Monday, 24 February 2014

Little Minh {#ministory}

This story is part of our #ministory series that we share to little pre-school friends, hope you like it too!

mini story believe in miracles Minh Vietnam ServicefromHeart

In a farm at a countryside of Vientnam, little Minh lives with his Daddy and Mommy.

Every morning, Daddy and Mommy start to work before the sunrise and only end work after the sunset.

Daddy and Mommy often feel tired. Little Minh wants to help but he cannot walk.

Little Minh stays at home. He loves reading books and watching flying birds, dancing leaves and people from his tiny bedroom.

At night, little Minh tells funny stories to Daddy and Mommy. Often, Daddy and Mommy laugh "hahaha...hahaha" loudly.

Little Minh is the sweetheart of Daddy and Mommy. He brings happiness to Daddy and Mommy.

One day, little Minh sees a little bird flying in stress outside his window. A furious cat tries to catch the bird. Little Minh wants to rescue the bird and stands up to chase the cat away.

Daddy and Mommy see the miracle: little Minh can stand and walk now. They hug each other in joyful tears.

Inspirations for this #ministory:
♥ baby Ren's favorite activity of gazing at birds
baby Ren's Godmother
♥ cheerful and friendly Nguyen Ngoc Minh

With love,

Happy birthday Mathilda

Dear Mathilda

Happy Birthday! We wish you good health and happiness on your special day today and everyday. Hope you continue enjoying and playing violin.

ServicefromHeart Teddy Bear Assisi Hospice Mt Alvernia Hospital

May your birthday be filled with sunshine, smiles and laughter.

ServicefromHeart Teddy Bear Assisi Hospice Mt Alvernia Hospital

Thank you for loving yourself, your parents, your grandparents, and friends!

We were brainstorming for Mathilda's birthday present. Then, when I was at Mt. Alvernia Hospital, I saw a poster of Teddy Bears that can be adopted from Assisi Hospice. A Teddy Bear that supports a good cause seems to be an ideal gift for a sweet little girl like you.

ServicefromHeart Teddy Bear Assisi Hospice Mt Alvernia Hospital

Your Teddy Bear wears a shirt with an inspiring quote from the Bible:
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness." Galatians 5:22

ServicefromHeart Teddy Bear Assisi Hospice Mt Alvernia Hospital

Mathilda, may your life be abundant with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

ServicefromHeart Teddy Bear Assisi Hospice Mt Alvernia Hospital

We love wishing #happybday to family, friends, and those who have inspired us through simple and sincere posts.

With love,

Saturday, 22 February 2014

easy sushi rice balls with balsamic vinegar recipe (ada Bahasa Indonesia juga)

What is sushi rice? It is vinegared rice used to make sushi. We remembered: once we were told, at an Asian restaurant that we managed to find open at a late winter night in Paris, that they were running out of steamed rice. "Would you mind if we use sushi rice instead?" Being hungry, we quickly nodded and accepted the offer. It turned out to be a very delicious meal - a meal to remember.

The choice of vinegar matters. Normally, rice vinegar is used to make sushi rice. Japanese rice vinegar normally contains ~5% acetic acid. For today's sushi rice balls, I used balsamic vinegar of Modena (Leonardi brand) with 6% acidity.

easy sushi rice balls with balsamic vinegar recipe ServicefromHeart

Do you love adventures? Sushi that we love has probably traveled from southern China to Japan - a country symbolized by sushi, in accordance to Marc Matsumoto.

In preparing our meals in simple and easy ways, we can be adventurous too. Perhaps, sushi rice can go with other not-so-common sushi ingredients.

Recently, baby Ren's Godmother introduced us to Nestle Cheerios cereals. Both ouf us love them. Besides eating them as a snack, with oatmeal, how else can we enjoy them?

Soft sushi rice can go well with crunchy cereals. Serve with goldfish made of cherry tomatoes and kids will like them!

easy sushi rice balls with balsamic vinegar recipe ServicefromHeart

Serving: 2
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes (depends on your rice cooker)

♥ 1 rice cooker cup (newly harvested, if possible) rice grains
♥ 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
♥ 1 tbsp honey
♥ 1/4 tsp salt

1. Rinse and gently rub rice grains (using sieve, if possible) to remove dirt. If you have extra time, soak washed rice for 30 minutes before cooking for fluffier texture.
2. Cook rice using rice cooker using rice:water ratio of 1:1.5 (normally, I will use 1:2 ratio for steamed rice).
3. Meanwhile, mix balsamic vinegar, honey, salt in a small bowl.
4. While the cooked rice is hot, add vinegar mixture over the rice (in a wooden container, if possible). Gently toss without destroying delicate grains of rice*.
5. Make into balls. I prefer to use thoroughly washed bare hands. Wet hands can minimize sushi rice get stuck on our hands.
6. Garnish sushi rice balls with cheese, cilantro, cereals, sesame seeds (optional).

* It is okay if you break some grains, so do I. We are learning, and even great sushi chefs practice over 10,000 hours to retain the original shapes of each grain of rice. 

easy sushi rice balls with balsamic vinegar recipe ServicefromHeart
Other recipes that I love:
♥ Marc Matsumoto's sushi rice at No Recipes
♥ Namiko Chen's sushi rice at Just One Cookbook
♥ Issendai's how to cook Japanese rice

Check also our other #5minutemeal recipes.

easy sushi rice balls with balsamic vinegar recipe ServicefromHeart

Brief ingredients and Directions in Bahasa Indonesia:
♥ 1 gelas (ukuran rice cooker) beras baru panen
♥ 1 sdm cuka
♥ 1 sdm madu
♥ 1/4 sdt garam

