Birthday, Billy Joel, and Bachelorette

Anyone else think, Beets, Bears, Battlestar Galactica? No, just me? Moving on.

The past few weeks have been crazy busy, so I figured I would catch you up on all the fun stuff.

Last week I turned 30! Yikes, Nick and I decided to rent a party bus and have all our family and friends on board so that we could see everyone we wanted and not have a party at our house. Since we will be at a wedding for Nick’s 30th we decided we’d have a party for both of us! Unfortunately, I still didn’t get to spend time with everyone, but I had a wonderful time, even if my stomach was killing me the next day!

vueveI mean you have to start your birthday with champagne, right?

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My sister, some friends, and I pre-bus

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And a group shot of course, missing a few people, but we tried!

After that last photo things started to get messy so I will not share those photos ha! But it was a great time regardless!

For my birthday gift, Nick generously bought me tickets to Billy Joel at Fenway. Billy Joel is in my top 5 favorite musicians of all time, and I saw him, I think 8 years ago, when he came to the Garden. Seeing artists at Fenway is amazing, if you live in the city and an artist you like comes to Fenway, GO! it is so worth it!

Prior to the show Nick and I tried this new Greek place that is in the Fenway area, Gyro City, they have authentic Gyros so we had to try them. They were pretty close to what you will get in Greece, so we were very impressed. If you need someone to go with you to try them you know who to ask!

GyroWe also had some amazing Greek fries. Basically, they are thick cut fries with feta and oregano!

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After food we headed over to Fenway and walked off our dinner before heading into the concert!

Billy Joel at FenwayNick and I & our view

Billy Joel at Fenway

THE man!

Billy, we are on a first name basis, was amazing. He played a lot of the classic songs, but he also played some songs that only some real hardcore fans would be able to recall. He is also a New York man through and through, so while he played the beloved Sweet Caroline, he did not sing, which I found amusing. I did appreciate that he didn’t sing New York State of Mind, instead he had a young girl come out and sing Boston State of Mind as a nod to everything this city has been through and a show of support. After the concert Nick was looking through his twitter feed and saw some complaints about it, you can’t please everyone, and while I love him singing New York State of Mind, the respect that he gave to Boston was amazing, and made me love him even more! My only complaint is that he did not sing We Didn’t Start the Fire, that is my favorite Billy song, but the concert was amazing regardless!

After a crazy whirlwind week, we headed to Connecticut to spend some time with Nick’s family and I had a bachelorette to partake in!

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We went to Mohegan sun to have a wonderful dinner, hit the club, and of course gamble. I was spent and can’t believe I stayed up until 3 am!!! I had so much fun with all the wonderful women that came to the bachelorette and I can’t wait to celebrate the wedding soon!

What have you been up to? Anything fun that I’ve missed?

Orthodox Lent and Fasting Recipes

Growing up Catholic I never really though too much about other religious sects within Christianity. I didn’t know any Orthodox Christians and I didn’t know a ton about how things were different. Fast forward to college, not only is Nick’s family Greek Orthodox, but we had friends that were Orthodox as well (Russian, Serbian, etc…)

There is definitely a lot to learn about Orthodox Christianity, and I think I understand most of the basics, but one of the areas that is vastly different is Lent. For Catholics, the more public aspect of Lent is mostly about giving up one thing for the duration as a sacrifice. For Orthodox Christians you fast during Lent, not a fast like no eating or drinking, how you usually associate the word fast.

Keeping it just about the food for WIAW, you fast every Wednesday and Friday. Everyone I know does fasting a little bit different, but for the most part you don’t consume meat or dairy, this also means no eggs or seafood with a bloodline. There are obviously exceptions, pregnant women, children, women who are breastfeeding, etc…

I thought I would share with you some recipes and ideas that follow those guidelines. Recipes that I’ve tried, recipes that friends and family members have tried. If you have any you would like to share please link them below.

Breakfast

For my morning coffee I tend to use almond milk or coconut milk and I use almond milk in my oatmeal. Obviously you can use soy milk as well, but for me personally, I prefer almond or coconut.  Vegan butter can be used as a replacement for regular butter. Personally, I find breakfast to be the hardest meal to keep dairy free, so many breakfast foods have some sort of dairy/meat component, the one that always slips my mind is eggs.

