Okay parents. How many of you get a little frustrated with the whole Elf on the Shelf craze at Christmas time? Me too! And, with a toddler at home, I wanted to do something extra special. Last year, I decided to get help with our elf on the shelf and I bought a kit from an account I found on Instagram. (www.Instagram.com/craftyholidayhelper) CraftyHolidayHelper, Jaime has a small business focused on holiday crafts for families. I am so thankful to have found Jaime! Her craft kits are amazing!
I love having holiday parties for our littles. Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Fourth of July are holidays we don’t miss celebrating! In addition to adding Mardi Gras, we also added St Patrick’s Day with a party box and scavenger hunt from CraftyHolidayHelper to kick us off!
Jimmie is in awe of everything. He loves the rainbow centerpiece and all of the tiny details. My older kids said it’s not a party if other people don’t come. I disagree! I think Jimmie does too. It’s a party if you say it’s a party! Happy St Patrick’s Day, everyone!
El Momma, Rebekahmemusic and CraftyHolidayHelper collaborated on this post. Thank you for your support!
Here’s another Lebanese inspired dish that we make once every week or so. My kids request this one. They absolutely love it. We all do. They literally want this dish at least once a week.
At this point, you may be wondering, “how do you get your kids to eat these amazing meals with vegetables?” The answer is pretty simple. I never made separate meals. From the time the older Els were little and currently with our toddler, we make a family meal and eat it together. Of course we have nights where people make their own dinner and eat whatever they want. But, as a practice, I make a meal for the family and offer it to everyone. I don’t like to make an issue out of food. So, we’ve never told our kids they had to clean their plates. We do encourage them to try new foods and at this point we’ve built up a good level of trust- I ((mostly)) serve them delicious dishes. There was that one time I made chick pea noodles in 2020. (Gross!) See below for the Lebanese Cauliflower, ground beef and rice directions and quick video. Please comment and let me know if you make this delicious dish!
Quick Video “How to make Lebanese cauliflower, ground beef and rice by El Momma”
Video: How to make this awesome dish in 90 seconds!
Lebanese Cauliflower & ground beef Ingredients
Makes approximately 8 servings
2-3 large whole cauliflowers. Cut to florets
Your choice of cooked white rice
 TB extra virgin olive oil
 chopped white onion
 pound ground beef
 TB 7 spices (recipe for seven spices included below)
 tsp kosher salt
 tsp ground pepper
1 jar 24 Oz of diced tomatoes (I prefer roasted garlic)
14 Oz crushed Tomatoes (I use Italian variety)
plain yogurt (optional) for garnish
*A very important ingredient of many lebanese dishes is 7 spices. 7 Spices are made with a mix of the following spices: all spice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander, caraway and nutmeg. I buy this through our local grocer, Phoenicia. I’ve also purchased on Amazon. * Recipe for my homemade seven spices blend is included at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: Rinse and cut the cauliflower into florets. Set aside.
Step 2: In a separate pot, cook the rice per directions on rice bag/box.
Step 3: Using a 2 1/2 – 3 inch deep skillet that has a fitted glass lid, cook the chopped onion and ground beef at medium heat in the olive oil. Add the 7 spices, pepper and salt and mix well. Careful not to over cook the meat.
Step 4: fold in the cauliflower, crushed and diced tomatoes. Mix well. Cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes with lid on, stirring occasionally at medium low to medium heat.
Step 5: serve hot over a bed of rice. Add a dollop of plain yogurt when serving.
I recently read a description of grief. It illustrated grief in the beginning as a giant ball bouncing around in a very small square. Something we can’t get away from. Every time we move or even breathe, the grief hits us. I’ve also read grief described like furniture in the middle of a dark room, where you can’t see anything, but everywhere you move, you bump into it and you can’t get around it. In both scenarios, the grief changes. In the first, the ball eventually becomes very small, but it is always in the room. It still hurts deeply when it hits you, but it isn’t a constant. In the second scenario, the furniture eventually moves to where you can see it and get around it, finally settling as a painting on the wall- always there, but not something you are constantly bumping into.
I can relate with both of these descriptions. I know they aren’t meant to be that simple. Grief is complex. But, I think it can give others imagery to relate to and understand our grief. Grief is always there. In our case, as is the case for many, we don’t get over losing a child. It’s not that simple. But, we learn to move forward, and find a way to live while being in the room with the grief. We still bump into it all the time, but it’s not all consuming everything we do. But, it’s there, like that huge painting on the wall. And, maybe it’s beautiful now. Maybe, it’s like our Mary-Linda, bringing light and hope to others in their time of grief. Maybe, just maybe?