1. Bilas butiran beras dengan saringan untuk menghilangkan kotoran. Jika anda memiliki waktu ekstra, rendam beras  selama 30 menit sebelum dimasak supaya teksturnya pulen.
2. Masak nasi menggunakan rice cooker dengan perbandingan beras:air 1:1,5 (biasanya, saya akan menggunakan perbandingan 1:2 untuk nasi putih).
3. Sementara itu, campur cuka, madu, garam dalam mangkuk kecil.
4. Ketika nasi masih panas, tambahkan campuran cuka ke dalam nasi (dalam wadah kayu, jika ada). Aduk secara lembut tapi cepat tanpa merusak butiran beras.
5. Buat bola nasi sushi dengan tangan bersih. Basahkan tangan sedikit supaya nasi sushi tidak lengket di telapak tangan.
6. Hias nasi sushi dengan keju, ketumbar, sereal, biji wijen.

easy sushi rice balls with balsamic vinegar recipe ServicefromHeart

With love,

Friday, 21 February 2014

easy tasty sweet potato recipe by ServicefromHeart

Tender and buttery sweet potatoes make a filling meal that goes well with fragrant cilantro, sweet honey and pungent raw garlic.

easy sweet potato recipe ServicefromHeart garlic cilantro sesame oil

I am happy that today I managed to shop for red sweet potatoes from Malaysia at Cold Storage Novena. In term of easy-to-peel shapes, I prefer sweet potatoes sold at Cold Storage than at NTUC Fairprice, though the latter sells cheaper.

easy sweet potato recipe ServicefromHeart cilantro garlic sesame oil

Eating humble root vegetables like sweet potatoes always reminds me on humility and versatility. In the past, our Indonesian friends brought us sweet potato chips as a snack souvenir upon returning to celebrate lebaran at kampung hometowns. Crispy companions for our chit-chats, sweet potatoes I love you! Food always remind us on family, friends and people. Every bite, every chew, and every swallow - brings all joyful memories.

Rich in vitamins A and C, sweet potatoes can be steamed, boiled, baked, mashed or deep-fried with a wide variety of ingredients. Instead of using oil for deep frying, next time I would consider (1) oven frying, to make sweet potatoes as a component for tempura and (2) a method combining of steaming and very shallow frying.

Serving: 1
Preparation and cook time: 15 minutes

♥ 3 medium (@100g) sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
♥ 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
♥ 1 strawberry, quartered
♥ 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
♥ 1 tbsp honey
♥ 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
♥ 1 tsp sesame oil
♥ 1 tsp sesame seeds
♥ 1 clove garlic, pressed
♥ pepper, to taste

1. Boil sweet potatoes for about 10 minutes or until tenderly soft.
2. Mix oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, garlic, pepper. Toss tomatoes and strawberries with the seasoning mixture.
3. Drain sweet potatoes well, leave to steam dry. Gently toss with the rest of ingredients.  
4. Sprinkle sesame seeds to garnish.

♥ Don't throw away the water you used to boil sweet potatoes. Some nutrients from sweet potatoes are dissolved in it. Add the hot water to (pre-cooked, non-creamy) soup to make bowls of warm soup.* This way, we can save little gas or electricity.
♥ For variations, garnish with pumpkin seeds or chopped nuts e.g. pistachios, walnuts.
♥ Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place. Do not refrigerate sweet potatoes, as they will dehydrate.

* For tonight meal, I mix the boiling water with six-flavor soup. Delicious! Mom advised us to start our meal with drinking soup, then wait ~15 minutes before continuing to the main course, so that our stomach will not overwork.

easy sweet potato recipe ServicefromHeart cilantro garlic sesame oil

If this recipe takes too long, how is about other #5minutemeal recipes?

With love,

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

7 things to do at Mount Alvernia Hospital while waiting for patients

Recently, I accompanied a good friend for a day surgery at Mt. Alvernia Hospital, Singapore. The nurses are polite. A nurse manager (in red maroon uniform) even addressed me with my name when she told me what to expect (e.g. approximate time when I should be back after the operation is done). I am impressed. For professionals who have to attend to high number of customers daily, I greatly appreciate the extra mile of efforts.

After my friend went into the operation theatre, I turned the volume of my mobile phone to maximum, in case the medical staff needs to contact me.

So, what can we do while waiting at hospital?

1. Be patient-centric
Update concerned family members, relatives, friends of patient.
Recall what the nurses, doctors, administrative staff mentioned. Jot them down so we can remind the patient later on.

2. Enjoy food
I had a brunch of ginger soy milk (SGD $2) and salmon sushi with wasabi (SGD $4). Before that, the sushi stall staff, a middle age woman (whom is called auntie in Singapore - though we have no biological relationships) pro-actively promoted her products. That's why I decided to support her and I was satisfied!

sushi Mt Alvernia Hospital Singapore ServicefromHeart

For lunch, I packed a Subway meal, with extra olives please. While munching my meatball marinara sandwich, I thought of a dinner of udon and a grocery list for it.

3. Visit the beautiful chapel

chapel Mt Alvernia hospital Singapore ServicefromHeart

The stained glasses of predominantly blue tone at the backdrop of the altar, with flashes of moving cars outside, look like a serene ceiling-height aquarium.

I also prayed hard. The background music reminded me on quiet moments in Catholic churches in Europe.

4. Admire newborns
Around noon time, there are few very lovely newborns spotted at the lobby, presumably their parents are waiting for transports to bring them home for the first time! New lives are always inspiring, they are so fragile yet full of potential, with many wonderful years lie ahead.

5. Shop or window-shop at pharmacy and gift shops
We love shopping, especially buying gifts for our loved ones and friends. The pharmacy staff was friendly, answering my inquiry politely. We cannot use the Ladies card to shop for formula milk powder, so I ended up window-shopping.

6. Read -- an alternative of playing mobile phones or tablets
At liaison office, I browsed a Mother&Baby magazine (January 2014) and collected a cooler bag with a redemption coupon that comes with my Alvernia's Ladies card. It was on my to-do-yet-non-urgent list for ~ a year. Done. Happy!

Mt Alvernia hospital Singapore ServicefromHeart

I also finished reading a TimeOut book that I packed with me in the morning.