Mindy’s Banana Bread Muffins

 Iowa Girl Eats Immitation Starbucks Oatmeal – like she did, I would use almond milk instead of dairy

Kammie’s Slow Cooker Apple Pie Steel Cut Oats

Lunch and Dinner

In previous years, I have lived on peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and pasta. Not exactly healthy, but I didn’t know nearly as much about cooking as I do now. Now, I have more carbs than I do most weeks of the year, but I try to keep it to things like quinoa and brown rice. I try to load up on lots of veggies and to make sure I find a way to get protein. My favorite family recipes are spinach and rice or lentils. Both recipes I need to write up and share with you. I tend to eat the same stuff for lunch and dinner because it is easier then prepping four different meat & dairy free meals for each of us. Try some of the recipes below if you are fasting this Lent.

Thug Kitchen’s Basmati Stuffed Grilled Peppers, I prefer tomatoes to peppers and might even leave out the rice.

Laura from Mommy Run Fast has a ton of great recipes but here are some highlights: Quinoa Minestrone, Soba Noodles with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Tofu, and Crockpot Black Beans.

Wildly Fit’s Lentil Stew – lentils are such a great way to get protein!

Two Peas & Their Pod’s Black Bean and Enchilada Quinoa Bake – this is a family favorite. You can either use vegan cheese or just omit the cheese altogether. It also makes A TON of servings, you can make a whole pan and freeze some so you can take out the servings you need instead of eating it all week.

Burgers – There are a ton of black bean burger recipes out there for you to make the following ones are ones that either I or my family members have made and loved. Maria’s Spicy Black Bean Burger – just omit the cream sauce and Girls Gone Sporty’s Spicy Buffalo Black Bean & Quinoa Burger with Vegan Blue Cheese Sauce. You can also try a Greek Veggie Burger or an unfried Falafel Burger.

Still want pasta, but want something to add to it? Try these quinoa meatless meatballs!

Try slow cooker Curried Vegetable and Chickpea Stew

And if you need something sweet at the end of the day? Try these Crockpot Baked Apples!

Find more recipes at Jenn’s WIAW Linkup!


What are your favorite meat and dairy free recipes? 

Pin It Party #3

 

 

 

I know technically it is the fourth Pin It Party, but I didn’t participate in the very first one, so this is my third. Thanks to Lindsay for hosting this wonderful round-up, I hope you find a post you love while you are here! You can check my first and second posts if you have the time.

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So what is a Pin It Party? I share five of my favorite pin worthy posts with you, and link up on Lindsay’s blog. Once you write a post make sure you pin 5 blogs posts to support your fellow bloggers! Click on the photos to get to the post.

1. Toddler Time Workout

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A quick and sweaty workout at home!

2. Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap: Koulourakia

IMG_3803.JPGMy favorite Greek Christmas cookie

3. Stocking Stuffer Guide for the Host

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I know the holidays are over, but these are fun gifts to keep in your back pocket when you need to give a gift to someone who loves to cook, bake, host or all of the above. All of these items are under $20 so it won’t break the bank either!

4. My Favorite Books of 2013

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I made reading more of a priority in 2013 and I picked 5 books that I read that I absolutely loved.

5. Cold Weather Necessities

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I have extremely dry skin, couple that with this dry winter air and the coldness of the polar vortex? I have been employing every strategy possible to keep my skin from cracking and bleeding.

Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap: Koulourakia

I was so excited to finally participate in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! This is the third year of this event, but the first year I have been able to participate. First I need to mention that Lindsay and Julie were amazing, they always responded fast to any questions, and they sent emails along the way to make sure everyone was on track. The idea is that you make 3 dozen cookies and send 1 dozen to 3 different bloggers, and you receive 1 dozen cookies from 3 other bloggers. If you want to participate next year sign up here to get on the mailing list! Side note: that is what I did after I realized I missed the 2012 deadline because I didn’t want to miss it again!

Second, when you registered you donated $4 to Cookies for Kid’s Cancer with those fees, extra contributions, and the contributions from the brand sponsors who generously matched the donations the Food Blogger Cookie Swap raised over $13,000. What a wonderful thing! The amazing sponsors are: Oxo, Dixie Crystals, Gold Medal Flour, and Grandma Molasses.

