Postcards from St Andrew’s Church, Abu Dhabi

At St Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi, I met and entertained many children. I feel that “the sky lovingly smiles on the earth and her children,” quoting Sir Henry Morton Stanley.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart Jesus cross

The present St Andrew’s Church was built in 1984 on a land generously donated by the Late H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of the Al Nahyan ruling family. The area is known as the Churches area in Abu Dhabi.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

The website of the St Andrew’s Church mentioned that “somebody once described St Andrew’s church as Evangelical in the pulpit, Catholic at the altar and Charismatic in the pews”, to highlight their diversity.

It is likely that baby Ren will be interested in the St Andrew’s Playgroup (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, between 9.30am and 11.30am) with the entry fee of AED 15  per parent/carer, for children regardless of nationality or religion.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

In the autumn 2014, I started to study the Bible daily and have crafted prayers or made simple take-home messages. Once I complete studying the Bible, I plan to study Al Quran, as envisioned in our lifelong curriculum.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

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In the summer 2003, I almost became an angel as a mascot for inter-school games. Siew Hwey had kindly made the feathery-like cotton wings and the angel halo headband, but in the end those items were not used.

Patience is a virtue. Never lose hope. The universe will choose the right time and the right place to answer your desire. You kind, loving, inspiring desire is your prayer.

This afternoon, I became an angel – without wings, who told a Christmas story to children. I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve children – our hope for the future, and to share messages of love and hope. Yes, a messenger of everything lifeward and positive. The English word “angel” comes from the Greek angelos, which means ‘messenger’.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart audience

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart hi angel
The little girl was excited to see an angel. 

Thanks to Dewi for firstly inviting me to contribute in the early Merry Christmas celebration, Laura for the help with the costume, the storytelling equipment (torchlight and colorful pictures) and the gifts for the courageous and lucky children who did well in the post-story Q&A session.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart angel

According to Jerry A. Coyne PhD, 77% of Americans believe in angels. Do you believe in angels and miracles?

Upon seeing me in the angel costume, Alice (a little girl who just went to Moyenne Island, Seychelles) remarked, “she is not an angle, she is a girl.” It stroke me. Later, Alice told me that she loves the story told by the angel – me.

Perhaps, real people in angle costumes only work for toddlers. A young toddler whose name is Atara, curiously tried to touch me. She loves the pendants of my necklace too, as I realized when I carried her.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart angels

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart angels dance

From the pamphlet, I also learned about a mnemonic of LIGHT.
L = Love (kasih)
I = Integrity (integritas)
G = Generosity (kemurahan)
H = Humility (kerendahan hati)
T = Truth (kebenaran)

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Here is a recap of Christmas service for the children.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart  christmas tree

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart candles

The first song was Jingle Bells.

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

A day or two ago
I thought I’d take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot


I always love the classic Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconcile.
Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem’
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

Christ by highest heaven adored
Christ the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail, the incarnate deity,
Pleased as Man with Man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of peace!
Hail the Son of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing sung by a children’s choir:

A way in a manger

You can listen to a story entitled “Let Your Light Shine” narrated by Jing@servicefromheart.

Happy birthday Jesus (with a link from Laura)

Happy birthday, Jesus
I’m so glad it’s Christmas
All the tinsel and lights
And the presents are nice
But the real gift is You
Happy birthday, Jesus
I’m so glad it’s Christmas
All the carols and bells
Make the holiday swell
And it’s all about You
Happy birthday, Jesus
Jesus I love You

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart cake

Silent Night

Silent Night by a children’s choir

Silent night! holy night!
All is calm all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace
Silent night! holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia
Christ the Saviour is born
Christ the Saviour is born!

♥ ♥ ♥

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart children smiles innocent

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” ~ Denis Waitley

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart

While I greatly love to take photographs of people, they are also among the most challenging ones, especially children. There are a number of shots of mine that captured the joyful or amazed expressions of our little friends, but the photos turned out to be out of focus.

This morning, a girlfriend flying to Abu Dhabi today inquired me what things that I want her to get for me from Kuala Lumpur. At that time, I want nothing, but her safe flight.

However, after going through some of the photographs that I took at the St Andrew’s Church, how I wish I could have a light-field / plenoptic camera manufactured by Lytro, founded by Yi Ren Ng PhD. I hope that its price of US$399 will decrease so that more people can afford it. This is going to be my Christmas gift wish list!