7. Learn a little history

Stories connect minds and souls. Learning the story of Mt Alvernia Hospital makes me think of extraordinary nuns worldwide who have served from their deepest hearts. While Mother Teresa represents them as a global icon of compassion, agape and love, there have been many, if not countless, sisters who have made significant contributions in the betterment of our lives, directly or indirectly.

In 1949, three intrepid young Catholic nuns of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood (FMDM): Sr Mary Angela McBrien, Sr Mary Camillus Walsh, Sr Mary Baptista Hennessy traveled all the way from Surrey, England* to tropical Singapore.  Professionally trained in healthcare, these sisters started to care for tuberculosis patients at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and lepers at "The Leper Camp" in Woodbridge.

Besides caring patients directly as nurses and caregivers, the Sisters also taught and trained nurses. I really love their ideas and actions to empower and delegate others, because everyone has only limited 24 hours but there are many people to serve.

The Sisters have a vision that every patient would be offered comfort and solace at a retreat where gospel values would pertain and persons would matter for who they are, not for what they have. In 1950s, they started door-to-door appeals for donations to build Mt Alvernia Hospital. Finally, with generosity and enthusiasm from all walks of life, the hospital started to admit patients in 1961. 

The first baby born at Mt Alvernia Hospital was named Francis Chan, after the hospital's patron saint, St Francis of Assisi, who also greatly loves animals and environment. This little story reminds me on Ren's name which has been inspired by St Luke, patron saint of artists, physicians and students.

Hope this little list makes your hospital wait interesting and less worrying, and please share with me other ideas of yours. I love to hear from you!

With love,

* How I miss my Irish Godmother who is living in England! Hope you are doing well. This post is also dedicated to you ♥

No-fry udon with vegetable soup recipe by ServicefromHeart

We love udon meals, especially on cold nights. Hot udon soup reminds me on Lunar New Year's steamboat in simplified form. Although udon (うどん) -- thick wheat floor noodle -- originates from Japan, I used Made in Korea udon for this recipe, simply because the brand was on promotion at NTUC Fairprice today.

udon vegetables ServicefromHeart recipe

Udon has soft, slight chewy texture and slight salty taste. In term of diameter, udon is thicker than thick rice noodle (粗米粉) commonly used for laksa in Singapore. Udon is also similar to pici / pinci, which is fat spaghetti originating from Sienna, Tuscany, Italy.

We prefer to have our no-fry udon in dried form to soup-based one, with a bowl of hot soup rich in ingredients as a companion. This preference is because dried seasoned udon is more fragrant and less scalding than the soup-based one, especially for toddlers' relatively sensitive tongues.

Udon soups are often served with delicious crispy tempura or fried tofu, but tonight I am preparing no fried meal. This recipe is a good choice when we or a family member suffers from sore throats, cough (please pray me to recover quickly from cough that has waken me up at nights), or flu.

Servings: 1 adult + 1 child
Preparation and cooking time: 20 minutes*

* You can do faster because I took my own sweet time, and wash some utensils in between preparation.

♥ 1 packet fresh udon noodles (乌冬面)
♥ 1 cup lettuce (生菜)
♥ 1 cup baby spinach (菠菜)
♥ 1 cup green bok choy (小白菜)
♥ 1 tomato (番茄), quartered
♥ 1 egg (鸡蛋)
♥ 3 imitation crab meat sticks (kepiting imitasi), cut into inches long
♥ 1 tbsp anchovies (ikan teri)
♥ 1 tsp sesame oil (麻油)
♥ 1 tbsp honey (madu)
♥ 1 tbsp fresh cilantro / coriander (daun ketumbar), finely chopped
♥ 1 clove garlic (bawang putih), pressed

1. Boil water with anchovies to let flavor out.
2. Meanwhile, wash vegetables thoroughly.
3. Add tomatoes, crab sticks, and later vegetables to boiling water.
4. After vegetables are cooked, add egg to soup and quickly stir to obtain soft tofu-like texture for 1 minute.
5. Pour soup into bowls.
6. Boil water to cook udon for 2 minutes or until the noodles are separated.
7. Meanwhile, make seasoning by mixing sesame oil, honey, cilantro and garlic.
8. Drain cooked udon noodles and coat them with seasoning by gently tossing them.

♥ Use pre-made soup stock (if any) to replace water for soup.
♥ For variations, substitute anchovies with miso (fermented soy bean paste). Jaden Hair at Steamy Kitchen shared that to dissolve miso, whisk it in a separate bowl with parts of hot soup before adding the mixture back to saucepan. Directly adding undissolved miso to saucepan may cause the miso to turn gritty. However, Marc Matsumoto at No Recipes appears to disagree with this. For me, I simply try whatever methods that work.

Other recipes that I love:
♥ Namiko Chen's kitsune udon with aburaage** at Just One Cookbook
♥ Bon Appétit Test Kitchen's udon noodle soup with vegetables
♥ Katie's veggie miso udon soup at Produce on Parade 

** Aburaage (deep-fried tofu) sweetly reminds me on tau pok (fried tofu) of Singapore, a favorite food of baby Ren's Dad.

For faster-to-prepare recipes, consider our #5minutemeal recipes.

With love,

Monday, 17 February 2014

#readxp Happy Money the science of smarter spending

Book title: Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending
Author(s): Elizabeth Dunn (University of British Columbia / UBC, Vancouver, Canada) and Michael Norton (Harvard Business School)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Liz and Mike proposed 5 main strategies or principles on spending money that can enhance our happiness, based on their and others' psychological research studies.

happy money ServicefromHeart Elizabeth Dunn Michael Norton book review

Buying experiences (e.g. trips, adventures, concerts, special meals) brings more happiness than buying material things (e.g. IT gadgets, cars, houses, swimming pools) does. Unlike material things that undergo depreciation in values, our past experiences get better when we re-think and re-feel about them.