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Now onto the cookies!

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This is a traditional Greek cookie, Nick’s mom gave me the recipe, and she got the recipe from his Nouna (Godmother). I will warn you, they are addictive, and this recipe makes an obnoxious amount of cookies.
They are great for dipping in your coffee or just eating as a dessert. I have to pat myself on the back this year, even Nick’s mom said they taste just like hers. And that is quite the compliment.

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Packed in cute little Gingerbread House themed boxes!

Before I get to the recipe, I want you to know this really does make a lot of cookies, roughly 7-8 dozen depending on how big you make your cookies. This is great for a large cookie swap, to bring to work, or to put into gift packages. If you are making for a smaller group, I highly suggest halving the recipe.

Ingredients:

8 Eggs + 2 more
1 lb Sweet Butter, softened
2 cups Sugar
3 Tb Crisco
1/2 cup Mazzola (corn) Oil
3 tsp Vanilla
5 tsp Baking Powder
1 Tb Orange Zest (I zested one large orange)
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
8 – 10 cups of Flour

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat the 8 eggs, butter, sugar, crisco and mazzola oil until well mixed.
3. Add vanilla, baking powder, orange zest*, nutmeg and cinnamon until just mixed.
4. Add 8 – 10 cups of flour*.
5. This is the most tedious step, the braid. Roll into snake and twist twice*.
6. Crack 1-2 eggs and brush the tops of all the cookies*.
7. Decorate with fun and festive sprinkles.
8. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. The cookies should be light brown on the bottom and gold on the top.

Notes:
1. I used one large orange to zest, and that was the perfect amount, last year I only did a half an orange and you couldn’t really taste any of the orange notes.
2. I usually only use 8 cups of flour, use your best judgment. Add the flour one cup at a time until each cup is just mixed.
3. My mother-in-law is a pro at the braids, they all look the exact same. As you can tell, mine are not. Honestly, it is tiring and I am still new at this. It comes with practice, don’t worry if they aren’t all perfect.
4. I forgot the egg wash this time, which is why the sprinkles are lacking, whoops.

I sent these cookies to Lynsey, Jill, and Megan!

I received gingerbread madelines from Jen, Red Velvet Cookies from Alison, and Chocolate Pinwheel Icebox cookies from Catherine. They were all so different, and all so good, I liked that I was able to try so many different flavors. I put them out at my cookie swap and they were all gone before people started leaving! Thank you ladies for sending me such wonderful cookies! Make sure you check out their blog posts for the recipes!

Have you ever had any type of Greek cookies?

Five Years!

Don’t forget my one true shoe love is in stores today. I suggest you hustle to your nearest retailer then have a blissful run home!

I can’t believe it has been 5 years since Nick and I were married. It seriously has felt like it was forever ago and also like it was yesterday. Crazy how that happens. We’ve had an apartment, bought a condo, bought a house, sold our condo and have had an amazing little boy. Life is beautiful and I am so happy to share this journey with Nick. I didn’t have a blog when Nick and I got married so I figured I would share a few pictures of our wonderful day.

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The Groomsmen & Nick

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THe Bridesmaids & I

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My sister, sister-in-law, and good friend. These girls I love to death!

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In the limo on the way to the church, this is one of my favorite photos and those earrings were lent to me from our jeweler, amazing.

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Dad & I. I was so incredibly nervous, not to get married, but to be the center of attention, and my dad was trying to remain composed.

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I love this moment between Nick and his Papou (grandfather).

To give some background, we got married in a Greek Orthodox church. The ceremony consists of two parts which are distinct and separate from each other: The service of the Betrothal and the Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage. Everything in the ceremony has a special meaning and significance, especially the repetition of each act three times to symbolize and to invoke the mystical presence of the Holy Trinity.

The highlight during the service of the Betrothal is the exchanging of the rings. The priest blesses the rings. The koumbara (religious sponsor) then exchanges the rings three times. The exchange signifies that in married life, the weakness of one partner will be compensated by the strength of the other, the imperfections of one, by the perfection of the other. By themselves, the newly betrothed are incomplete, but together they are made perfect. The rite of the betrothal ends with the priest praying for betrothal of mutual promise, officially given before the church, may prove in true faith, concord and love.

