Vasilopita – A Greek Tradition

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We all know the way too celebrate the New Year, between the fireworks and the champagne, but as Greeks, we have a special and unique tradition: that of the VASILOPITA.

A Vasilopita is a traditional Greek cake or bread served at midnight on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the life of Saint Basil. Vasilopita is made of a variety of doughs, depending on the region and almost every family has it’s own recipe. The Vasilopita is also decorated with almonds, which create the year number. When decorating with the almond, each one is ‘wished upon’, thus the almonds become wishes for the new year: prosperity, health and luck.
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 IT’S ALL ABOUT THAT LUCKY COIN
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Each family will cut the vasilopita with two slices, making a cross. After baking the vasilopita cake, a coin is inserted through the base and when cut the person who finds the coin is said to be granted luck for the rest of the year. The pieces are cut in a particular order:  The first piece is for Christ, the next piece is cut for the needy and then a piece for the house. The rest of the pieces are now cut for members of the family, starting with the head of the household, then each member of the family in
order from eldest to youngest, including those that are absent.
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No one is allowed to look at their piece until everyone is given theirs. Then, once the server or the head of the household gives his or her okay, everyone checks to see if they found the coin – the lucky one with the coin in his or her piece is the one who is going to have a fortuitous year!
In older times, the coin was often a valuable one, such as a gold sovereign. Nowadays there is often a gift that corresponds to the coin, usually a charm that is given to the coin recipient.
History of Vasilopita

The history of vasilopita can be traced back to the ancient festivals of Kronia and Saturnalia and is connected to a legend of Saint Basil. In honor of Saint Basil, or Agios Vasilios, people bake this bread every year. The tradition has evolved from the original story and now whoever finds the coin is said to have good luck for the rest of the year. However, the bread itself does serve as a reminder for all that Agios Vasilios did for people of Greece.

Recipe

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We woul love to share this recipe with you, from one of the best Greek Pastry chefs Stelios Parliaros, who happens to be a good friend, which you can find here.
Ingredients
  • 250 g butter
  • 250 g icing sugar
  • 125 g ground almonds
  • 125 g ground pistachios
  • 6 eggs
  • 250 g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 300 g dried fruit, finely chopped
  • 200 ml Amaretto
Method
Soak the dried fruit in the Amaretto. Beat the butter, sugar and ground nuts until they are fluffy. Blend the dried fruit together with the Amaretto and add to the mixture continuing beating for a while longer. Add the eggs gradually. Add the flour and the baking powder, beating continually. Butter a baking pan and dust it with flour, place the mixture in it and bake at 180°C for one hour.
Καλή Χρονιά, sending you sweet and lucky wishes!

Christmas Thoughts

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Decorating for the holidays doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult to be beautiful. Here, we offer simple yet elegant little touches that you can use to decorate your home for Christmas and make a difference. From making Christmas candy and baking Christmas cookies, to decorating Christmas trees and gift ideas, find what you need to plan a perfect Christmas Decoration.

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  • Start planning your decoration around the element you currently loving, like favourite colours, and build from there. That object or color dictates the whole mood and theme of the table and setting. Don’t hesitate to go beyond the Green and Red (even though they always look beautiful) and explore the festive touches of white, silver and gold.IMG_3542
  • Use your heirlooms – Silverware looks beautiful filled with nuts and makes Christmas decorations extra special. 
  • Aim to update your decor in a way that feels seasonal and festive and add seasonal touches: garlands and wreaths are always fabulous. You can also concentrate on having a variety of beautiful candles or making a wonderful holiday drink based on champagne like the one you can find here.