Their suggestions to (1) turn our favorite things into treats (e.g. instead of having a cup of Starbucks coffee every morning, limit our access to perhaps a cup Starbucks coffee once in a while) and (2) pay now , consume later (as opposed to credit culture of consume now, pay later), appear to me deeply rooted in delayed gratification. It is in the delay that human beings enjoy the pleasures of anticipations, such as planning for trips.

Ideas / Inspirations:
♥ Thinking about money (that we don't have at the moment) can discourage us from taking actions that promote happiness.
♥ People will think that an irrigation pump costing $250 is expensive, but Kickstart phrases it beautifully to appeal to our nobler motivation. "You give us $250, and we'll get a family our of poverty - forever."
♥ Giving money away can create wealth e.g. Pepsi Refresh Project grants.
♥ To be happier, watch less TV, spend more time (if necessary buy time) to play with our children or walk our dog. Consider how a particular purchase will affect our time.
♥ Many people sacrifice much of their time in efforts to save a little money, for example through comparison shopping (this effort in turn can influence us to pay more for features that do not bring happiness).
♥ Invest in others brings happiness only if we are not feel pressured or compelled to give.
♥ Relationships and connections matter. For example, Better World Books create connections between donors and recipients. Consequently, they have happier donors.  
♥ Giving our children and ourselves treats instead of daily consumption of our favorite things may boost happiness. I am going to try this principle on baby Ren with his favorite strawberry!

1. Since the findings of the books (e.g. the authors proposed that people are happier spending money to purchase experience than material things) are based on averages or majorities of responses, this does not mean that everyone will have the same preference. Ask ourselves, especially for large amount purchases, will we be happy 1 week, 1 month, 1 year after spending money in exchange of a particular experience or a material thing? 
2."Who makes us happier, our significant others or strangers?"
3. What is our happy ratio of "money spent on ourselves" over "money spent on others"?  Based on a study quoted in the book, > 600 Americans report an average ratio of > 10 to 1.

♥ "Some 57 percent of Americans reported that the experiential purchase made them happier than the material purchase, while only 34 percent reported the opposite."
♥ "When undergraduates wrote a summary of their "life story" (at the tender age of approximately 19), they were more likely to mention experiential purchases, rather than material goods."
♥ The chef Ferran Adrià has a goal to turn "eating into an experience that supersedes eating."

Other reviews / interview that I appreciate:
♥ Goodreads' members' reviews
How money actually buys happiness at Harvard Business Review
♥Chuck Sambuchino's interview

Visit also other #readxp posts.

With love,

How did I happily complete my homework? (age 6-12 years)

This post has been intended mainly for my young friends of 6-to-12 years old. I wrote it in 2012 before I became a mother. Now, like many caring mothers worldwide, I hope that my children would enjoy, instead of struggle with, their homework. So, I recalled my childhood memory on homework and brainstormed what can be better for our children.

For a brief background, I received my primary schooling in Jakarta, Indonesia, in the 1990s. When I reflect back on my early schooling days, I remember happiness.

Our world is evolving and today children have more things to learn and more homework to do than during my primary schooling period. To prepare children for a bright future, parents can be demanding. Homework time can be stressful for children. Nevertheless, let's believe that there are ways for our children to enjoy and happily complete their homework.

Prepare for tomorrow

After half-day only school (today school hours can be longer), I would first have my lunch. My parents did not give me any pocket money, yet they allowed me to pack some biscuits from home.

The next thing I would do after lunch is to clear my bag.

Since I was in primary one, I packed myself the books that I would need for the next day according to my timetable and the book that listed our assignments (buku tugas in Indonesian). I ensured that I had all the books I need because I did not want to be punished for forgetting to bring any required book.

A study area and a homework kit

I dreamed of a study table, but while I did not have such a solely-purposed table, I used Mum’s dressing table – her wedding gift. My parents’ engagement photo was my motivation because they worked very hard everyday and they always look very beautiful and happy in the photo.

Ideally, a study area with a table, a chair and good lighting is great for learning. The height of the table and chair needs to be constantly adjusted according to the height of children because children are always growing taller. Lighting matters too! I personally prefer fluorescence lighting to tungsten lighting, because the former makes me alert and the latter is more suitable for entertaining reading like bedtime story books.

Since I could not concentrate on my homework when the TV was on, it seems that there are some truths in the words of Roderick MacKinnon (a 2013 Chemistry Nobel Prize winner for his work on the structure and mechanism of ion channels): "TV is bad for your". Viewing too much TV can also hamper linguistic skills. On the other hand, TV can also bring us plenty of ideas, inspirations, and information.

I had TV time. My parents were not at home and they did not set up any rule about the TV. I loved the American movies like MacGyver, Knight Ryders, Superman, Wonder Woman, Little Kingdom (小人国).

But when it was time for homework, I would not turn on the TV. At that time, there were no many TV programs in Indonesia and no internet. Today children face more temptations.

Though internet can bring distractions (if one is not disciplined), I would have internet because it opens us many doors to gain wide and deep knowledge. If you need to do research for your homework, first gather all resources online, then disconnect while you focus on your homework. In brief, alternate periods of connections and disconnections.


Playing is the basic right of every child. 
Playing is our reward for doing homework.

After finishing my homework, I would leave it open at the page where I wanted my mother to help me check. Then, I would go to the nearest park to play or to my friends’ home. They always seemed to have many toys. Sometimes, I collected fallen leaves or flowers and imagined them as ingredients for cooking. No recipe required, just curiosity and courage to try! Sometimes, kind carpenters gave me pieces of woods that I assembled to build doll houses or castles like using LEGO pieces.

Other parents' & teachers' tips that I appreciate:
♥ Maureen Devlin's on the homework buffet
♥ Carol Tuttle's how to motivate different types of children to do their homework
♥ Leigh Langston (Dangerous Lee)'s how to make children do their homework at Simply Senia

Sunday, 16 February 2014

♥ Imagine simple happiness ♥

Imagine ... waking up to gaze on beautiful blue sky
admiring the dancing leaves that gently moves by the wind
seeing sunset from your window
watching a loving couple chatting
dancing kite with red, green, blue, and white light on the twilight sky

holding a baby sleeping calmly on your arm
gazing at his little lips and long eyelashes
simple bliss of life!