On August 16th, 2020, we marked 3 years since our Mary-Linda was with us. It feels so surreal. These last 3 years have been brutal and beautiful. I don’t know how to explain it any other way. So much heartache. But, again, I know that God was with us and is with us. So, we will keep on keeping on.
Below are photos from our celebration of Mary-Linda’s life, 3 years in. And, photos from the day we all got to hold her. We will all forever hold her in our hearts until we can hold her in our arms again.
Just by googling it, I found a couple of definitions that struck a chord with me.
Miracle– a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.
Miracle–a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.
Have you experienced a miracle?
In your own life or in the life of someone you know? I believe that I have. I experienced a miracle through music. Let’s go back in time, about 30 years or so. To the time when I would take weekly piano lessons with Mrs. Wolff. She was a woman who taught piano lessons in her home. I believe she was already retired at the time as she had grown children and grandchildren. I started off around age 5 and she didn’t teach children that young, so I was in a lesson with another girl my age. I stuck with it through that time and eventually I took individual lessons. I don’t remember taking lessons through intermediate school (5th and 6th grade), but I believe I stayed with it through 4th grade. I have very vivid memories of my lessons. Sitting in her very beautiful, very pristine living room at the piano. I also remember my time after the lessons. The few minutes when my lesson was finished and another student had arrived for their lesson and I would wait for my mom to pick me up in the front yard. There was a huge pine tree surrounded by a flowerbed bordered by large wooden pieces on the ground. Hanging from the tree was a wooden sign that said “The Wolffs.” It was a magical place for a young imagination. I would walk carefully around the flowerbed, balancing myself on the wood border, traveling from land to land. Watching out for ‘The Wolffs” and going on a wonderful adventure. I remember my piano lesson experience as magical, but that is where my piano lessons ended and my life lessons picked up. As I grew up, I would often sit at the piano in my parents’ home and play familiar pieces I had learned in years past. Eventually, I no longer had a piano nearby, so I stopped playing. When Moustapha and I were married (nearly 12 years ago) we returned to Houston where both of our parents had pianos at the time. So, when visiting, I would sit and play songs I remembered and I began to play a new melody (one that would eventually become the song Radiant You) When I began to sing again, and be part of the worship team at our church in Houston, songwriting became an essential part of my growth and life. This was 9 years ago or so. I still wasn’t playing the piano regularly. When I was called as a worship leader at St. Andrew’s Pres, nearly 7 years ago, I began to write a ton and tinker around more on the piano with my original songs. I also started leading the Youth Praise Band at our church and I would accompany them on the piano in practice. I would look at the chord charts and just play. Nothing “special” but I would get better week to week. Meanwhile, as I was writing more, singing more, playing more for fun, we finished and recorded the album Radiant You in Nashville. As a pianist, I wasn’t one. Really. I had an amazing pianist play piano on the record. His name is Tim Lauer and he is amazing! A wonder, really. Back in Houston, the also uber talented, Jeremy Martin Weber was the pianist for our worship band. He was and is amazing. I think just hearing and watching him play and work every week, influenced this next chapter of my life. Jeremy and his family moved out of state sometime after Radiant You was released in late 2012. Before they moved, he left the worship band. So, we had a huge void to fill. It started slow for me. I would play piano on a few songs during worship, starting in the key of C. Eventually leading to me playing the entire service from the piano, while singing. So much so, that the church invested in a keyboard just before Advent season in 2013. This allowed me to be able to play with the band (right next to and with them) and be able to see the congregation while leading them in worship. By the time we felt called to join Church of the Apostles as Worship Pastor, I had been leading from the keyboard 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off for nearly a year. Up until this point, this was the most growth I experienced as a player and as a worship leader/pastor. I believe the true “miracle” or “highly improvable event or development” has happened in this last 12 months. I now play in nearly every key. Mostly by ear and reading chord charts. I do believe that we become accomplished by hours and hours and hours of work and practice. I am doing that. And, I know God is honoring that time and devotion. And yet, there is still a miracle for me. It’s a personal miracle that allows me to provide for my family, to worship God with my gifts and talents, to be a worship pastor in a loving community that knows and seeks the Holy Spirit. I know that when God calls me to make another album, it will be a very different experience for me, as I am a much different musician than I was 3 years ago. I feel extremely blessed. Playing the keyboard and piano is a gift that the Lord keeps on giving me. I am so thankful for those lessons many years ago and the life lessons I am still receiving. I am thankful for memories. For something “sticking” with me all these years. I am thankful for my miracle.