  • Though it’s about also about creating Instagram-worthy setups, aim to go beyond just the visuals for your decorations. Carefully put together a playlist to set the mood and light a woodsy candle or a roaring fire. Accentuate them with bowls of nuts and baubles to reflect the warm setting.IMG_3547\
  • Continue the tradition of making cookies. When your guests arrive, you can also offer a Christmas Cheese Display, with fresh bread, dried fruits and surrounded by winter flowers.IMG_7458 (2)
  • It’s great to send your guests home with a small gift. For winter parties you can give gingerbread mixes, hot chocolate or mulling spices. It’s a fun activity to wrap the gifts as you’re getting ready for a party, and a way for your guests to take a little piece of the evening home with them making the evening just a bit more special. Make sure to serve something unique and different like these Baked Alaska’s in a lollipop.1
For example, on a professional note, Floris Special Events has created a Christmas Wedding recently in New York. Here are some pictures of the marvellous event

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December – It’s all about Birthdays!

What birthdays are all about
They say your birthday is just another day, so why go the extra mile?
It is another day. Nonetheless, why should that stop you from celebrating the joy of life? Why should it stop us from taking a few minutes, hours or an entire day to take stock of your life, your people, and most importantly, count your blessings.
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But what happens when you grown up? Is it tacky to throw a birthday party for yourself? If you ask me, birthdays are even better as an adult! When you host a birthday party for yourself, the size and style of your party is entirely up to you, including your choice of food, fun, and even the cake flavor. That’s better than anything you had as a kid, right?
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Birthday parties are like road trips: getting there is half the fun. Deciding on the theme, decorations, and activities makes the days leading up to the event seem like part of the celebration itself. It needn’t be elaborate — your friends will be happy with a small party as long as they are made to feel special. However, even a simple party requires planning; the sooner you start organizing, the earlier the excitement begins and the fewer details you’ll have to work out on the day itself.
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Celebrate each birthday – the big ones like someone’s 1st and 16th and your own big birthdays. I love my birthday and my zodiac sign. It’s fun to know your zodiac sign, yout birthstones (the ones for Sagittarius are topaz, amethyst, ruby, sapphire, and turquoise) and celebrities that have the same birthday as you (mine is Stephen Spielberg).
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I was blessed of having great birthdays because of my children. It is a family tradition for us to celebrate big birthdays and a few years ago I celebrated mine- my 60th birthday! My best friend and daughter designed something extraordinary at the Armani restaurant in New York. It was incredibly special, as they had taken the time to create something memorable that was exactly what I would have wished for and more. All pictures in this article are from this wonderful birthday!
 
Each Birthday is my favourite birthday!
Do’s and don’ts, inspired by the fabulous party thrown by my best friend and daughter in New York
– Send great invitations. Even though technology has evolved, everyone appreciates a stunning invite to a party. Send a save the date six months before and the invitation 6 weeks before the party, so that everyone that will have to travel can be there.
– Don’t forget the importance of doing things that have sentimental value: my daughter wore a dress, shoes and jewelry that I used to wear 30 years ago
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–  Always keep birthday calendar – although facebook is very helpful as it announces birthdays each day
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– Have a great photographer to capture every moment. At my party,  the wonderful Philippe Cheng took beautiful pictures of everything
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– Design the menu- know what your guests like and don’t forget to offer many options for your vegan and vegetarian friends
– The cake:
We all know it isn’t a party without a frosted mound of sugary goodness lit with candles. When you’re a whole year older, isn’t your birthday resolution to try something new? How about a red velvet cske, a pistachio cake, brownie sundae ice cake, or a light-as-air “cloud” cake! Today, so many wonderful pastry chefs personalise cakes with so many interesting things. Mine was black and white, themed “New York and Athens” and created by the wonderful Philippe Cheng

– Select a great place. My party took place at the Armani ristorante, which I absolutely love!
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– Themes are very important and create a great atmosphere. As I love black and white, mine was black and white glamour
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– Send thank you notes at the end to let your friends know how much you appreciated their presence
-It’s all about the guestlist. Invite people you love, business associates and people that know how to have a good time
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-If your party is at home make sure to send a gift to the neighbours (sentimental value gifts). Everything is about the idea and the thought behind, it, not the gift. its showing someone you know them and want them to be happy
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– Drinks are important for a good party! Try this cocktail dedicated to Sagittarians, which uses a base of Karlsson’s Gold Vodka, distilled from Swedish potatoes only once, yielding an earthy flavor. Add pepper, dill, tonic, and a hint of lime.
-Give out seasonal favours at the end. Mine was armani hot cocoa!
– Have treats for your guests to enjoy through the party. My party had a black and white candy bar
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– Dress attire: It’s important for people to know how to dress, especially when it’s a birthday party
 Once a month we’re going to post special birthday pictures and themes – Any excuse to celebrate!
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Thanksgiving 2017