A month ago, I had them all and feel very blessed.
How I wish I could share all these with you!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Create reading experience #readxp that makes us happy and wise

#readxp reading experience baby learn ServicefromHeart

When I was studying in Malaysia, one of my favorite activities (homework) was to write about reading experience (读书心得). The homework greatly helped me in learning Chinese Mandarin and had encouraged me to be a more optimistic person than ever.

When we jot down our reading experience, we clarify our thoughts and understandings. We are also doing our future selves a favor. We could quickly recall what we learned from a non-fiction book or instantly re-enjoy the pleasure or excitement we experienced from a story book.

To create reading experience, we can write, doodle, draw, take photographs, record audio notes or videos. Use approaches that we like best.

Our reading experience can be as simple as a word or a picture.

Things that we can also include in our reading experience:
♥ book title, author(s), publishers
♥ summary
♥ ideas
♥ inspirations
♥ questions
♥ impressions
♥ feelings
♥ quotes
♥ review

The summary section can simply be main gist of the book, in a sentence, a paragraph, or a list.

The idea section can include ideas straight from the book or ideas that we conceive upon integrating our existing knowledge with the new one from the book.

Keeping a note of quotes is useful to train our mind. Quotes can serve as advices or affirmations that nourish our soul. Positive quotes can act as instant switches in time of crisis, to quickly and gently shift our moods and emotions away from negativity.

Finally, the review section can include things (e.g. contents, plots, styles) that inspires us, things that can be better, or comparisons with other books.

Writing reading experience is similar to documenting our travel experience. When we travel, our minds and bodies travel. When we read, our minds travel. We can enhance our reading experience by using more imaginations and discussing with others who have read the book or arguing with the authors (known as active reading). Note down our questions. Sometimes, if not many times, we may not get the answers from the authors, but from other people.

Since 2014, I started to be more organized in my reading adventures. We believe that sharing is caring, so I try my best to share my reading experience in easy to digest posts.

To facilitate faster search, try #readxp for the blog, Twitter and Instagram of ServicefromHeart. You are always welcome to share your #readxp!

With love,

Monday, 10 February 2014

A list of over 100 salad ingredients

over 100 salad ingredients servicefromheart

We love salad. Eating greens is good for our health. I favor eating food produced locally (or at least regionally). This way, our food is relatively fresh and we also support our farmers and food producers. When I write this post in early 2014, we are currently living in Singapore. Whenever possible, I try to buy Singapore products, or regional ones, e.g. greens from Malaysia, cherry tomatoes from Thailand, long beans from Indonesia. 


On another spectrum, I also believe in eating food with recipe inspired globally. In my childhood, the concept of salad is probably nearest to lalap (an Indonesian dish). Consuming lalap with fried chicken or fish, steamed rice and a pinch of sambal terasi chili is really a treat to our taste buds. Commonly used ingredients for lalap include cucumber (timun), tomato (tomat), cabbage (kol), lettuce (selada), long bean (kacang panjang), papaya leaves (daun pepaya), sweet potato leaves (daun singkong), basil (kemangi). It is the basil that gives the fragrance. 

Then, when I lived in England, I grew to appreciate salad even more. My favorite greens include rocket leaves and baby spinach leaves. Crunchy and refreshing salads are fast to prepare and heart warming companion to bowls of steamed rice or roasted meals.

Salad can be colorful and offers a wide range of tastes and textures. At first, the thought of salad directly implies a cold meal, but salad can be served warm - or as a yin-yang mixture of cold and hot, featuring fresh vegetables topped with hot fish, toasted nuts, or tossed in a warm dressing before serving. I really love meals that incorporate different temperatures!

See a little spreadsheet note of mine on ingredients for salad. There are more than 100 ingredients we can choose from to mix and match! Whenever I come across inspirational recipes, I would add on to the spreadsheet. Ingredients in bold are those that I often use for our homemade salad.

For the upcoming #AtoZChallenge that I am taking part in April 2014, I am going to prepare blog posts on food (many of them are delicious ingredients for salad), to tell a little story about these wonderful food choices to baby Ren and hopefully other children will love them too! Storytelling of food can indeed increase the appeal of salad and food to children.

Check also our other #5minutemeal recipe, especially for salad!

With love,

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Simple and sweet dessert of sweet potatoes with yogurt recipe by ServicefromHeart

Introducing Sweet potato, a root vegetable that is different in taste and texture from potato! Sweet potatoes can be cooked in similar ways to the potato but cook much more quickly. The color of sweet potato skin ranges between yellow, orange, red, brown, purple, and beige. I first learned about sweet potato as ubi jalar (literally means creeping yam) in Indonesia.

Sweet potato is rich in dietary fiber, an ideal meal for our family member who is recovering.

Servings: 2-3
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

♥ 300 g sweet potatoes
♥ 1 tbsp yogurt (preferably Greek yogurt)
♥ 2 tbsp glucose* / brown sugar
♥ 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
♥ 1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)

Glucose powder is good to relieve fatigue.

1. Wash, peel (under running water to prevent oxidation) and chop sweet potatoes into bite-sized chunks. Quickly put into a pot covered with water.
2. Add sugar, cinnamon to the sweet potatoes.
3. Cook over high heat until sweet potatoes are soft.
4. Add yogurt & mix. You can also use wooden spoon to mash the sweet potatoes if serving for babies.

♥ To check if sweet potatoes are soft enough, gently pierce with chopstick or fork.
♥ Use non-stick saucepan or stir occasionally. This recipe is easy to prepare and takes ~ 5 minutes to prepare.

Check also our other #5minutemeal recipe.