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The Wedding begins as the white candles are handed to The Bride and The Groom. These candles symbolize their spiritual willingness to receive Christ.

The crowning is the focal point of the marriage ceremony. The crowns are signs of the glory and honor with which God crowns them during the sacrament. The wedding crowns (stefana) are joined by a ribbon which again symbolizes the unity of the couple and the presence of Christ who blesses and joins the couple and establishes them as the King and Queen of their home, which they will rule with wisdom, justice and integrity. The priest takes the two crowns and blesses The Bride and The Groom. The Koumbara then steps behind The Bride and The Groom and interchanges the crowns three times as a witness to the sealing of the union.

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The common cup, the cup is denoting the mutual sharing of joy and sorrow, the token of a life of harmony. The drinking of wine from the common cup serves to impress upon the couple that from that moment on they will share everything in life, joys, as well as sorrows, and that they are to “bear one another’s burdens.” Their joys will be doubled and their sorrows halved because they will be shared.

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Parents & Grandparents

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The ceremonial walk. The priest then leads The Bride and The Groom in a circle around the table on which are placed the Gospel and the Cross. The Bride and The Groom are taking their first steps as a married couple, and the church, in the person of the priest, leads them in the way they must walk.

You are never announced as man and wife. The bride and groom kiss but this is when you are married. It is obviously different from a traditional Catholic marriage ceremony.

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Coming out of the church

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Nick’s sister was our Koumbara and my maid of honor, and we had a bit of an emotional moment following her speech. They have such a wonderful relationship, I can only hope the same for my children.

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Nick’s best man was ready to give us some laughs! Another wonderful speech.

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My sister and I, love her.

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This photo is amazing and currently hanging in our living room. Bride and Groom, Maid of Honor and Best Man.

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First Greek dance of the night.

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Greek Dancing

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Father/Daughter Dance

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Mother/Son Dance

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Nick and his Dad play a lot of gigs with their Greek band, and they both ended up sitting with our band and played during the wedding.

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My man has moves. Nick is dancing, the money on the floor is a traditional Greek thing, people throw money during special dances etc… some couples take the money, some give it as tips to the band. We chose to do the latter.

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Nick, his sister and I dancing.

I had such an amazing wedding, so happy to be here 5 years later. Here’s to 95 more, I love you.

Have you ever been to a Greek wedding? What was your favorite part?

Cranky Kelly

I can’t believe it’s June. We are officially in my birthday month and a little over a month away from B’s second birthday! Woah.

Crank Kelly. That doesn’t have as a great ring to it as Cupcake Kelly’s. With the plans I had this weekend, I had planned a spectacular Marvelous in my Monday (MIMM) link up post planned. Then Sunday came and it was an all around lousy day. I couldn’t find the marvelous in ANYTHING. Just ask Nick, I am sure he will be able to tell you what a joy I was to be around.

As most of the East Coasters are aware, this weekend was HOT and HUMID. It was not pleasant to be outside, I am pretty sure I was sweating just standing still. So it was super fun to realize at 10 pm on THursday night that our air conditioning was not working. Since the unit is still under warranty through the builder I pretty much knew I would not have AC Friday.

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Luckily we were set to leave for CT for the weekend around noon, so I wouldn’t need to be in the house for too long. Luckily, getting the little one fed and packing/cleaning took the majority of our morning hours and before I knew it, it was time to hit the road.

Friday was spent with my favorite CT blend, we all had lawn tickets to see Luke Bryan at the Meadows, we met in the parking lot to tailgate and I got to meet a lot of Cait’s friends.

stolen from Cait!

stolen from Cait!

Obviously, the whiskey lovers drank whiskey. I stuck to one Thomas Hooker Watermelon Ale at the beginning of the night since I was driving and anything else would make me fall asleep.

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Also stolen from Cait.

 

 

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Saturday, Nick played in the band at the Greek Festival. He usually plays Thursday – Sunday every year, but because of the concert and his new job he ended up only playing Saturday. I went and enjoyed some delicious gyros, loukamades, and conversation. The place was packed all night, so I think it ended up being pretty successful, but man was it hot under those tents with lots of people and all the food being cooked.