We would love to have you join us for worship if you are ever in the Houston area on a Sunday. Worship services are at 10am. Visit Apostles online for more information.
“My Miracle” is the 6th Blogpost in the Series #ElMomma31 Where El Momma blogs every day in the month of July. Follow the hashtag ElMomma31 for daily blogposts. www.elmomma.com
We’ve been at Church of the Apostles Houston about seven months now…is that right? Time as flown by. We had our first Advent in the church on 14th street, we opened to the public, had our first Christmas Eve service, Ash Wednesday service, and first Lent. Our first Palm Sunday service was held at 14th street, first Holy Week- Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Wow.
A lot. Of. Firsts.
A lot of hope. A lot of love. A lot of sacrifice.
Being at Apostles (Church of the Apostles Houston) has been a life changing experience for me. It’s the first time I have worked FULL TIME (outside the home) since birthing these four precious children of ours. I came into this job carrying with me my experiences from our previous churches. That’s, of course, a very natural thing to do. But, God changed me and altered my expectations for a church and a job at a church that is still in the church planting stage. He has been changing my heart and my responses along the way. And, I have been incredibly blessed while leading and waiting on God’s timing. Day to day, I am in and out of the office and still able to volunteer and be with my children. But, I also work very hard. God has blessed us with a band made up completely of members of our congregation. No paid musicians, no paid “sound guy”. Just a team of lovely hearts who happen to be very gifted.
The weeks seem to go by even faster than before now. And, I am grateful for time.
I am grateful for my family.
Without much protest at all, just as Advent was approaching, we moved churches. Church families. Our church home. It is a big deal. And these sweet people and my DH
have jumped in wholeheartedly. It’s made the transition so easy and full of blessings.
I wanted to share this with you as we are entering summer and as I continue to write new music. Would you pray with me? That I will follow the Holy Spirit’s leading when planning how to spend my time. And that God will begin to show me how and when I should finish songs. There are many and time with God and music is so critical to my songwriting process. Please pray that the time gets intentionally carved out and that God will bless that time. And, please pray for our church family at Apostles. Church planting is a very special time.
Ecclesiastes 3 (ESV)
” For everything there is a season, and<span class="crossreference" data-link="(A)” data-cr=”#cen-ESV-17361A” style=”-webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0); font-family: ‘Helvetica Neue Light’, HelveticaNeue-Light, helvetica, arial, sans-serif; font-size: 17px; box-sizing: border-box; position: relative; vertical-align: top; top: 0px;”>a time for every matter under heaven”
I think I could start every blog the same. It might get a little boring. But it would go like this “Today was a crazy day!”
So, I’ll start this one this way and think of something new next time.
Today was a crazy day! Our alarm clocks were out of sorts this morning and we all barely made it to church on time. I go early to rehearse with the band. I made it, but was barely on time because I stopped for a latte. I needed it more today than usual!
The Els ate chocolate gluten free cupcakes for breakfast. I didn’t see them, but I saw the evidence on an empty plate after church.
I made a pretty big lunch for us. Not unusual, but I was really tired and found it hard to stand in the kitchen. By lunchtime I was ready for a nap. And I laid down on the couch and took one. I took a nap! That’s very unusual!
After my naptime, Trinity had prepared a performance for us complete with props and original songs. Bakri watched with us and Maddux and Leeland joined in to entertain us.
Next, we had break time so I could start laundry. Then, we walked to a neighborhood block party. This is where it gets interesting and, no, I don’t have pictures.
It began to lightly rain.
We had no umbrella and decided we should go home.
All the way home. 2 longish blocks.
We got completely and totally soaked.
We sang. We danced. We splashed. We laughed. It was fun. Really fun. A family first for us.
It reminds me of our sermon at Apostles this morning. We talked a little about missing moments. This was one we didn’t set out to experience. But, in our crazy busy lives, it is one that I’m so glad we didn’t miss today.
As I head off to bed in the early hours of Christmas morning, I’m struck my an unusual sense of peace. This moment. Alone. Downstairs. The stockings are full. The presents are wrapped. There is a half-eaten cookie and partially empty glass of milk in the living room. “Santa” has made his delivery of one toy per El under the tree. And, the children are snug in their beds. Probably dreaming of the chaos that will surely touch us, if not overwhelm us in a few hours.
Thank you, Jesus for your peace that passes all understanding.
I often get asked how I am so calm with four kids. (I’m not that calm, btw) But, if there is calmness, it’s peace. The peace that can only come through Jesus.
Happy birthday, Jesus!
May the peace of Christ be with you and yours this Christmas and always.