Friday, 7 February 2014

A visit to dentist

Mom used to bring me to see a dentist for a regular check-up when I was a kid. Thank you very much mama 妈妈! When I was afraid of the procedures (think of molar teeth extraction!), I would imagine flying to beautiful destinations while lying on the reclining chair. My favorite one includes imagining the beautiful grassy hill with little lambs, toy-like wooden huts, colorful rainbows, singing birds, running children and snow-capped mountains at the background. Perhaps, I got the inspiration from beautiful images of calendars. Thanks to these imaginations, I endured the procedures. Sometimes, I feel that human imagination can help us overcome many challenges in life. Mom was proud of me for being a nice patient. I appeared fearless of dentists, though honestly I had some fear. It is okay.

Now, a mother to baby Ren, in the near future, I will bring him for a dental check-up. I hope he will be more fearless than me. Watching his toothless, gummy grin transforms into big smiles of cute little teeth is like a farmer adoring her growing sprouts nurtured with love. Sometimes, he bites Daddy!

In February 2014, I visited a dentist at Q&M Sun Plaza.
Dentist: Dr Ho Ann Gie
Address: 30 Sembawang Drive Sun Plaza #02-28
Singapore 757713
Tel : +65 67532339

Dr Ho is gentle and patient. I would be happy to bring Ren to see him when his teeth needs check-up.

Scaling and polishing with Passion card costs me SGD $68 and a small filling costs SGD $55. The amount excludes $10 sterilization fee and 7% GST.

3 Tips for visiting a dentist (applicable for our children and ourselves):
Imagination matters. Play and imagine roles of dentist and patient at home, using props such as toothbrushes, flash lights, mirror and small cups to practice rinsing and spitting. Read and listen to encouraging children stories about dentist or dental check-up. Love our teeth. Smile to ourselves every morning and every night, this exercise helps us to appreciate our teeth (and ourselves). Let children count their teeth, this is a simple and fun maths exercise.

Make an appointment early. Select early time slot. Dentist is fresh and alert. We do not have to wait for long time in the event that the patient from the earlier time slot needs longer treatment time.

Prepare a list of questions, if any. Bring identity card and cards that can allow us to enjoy discounts e.g. Passion card. Do not hesitate to pre-inform our budget, especially if we are in tight financial situation; allow ourselves to be aware of available options (including relatively lower cost ones).

Finally, an important reminder (for me):
Not to brush my teeth too hard because the action brushes away my teeth. Be gentle.  

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Look into the eyes of our little ones

To make babies feel secure we can give him lots of eye contact. This simple yet meaningful action can help babies have a positive outlook on life. 

The face of parents, grandparents, and everyone who love the baby, is the most important thing the baby sees. He depends and thrives on engaging our interests.

3 simple tips to improve the quantity of eye contact:

♥ Carry baby in a sling (a selendang in Indonesian). This physical closeness is great for hands-free multitasking. 

♥ Give baby a massage. Baby loves feeling the warmth of our touch. He will fall asleep easily after drinking milk and have a sweet dream.  

Talk / Tell stories / Sing to baby when we are feeding him. Stories connect mind and heart. A course mate of mine from a Novoed course on Storytelling for Change, Sarita shares her mother telling her the story of how giraffe got its brown spots on its yellow fur, including its slender long neck. The spots came from the hands of angels who accidentally massaged giraffe after eating chocolate cookies. What a sweet story! 

With love,

Kinpira of capsicum and water apple recipe by ServicefromHeart

Kinpira (金平 or きんぴら) simply means sauté and simmer. It is a Japanese method of stir-frying shredded or julienned vegetables quickly in a fragrant and spicy oil. 

This recipe is created thanks to the lack of red sweet pepper in the NTUC Fairprice today. Therefore, besides buying a green pepper and a yellow pepper, I thought of using water apple for its brilliant red color as an ingredient for tonight kinpira dish. 

sweet pepper capsicum water apple fresh raw

Water apple is also known as water cherry, rose apple, pearl jumbu, jambu air. In my childhood, I enjoyed it as an ingredient for rujak in Jakarta, Indonesia. It tastes crunchy and sweet, a sweet treat on hot days! The thought of rojak also prompted me to include a slight amount of peanut into the recipe. 

sweet pepper bell pepper water apple julienned slice

Sweet pepper is also known as bell pepper, capsicum or simply just pepper. They are rich sources of antioxidants and vitamin C. I wanted to buy at least a red pepper because if its higher nutritional contents than a green pepper, but it is not available today. Try to be creative by thinking of a new recipe to experiment & savor. 

"Necessity is the mother of invention," The Republic, Book II, 369c, Plato.

I enjoyed this meal. Hope you will try it too!

kinpira sweet pepper capsicum water apple sesame seed
Servings: 2
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

♥ 1 tbsp sesame oil
♥ 1 yellow sweet pepper, de-seeded, julienned
♥ 1 green sweet pepper, de-seeded, julienned
♥ 3 water apples, de-seeded, thinly sliced
♥ 2 tbsp white sesame seed, toasted
♥ 1 tsp soy sauce / shoyu
♥ 1 tsp peanut butter
♥ 1 chili sachet* 
♥ pinch of pepper

* The chili sachet already contains sugar. To substitute this, you can use 1tsp sugar and 1 tsp chili flakes. 

1. Heat sesame oil in a frying pan over high heat.
2. Lower the heat to medium. Toast sesame seeds.
2. Add the sweet peppers and water apple. 
3. Sautee for 3-4 minutes until they turn brighter in color.
4. Add soy sauce, peanut butter, chili, pepper, wine.  
5. Stir until soy sauce has evaporated. 

Check also our other #5minutemeal recipe & particularly simple sweet pepper kinpira recipe

With love,

Easy porridge recipe using rice cooker by ServicefromHeart

porridge rice cooker sesame oil

This Chinese style porridge recipe takes only ~ 5 minutes to prepare. Very convenient yet healthy & filling! Highly recommend this meal for breakfast or brunch to kick start a productive day. Children surely like this one-dish meal too, so this recipe is one of mothers' favorite choice.

