful Life: Toasted Almonds

A Feteful Life: Chopped Brussels Sprouts and Kale

Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Ingredients

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, finely grated (I used a garlic press)
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lb Tuscan kale, center stems discarded, leaves thinly sliced
12 ounces brussels sprouts, trimmed, finely grated or shredded with a knife
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup finely grated Pecorino

Directions

Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl. Stir to blend; set aside to let flavors meld. Mix thinly sliced kale and shredded brussels sprouts in a large bowl.

Measure 1/2 cup oil into a cup. Spoon 1 tbsp. oil from cup into a small skillet; heat oil over medium-high heat. Add almonds to skillet and stir frequently until golden brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer nuts to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle almonds lightly with salt.

Slowly whisk remaining olive oil into lemon-juice mixture. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Add dressing and cheese to kale mixture; toss to coat. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Garnish with almonds and cranberries.

A Feteful Life: Brussels Sprout and Kale Salad

 

Bourbon Caramel Popcorn

A Feteful Life: Bourbon Caramel Popcorn

I know, I know. Bourbon yesterday and bourbon today. But, over here at AFL, we love our booze AND we follow important food holidays. In case you are not quite so gastronomically-obsessed, we wanted to make sure you knew that this Sunday the 19th is National Popcorn Day! Because what better way to celebrate a FOOD holiday then with FOOD. I originally planned to make three different popcorn recipes to share, including (1) bacon and truffle salt; (2) bourbon caramel; and (3) sriracha ranch. I made the first and it turned out awful — way too much flavor competition — no one wanted to eat it. It had been a time consuming and not cheap recipe (truffle salt is EXPENSIVE) and I was not happy. Fortunately, my second recipe fared far better. Not surprisingly, bourbon + caramel = amazing. I should have started there, but instead, I knew well enough to stop there. I didn’t even attempt the sriracha ranch. So, here you have it. And even if you don’t eat popcorn (I generally don’t) or aren’t in the popcorn holiday mood, make yourself some bourbon caramel sauce. I can’t imagine it tasting less than amazing on anything. Ice cream, nuts, fruit. Heck make it just to eat all by itself.

Bourbon Caramel Popcorn (from Confessions of a Foodie Bride)

Ingredients
– 6 cups popped popcorn (the yield from 1/3 rounded cup of kernels)
– cooking spray or parchment paper
– 6 tbsp butter
– 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
– 3 tbsp light corn syrup
– heaping 1/4 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 4 tbsp bourbon

Directions
– Preheat oven to 300.
– Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray or line it with parchment. Have a rubber spatula handy.
– Heat the butter, sugar, molasses, corn syrup, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-hight heat, stirring frequently. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the whisky (watch for splatters) and vanilla.
– Stir and immediately pour over the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to stir until the popcorn is nicely coated and then transfer to the baking sheet, spreading out to an even layer. Sprinkle with additional salt if desired.
– Bake for 35 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Let cool for about 15 minutes before eating.
A Feteful Life: Bourbon Caramel Popcorn
A Feteful Life: Bourbon Caramel Popcorn

DIY Metallic Ornaments

A Feteful Life: DIY Metallic Ornaments

My family is still relatively early on in building our holiday ornament collection, so I’m always looking for easy ways to add new ones. Plus, some years I decide to pick just a single theme and decorate with that — one year it was neon, another it was ombre shades of pink, and this year I’m feeling metallic {big surprise}. So I put together three super easy ways to make metallic ornaments yourself — even your kids could do it.

DIY Confetti Ornaments

1. Raw Confetti Ornaments — I made these two different ways: (a) by simply opening up the top of the ornament and pouring confetti inside; and (b) by spraying the outside of the ornament with a little mod podge sealant and sprinkling the confetti on. I liked how they both turned out!

To make the first kind, all you’ll need is a clear glass ornament (2, above) and raw, metallic confetti (3, above). To make the second, simply add the mod podge sealant to your stash.

Ombre-

2. Gold Ombre Ornaments — Perhaps the easiest of all the ornaments, all you need is gold spray paint (1, above) and (2, a clear glass ornament). Simply (a) remove the top of your ornament and spray paint it gold; (b) turn the ornament over and, holding the can about 3 – 6″ away, spray the bottom of the ornament, letting the spray creep up the sides a bit. Replace the top and you’re good to go.

DIY Gold Geometric Ornaments

3. Geometric Gold Ornaments — It’s hard to keep a steady hand, so these turned out a bit “organic.” In addition to the gold spray paint and clear glass ornament, you’ll need a gold metallic paint pen (3, above). To make, (a) remove the top of your ornament and spray paint it gold; (b) use the gold paint pen to draw a geometric design on the ornament. Put the top back on and hang