Originally, I was supposed to stay in CT to go to an event with Caitlin last night, but it was cancelled so Nick and I decided to come home. BAD DECISION.

We got home and the guy we hired to cut our lawn had not come, they were supposed to come Friday. So I was already annoyed, they were supposed to come yesterday, but they still haven’t showed…

Our AC was obviously still out and we thought it would cool that evening, I’l just sum it up and say we were wrong and I was miserable and cranky. To top it all off our well water is acting up again and B did not go to sleep until 11 PM!

Luckily our air was fixed yesterday, and hopefully the plumber and lawn guys can do their thing today. Here’s to a marvelous…Tuesday?

A Tale of Two Easter’s: Part Two

As I explained in my last Easter post, Nick and I celebrate Easter twice. The Catholic Easter with my family and Greek Orthodox Easter with Nick’s, some years they fall on the same weekend, but more often than not they are a few weekends apart.

For this marvelous Monday I will show you a bit of our weekend.

We started our weekend with a great Church service with the family, even B wore his best outfit.

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Photo courtesy of my brother-in-law

My mom drove down for the weekend and we spent Saturday together, I even stayed up for the monologue of SNL, that has happened in a very long time.

Sunday was Easter, we had dinner at my in-laws.

Some of mine (and B’s favorites)

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Spanakopita and Tyropita

We also had lamb, steak, pastichio, lots of salad, guacamole, stromboli and many many desserts (which I will blog about soon).

How was your weekend? Have you ever been a part of Greek Easter festivities?

The end of summer

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed a lot of Greek photos this past weekend.

The end of summer for me comes when it is the Greek Festival in Orange, CT. Our weekend started off slowly, we relaxed for a good part of Saturday.

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Starting our lunch with a real Greek Salad. Tomato, Cucumber, Onion, Feta and Olive Oil from Greece.

This salad is one of my favorite parts of summer, I am always sad when tomatoes are not in season.

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B is starting to walk! I can’t believe it. I cannot believe that my baby is almost 14 months old.

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So determined and so proud of himself!

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Frappe Seriously, Greek coffee is so so good.

After a few hours at the festival with family and friends we headed home.

Sunday, we relaxed with a friend and that included a trip to a new self-serve fro yo place. Red Velvet & Vanilla yogurt, delicious combo!

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We also spent some quality time at a friends BBQ, and had some great conversations. Let me tell you, adult conversation is so nice. I am used to conversation with B or just Nick on a daily basis, so it was nice to add some other people into that mix.

While our weekend was relaxing, the past 2 days have not been. I ended up taking B to the doctor, he has been crying and in pain every time he pee’s, which meant the doctor had to catherize him and take a urine sample. We find out the results of that soon, hopefully everything is okay!

How did you spend your long weekend?

Greek Festival in CT

This weekend is the annual Greek Festival at our church in Hartford, CT.

Check out the details here.

My husband and father-in-law will be playing in the band.

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This was at our wedding, but you get the idea

There will be tons of delicious food, drinks and dancing.

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Again at our wedding

If you need any tips on what to get let me know!

Here is a girls shot from a few years ago at thee St. George Greek Festival!

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I will be there every night, if you plan on going let me know. Cait will be there Friday as well. Hope to see you there!

Have you ever been to a Greek Festival?

A sneak peek at B’s Baptism

I have a few of my photo’s and a few that our videographer took, so I want to share those. Once we get our photos and video back, I will share some of that as well as a review of our vendors. If you live in the New England area definitely keep your eyes peeled for those posts.

My husband’s family is Greek Orthodox, so we had a traditional Orthodox Baptism and reception!

Here are a few of my photos that my dad took:

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Maria presenting our baptized baby to me

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The Nouna and Nouno (Godparents) Maria & Kosta and Nick & I with B

Here are some from our videographer:

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B and his Godmother Maria (Nouna), she is also my sister-in-law

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One of my favorite photos. My husband, brother-in-law and their aunt with B

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Even at our own wedding my husband played with the band. I expect nothing less at our sons baptism

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Our little family, dancing