Servings: 2
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes (depends on the type of rice cooker)

♥ 1/2 cup Jasmine rice grains
♥ 1 tbsp anchovies*
♥ 2 tbsp sesame oil  
♥ 2 carrots 
♥ 2 tbsp minced meat 
♥ 1 tube tofu

* I prefer to use anchovies to substitute for salt. 

1. Wash rice grains. Instead of adding water to reach only the first line of your index finger when you immerse it on top of rice grains, add more water to reach halfway of first and second line. 
2. Wash and chop carrots, minced meat, tofu into bite-size chunks. Add all cut ingredients and anchovies to the rice cooker.
3. Cook slightly longer than the rice cooker takes to cook rice, until you get desirable soft texture. Since I am using an antique rice cooker (a gift from mother in law), it takes me ~ 40 minutes. 
4. After the porridge is cooked, quickly take the rice pot out. Quickly add sesame oil and mix*. Be careful, it is hot! Then, cover the lid for a while to let the sesame fragrance sip in. 

* If you open the lid for too long, without mixing in oil, the porridge will stick to the bottom. 

♥ The 3 main ingredients are rice grains, anchovies and sesame oil. For more nutrients, add at least a vegetable (e.g. carrot, beans) and a protein source (e.g. minced meat, tofu). If you have more time for preparation, you can always add more ingredients to create bowls of colorful porridge. 
Sesame oil is really the secret of jazzing up simple and relatively plain meal. Among all the sesame oil that I have tried, I favor the sesame oil of Ghee Hiang Baby brand ( manufactured in Penang, Malaysia, using methods and techniques learned from Fujian, China. 
♥ This porridge appears similar to Cantonese style congee, but this rice cooker recipe is more convenient to prepare as it does not require constant stirring.
♥ If you want tastier porridge, serve with crunchy peanuts, crispy fried shallots or chopped chili (which can be prepared in advance and stored in a screw top jar). My Teochew mother in law prefers less salty option, so porridge straight from the rice cooker pot made her happy. 

Check also our other #5minutemeal recipe

With love,

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Sign up for #AtoZChallenge 2014

I sign up for A-to-Z Challenge 2014. 

What is AtoZChallenge
In brief: 26 posts. 26 days. 26 letters of the alphabet, one post beginning with each letter, in April.

In more details:
The A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays. The challenge was first started by Arlee Bird, @Tossing it Out ( in 2010.  

I first learned about this challenge through Damyanti who likes my Life Map.  
Thank you Dear! 

Please follow 543. "Service from Heart (CU)"
CU stands for Culinary category. 

Fun is important! Hopefully, we also learn to be more committed and practice discipline through this challenge. 

♥I have been sharing alphabets with baby Ren every night, from A to Z. Flashing him cards and noticing how attentive this little boy is very encouraging. I want to go further to learn together using the alphabets, explore new experiences for us through multi media and multiple senses.

♥ Every time I sing "A B C D E F G ...." to baby Ren, it flows effortlessly from my mouth. How is about singing in reverse, "Z Y X W V U T ..."? It is not as easy as the former. Can you quickly say Z to A as fast as A to Z? Honestly, I cannot (at least for now). How is about also doing A-to-Z Challenge in reverse order? 

♥ For A-to-Z Challenge, each of my post will be related to food or recipe. The food is ideally inspiring, healthy and natural. 

It is relatively challenging to get baby Ren to eat and I hope that these efforts will grow his interests on food. Simultaneously, I also plan to share with him the names of the food in Indonesian and Chinese Mandarin. Learning about food also stimulates almost, if not all, our senses (visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile).  

♥ For Z-to-A Challenge, each of my post will be related to concepts or ideas that can enhance our happiness, especially simple happiness. 
Think of G for Gratitude, S for Smile, or H for humility. Thinking of them brings smiles to me. 

Finally not to forget 3 little tips:
1. KISS : Keep It (our post) Simple & Short. I aim for a visual (images / photos / videos) and ~ 300 words per post, simply because an adult reads prose text on average at 300 words per minute.

2. Use a spreadsheet to brainstorm and pre-schedule for our posts. This little effort is like building a quick blueprint for our little toy castle. It serves only as a guideline, not a hard rule. Imagining possibilities can be very fun! Please feel free use and modify my spreadsheet to suit your preferences. 

3. Visit other blogs participating in A-to-Z Challenge. Give supports, comments and likes. A sense of community and friendship can synergistically motivate us to create better things in life for ourselves and others. 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Thank you post to Tina of "Life is Good"

Thank you Tina @Life is Good of #atozchallenge for your constructive suggestions and comments. I greatly appreciate them, you are really an angel sent. 

Tina suggests that I turn off word verification. 
By default Blogger blogs are designed to show word verification when visitors comment in a post. Since my blog is relatively new (since January 2014), I am not aware of the requirement of word verification before visitors can comment. Although this is a very useful tool to avoid spam, but kind visitors may find it a hassle to express their opinions easily. Besides blogger has an automatic spam checking tool. 

How to turn off word verification from Blogger? 
1. Sign in to your Blogger account. 
2. Go to "Settings", on the left panel. 
3. Go to "Post and Comments"
4. Switch "Show word verification" to No. 
5. Remember to click "Save Settings" in orange on upper right, next to a grey wheel icon. 

Tina also suggested me to include tools for others to easily follow my blog. 

Google+ Follower Gadget (done!)
Please feel free to join my circle in Google Plus :

♥ Google Friend Connect (done!)
How to Put the Google Friend Connect Gadget on a new Blogger Blog? 
1. Sign in to your Blogger account. 
2. Go to "Layout", on the left panel. 
3. Click "Add a Gadget" in blue. 
4. Click "More Gagdgets".
5. Search "Google Friend Connect". 
6. Select "Members" and rename to "Google Friend Connect". 
7. Remember to click "Save Arrangements" in orange on upper right. 

Follow by Email (done!) 

Finally, please feel free to give suggestions or simply say Hi! I love to hearing from you. 

Sesame salad dressing recipe by ServicefromHeart

Sesame dressing is nutty and warm to our delicate tongue and comforting to our stomach. The fragrance of sesame reminds me on many beautiful memories in the East. Hope you like this recipe! 