The meaning of Thanksgiving

For many of us, the meaning of Thanksgiving usually involves feasting, four-day weekends, football games, floats, family reunions, or simply being a forerunner to Christmas. The “first Thanksgiving,” however, was neither a feast nor a holiday, but a simple gathering. Following the Mayflower’s arrival at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered the loss of 46 of their original 102 colonists. With the help of 91 Indians, the remaining Pilgrims survived the bitter winter and yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621. In celebration, a traditional English harvest festival, lasting three days brought the Pilgrims and natives to unite in a “thanksgiving” observance.

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The meaning of Thanksgiving has undergone numerous transitions, but its main pillars are To gather in Unity, to teach the young and to humbly reflect on all the gifts that saturate our lives. By “giving-thanks” we choose to extend ourselves and give to others less fortunate.

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Personal memories

Each Thanksgiving is my favourite Thanksgiving!

I was introduced to Thanksgiving many many years ago, when I first moved to New York and as it happens that it has became my favourite holiday. To this day, it remains my favourite holiday because we all gather around the table – friends and family and people we love and are grateful and thankful of being surrounded by one another.

Thanksgiving Wisdom

Later on, I discovered the Macy’s Day thanksgiving parade and especially enjoyed taking my children, nieces and nephews to the preparation the night before. Having had the blessing of living on Central Park West, it became a tradition of watching the parade from our window.

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My most recent thanksgiving: gathering family and friends in New York. A group of us, cooking and sharing the joy of the day. My best friend is an not only an expert on setting the perfect table, but preparing the traditional Pilgrim’s menu, making the holiday even more special.

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My suggestions

  • Create a family guestlist
  • If you know people people that don’t have family in town or a place to go, make sure to invite them ahead of time so their Thanksgiving plan is secureIMG_3440
  • Plan your table settings and don’t be afraid of having fun! Art de la table in a very festive fun manner is always my choiceIMG_3444
  • Also make sure to have non alcoholic beverages for people that are staying healthy, like this great non alcoholic apple martini. I would also suggest a beautifuly curated cheese platter for your guests to enjoy until everyone arrives.IMG_3445
  • Great display of roasted nuts and turkey feathers IMG_3485
  • Special children’s table with supplies! Crayons and drawing materials are always a huge hit! Children can colour a huge turkey or pumpkin – whoever wins, wins a chocolate turkeyIMG_3442IMG_3438
  • Make sure to have takeaway containers so everybody can go home with the best part of thanksgiving: “leftovers” – they always taste best the next day!IMG_3443

Day of

Any excuse to celebrate!

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Thanksgiving in New York

Thanksgiving in New York –like coming home for Christmas…

I’m laden with memories of my children when they were small, sharing love and warmth, preparing excitedly to go to the parade in Central Park West, see the million balloons at Macy’s, and absorb the spices and flavors filling the air. I long for these feelings of homeliness, tender closeness and being grateful for all the blessings we’ve received.

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I remember the days of getting together with people close and beloved that we might have seen each other only a while before or not for quite sometime and that making no difference… I remember friends, sharing moments difficult and beautiful, and owing them for being there for me in those young days of motherhood.

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This year, I was drawn again. The irresistible friends, my daughter Vivia and this home that always welcomes me and wraps me in its love and warmth. The pumpkin the turkey the hugs and the shops are all there and I am enchanted. Living my memories and living today. So thankful.

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After all, life is the family, the friends and the memories we make. And I am blessed with all three and giving thanks that I’ve been here yet again.

Home. For Thanksgiving.