Servings: 3
Preparation & cook time: ~ 5-10 minutes

♥ 3 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
♥ 2 tbsp plain yogurt*
♥ 2 tbsp rice vinegar
♥ 1 tbsp honey
♥ 1 tbsp sesame oil 
♥ 1 tsp soy sauce

1. To maximize flavor, dry toast sesame seeds on a frying pan over low heat until they turn golden brown and start to vibrate and pop.
2. Grind the sesame seeds. 
3. Combine all ingredients in a screw top jar. Mix.
4. Drizzle on our favorite salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, boiled eggs).

This recipe has been inspired by:
Thank you very much!
* I love to use plain / Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.

Check also our other #5minutemeal recipe

Easy Soboro with pink steamed rice recipe by ServicefromHeart

When my mother visited us, she made me finely chopped dishes for my lunch box (bento). Now, whenever I think of Soboro (そぼろ), I would be happy and grateful for her and her tremendous love.

In brief, soboro is finely chopped dishes of meat, fish, egg or vegetables that are served sprinkled onto or mixed with rice.

Servings: 3
Preparation & cook time: 30 minutes

♥ 3/4 cup rice
♥ 2 eggs
♥ long beans / green beans
♥ 2 carrots 
♥ 1tsp anchovies 
♥ salt
♥ 2 tsp sugar
♥ 2 tbsp sesame oil 

1. Steam rice with beet root to obtain pink / red colored rice. 
2. To make egg soboro (iritamago), mix eggs, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp anchovies in a bowl. Cook over a frying pan over medium heat. Use 2 wooden spoons (or 2 pairs of wooden chopsticks), keep stirring the egg mixture to allow them to form fine granules. 
3. Cut long beans into small pieces of ~0.7 cm in length. Boil in salted water until crisp tender. 
4. Place chopped carrots, 1 tsp sugar, pinch of salt in a small pan and boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer until the carrot is tender. 
5. Serve carrot, beans, and egg soboro with rice. Drizzle generously with sesame oil. 

♥ For lighter pink tone of steamed rice, use beet roots that were used for cooking soup. For red tone of rice, use fresh beet roots.
♥ For better taste, add 1 tsp of rice wine / sake / mirin / white wine when you make egg soboro or carrot soboro. 
♥ For more variations and colorful soboro, consider sweet peppers soboro, tofu soboro (iridofu), meat (niku) soboro in soy sauce / oyster sauce. 
Sesame oil really brings the fragrance out. Among all the sesame oil that I have tried, I favor the sesame oil of Ghee Hiang Baby brand ( manufactured in Penang, Malaysia, using methods and techniques learned from Fujian, China.
soboro sesame oil egg carrot long bean steamed rice

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Simple and easy pasta with creamy yogurt sauce by ServicefromHeart

This recipe is cream-free but creamy enough thanks to the yogurt. 

Try different types of pasta for fun! Besides the common spaghetti, linguine and macaroni, how is about pasta in interesting shapes and sizes? Kids will surely like them. 

Two things serve as inspirations for this recipe:
♥ Looking at a container of yogurt in our refrigerator this morning, has encouraged me to think of a new meal for our family. It is always good to finish our food before their expiry dates. 
♥ I really love Guesteau's motto, "Anyone can cook", from the Disney movie Ratatouille. It is very encouraging to you and me! The movie is about Remy who is dying to become a chef and features heart-warming delicious treats to our eyes.

Servings: 2
Preparation & Cook time: 15 minutes 

♥ ~150g dried pasta 
♥ 1 tbsp olive oil
♥ 1 cup plain / Greek yogurt
♥ 6 cloves minced garlic 
♥ 1 tsp anchovies (preferred) / pinch of salt
♥ 1/2 onion / red onion (optional)
♥ 1 tsp dried shrimps (optional) 
♥ 1 tbsp herbs, chopped (optional) 
♥ pinch of pepper to taste

1. Boil water in a pot to cook pasta.
2. Meanwhile, wash and mince garlic, onion, dried shrimps.
3. Heat olive oil on a frying pan. 
4. Sautee minced garlic, onion, dried shrimps, anchovies. 
5. Over medium heat, add pasta, yogurt, herbs, pepper. Mix well.  

♥ Try whole wheat pasta that contains minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, selenium and manganese.
♥ You can substitute olive oil with butter for creamier texture. 
♥ Instead of weighing ~70g of dried pasta per person, I use my palm to wrap around a bunch of long pasta as a quick measurement. 

Check also our other #5minutemeal recipe

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Mediterranean inspired Cherry tomato Grape salad recipe by ServicefromHeart

The Lunar New Year 2014 presents hot days in Singapore, how is about a refreshing, crunchy salad of cherry tomatoes and grapes to welcome our relatives or friends? 

Servings: 2
Preparation: < 5 minutes

♥ 12 cherry tomatoes
♥ 12 grapes
♥ 1/2 tsp herbs (e.g. parsley, fresh mint leaves), chopped
♥ 1 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin) 
♥ 1 tbsp lemon juice or 2 tbsp orange juice

1. Pour olive oil first into the bowl to later immediately cover the cut tomatoes and grapes with oil. 
2. Cut cherry tomatoes, grapes into halves. 
3. Add herbs, orange juice. Mix well. 
4. Keep in refrigerator for few hours / overnight to marinade for maximum flavor (optional). 
5. Serve cold as an afternoon snack or a side dish with hot oatmeal or steamed rice. 

♥ I recommend using fresh herbs, but in these few days, groceries shop have been closed due to Lunar New Year holidays, so dried herbs are fine too. 
♥ Squeeze orange juice as a companion drink so we can use 2 tbsp of it to add flavor to the salad. 
♥ You can also use large tomatoes to substitute for the cherry tomatoes. For me, if I use large tomatoes, I will use the seeds for pasta base. 

Check also our other #5minutemeal recipe