By the way, I enjoyed Ng’s Stanford thesis and summarized it in a wordcloud.

Christmas Postcards St Andrew's Church Abu Dhabi UAE servicefromheart Ren Ng light field camera thesis Lytro

With love,


Postcards from Singapore Central Fire Station

We respect firemen and female firefighters. The latter are a minority in the male and macho dominated profession. They risk their precious lives putting off fire and rescuing people.

To help my little man appreciates firefighters and their contributions to our society, I brought him to the open house of Central Fire Station Singapore.

While many pictorial children books still refer to a firefighter as a fireman, from here onward, let’s greet them firefighters. Why?

Denise Christie, a British female firefighter since 1997, often challenges the use of the term “fireman”. Why?

The “man” in the word “fireman” both consciously and subconsciously excludes girls and women from aspiring for a career (or I would rather say a vocation) as a firefighter.

Firefighter’s job is really one of the toughest, at the front-line of disasters and life-saving work.

In Singapore, firefighting, rescue and emergency ambulance services are provided by SCDF – that stands for Singapore Civil Defence Force (新加坡民防部队).

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ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station gate door


At Central Fire Station, baby Ren enjoyed appreciating many rescue vehicles, from ambulances to fire engines, including the huge Pump Ladder and Combined Platform Ladder.

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station engines

He refers to any vehicle as tutu, perhaps from the sound that car horns or traditional trains make.

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station Red Rhinos

Mama, look! Baby Ren was too amazed sitting inside the Red Rhino ~ a smaller and more compact version of the fire truck for better accessibility in tight and narrow spaces.


ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station

Your kids can squirt water like a real firefighter onto a ‘fire’ target. Have fun with the water gun!

The volunteer guide in uniform, an ‘Uncle’ in late 40s or early 50s, delivered useful knowledge related to emergency.

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station

When someone has a heart attack (cardiac arrest), s/he has only 4 minutes to survive if no CPR is given. That’s why, everyone ideally learns and knows how to perform CPR. The skill can save our loved ones.

What is CPR?

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

In brief, CPR = rescue breathing + chest compression 

When someone is unconscious, remember the DR ABC steps, which stands for Danger – Response – Airway – Breathing – Compression.

1. DANGER: check no further danger to the rescuer (yourself) and the casualty.

2. RESPONSE: can the casualty respond?

Unconsciousness may be due to airway obstruction / choking, apnea, cardiac arrest.

Try to wake the casualty.

If no response, shout for help, ask someone to immediately call for an emergency ambulance (dial 995 in Singapore) and to get an AED (if available). .

If you are alone, use a speaker mode while calling, so your hands are free for the next step.

3. AIRWAY: open the casualty’s airway & check if airway is clear or blocked by a foreign object. Remember the head tilt chin lift method.

4. BREATHING: check by looking if the chest rises, listening & feeling for the air for up to 10 seconds.

If the casualty is breathing normally, place him in the recovery position and monitor his condition regularly until medical help arrives.


If the casualty does not breathe, immediately do CPR: a cycle of 30 compression followed by 2 rescue breath with the casualty’s nose being sealed.

The compression is delivered at the rate of 100 compressions / minute and to cause the chest to deepen by 1.5 to 2 inches (4 -5 cm).

Count loudly as you compress:
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 10 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 15 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 20 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 25 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 30

After 5 cycles of CPR, check for pulse and breathing.
If no breathing, repeat CPR until paramedics take over.

The air we breathe in contains 21% oxygen.
The air we breathe out contains 16-18% oxygen.
Therefore, rescue breathing still supplies the crucial oxygen to the casualty.

The steps described above are slightly different from those I learned during a Standard First Aid (SFA) course, before becoming a first aider with the Red Cross Youth NTU Chapter.

In my SFA course (more than a decade ago), after the BREATHING step, there is a CIRCULATION step, in which the rescuer checks for sign of blood flowing, particularly through carotid pulse. Since the pulse is difficult to determine, CPR is performed immediately if there is no breathing.


ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station NTU Red Cross Orchard

A memory of my fellow first aiders who served during a Christmas in Orchard, Singapore. Dad made a surprising night-visit that time, thanks to his Malaysian friend who drove to Singapore. Rarely seeing Dad, I wanted to accompany him strolling Orchard, but Dad insisted that I fulfill my duty. That night, I only served a casualty, who suffered from a minor bruise. Unlike other services or businesses, first aiders hope for less or no ‘customers’, i.e. everyone is okay.

Tips: You may want to keep a free Heart4Life app in your mobile phone.

I like the “CPR mode” because it is very easy to follow, especially when we are highly tense tending to the casualty, who can be our loved one.

The app also includes a 2.5-minute CPR video by Singapore Heart Foundation, which is also available in Youtube.

Important: This brief note here is not a substitute for live training, please kindly go for a CPR training by the professionals at your area, if you are interested to learn about CPR.

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AEDs also remind me on Monaco, where I saw many AEDs and yachts in a single day!

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station Monaco

Yes, both are ubiquitous there.

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Sorry, I digress.

Back to the Central Fire Station …

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station ambulance

Your children and you can get inside an ambulance. This way, your first encounter with the inner side of the ambulance was a happy experience.

Baby Ren and I were standing very close to an ambulance when an older adventurous boy intentionally or unintentionally pressed the siren button.


Very loud! Baby Ren immediately hug me tightly. It’s okay, honey!

The guide mentioned that a family member or friend of the casualty is usually asked to go with the ambulance. It’s definitely one of the most stressful rides for the person, always asking is his or her loved one is okay.

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When my mother was in her teen, a colossal fire engulfed and destroyed her home and community in Sukaramai. She lost everything except her life and few clothings that she managed to rescue using a bed sheet with its 4 corners tied together as a big carrier.

Many decades down the road, thanks to a kind distant relative, my mother managed to retrieve a family photograph (taken while she was in early primary school). People in the black-and-white photograph includes my tanned grandfather, my beautiful grandmother, my mother, her two brothers and a sister. She cherished the photograph so much! It is the only copy of family photograph that survived.

A photograph can be an evidence that someone had ever lived, especially for people who have never experienced digital world.


My maternal grandfather passed away when I was a toddler. I did not remember him much, but I cherish so much the photograph of the toddler-me hugging or clasping his leg in Brastagi (Berastagi).

The snap of memory that tells how much he has loved me, his first grandchild.

Waigong died of heart attack, and nobody (including himself) knew that he had a heart problem. Dajiu ( my first uncle), found him too late to save his life.

Pearls of tear drops flow on my cheek now. I wish I could knew more about you in person, Grandpa!

Nowadays, I helped Mom backing-up precious family photographs and videos. Never let fire (or any other disaster) steals your memory!

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ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station reflection photography memory

During my childhood in Jakarta, Dad and Mom had to work until very late at nights. Home alone, with my younger sister and brother, I was always alert hearing the siren of fire engine.

At that time, I did not know if it is either my adrenaline or cortisol that immediately spiked up.

I prayed that the volume of the siren to lower as the clock ticks in seconds – that’s mean the fire happened far from our dwelling.

We lived in the second floor, which was a blessing because Jakarta has suffered from floods at least annually. Relatively safe from the excessive water hazard, this possesses a challenge for fire and earthquake hazard.

Dad, not being paranoid but careful, made an emergency ladder of ropes and small wooden planks for us. The ladder was always placed beneath the window.

Dad instructed us to go down using the ladder in the event of fire and our parents were away working.

Thank you Papa for loving and caring us, for teaching us survival skills!

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FIRE SAFETY (main points are from a postcard of Civil Defense Heritage Gallery)

What to do … when you are trapped?
1. Stay calm
2. Enter a safe room, preferably one that overlooks a road.
3. Shut the door behind you. Cover the bottom gap of the door using wet clothes to prevent smoke from seeping through.
4. Call 995 and shout for help from the windows or other openings. Wait for rescue to arrive.
5. Cover your mouth and nose with wet clothes.
6. If you are on high floors, do not attempt to jump out of building. Help will be on the way very soon. Pray!

Tips: If you have locked window grills, keep the key at the accessible site in the same room.

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We were very happy with the educational and entertaining visit to the Central Fire Station. Baby Ren even dreamed of tutu in his afternoon nap.

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station Red Rhinos

If you have a free Saturday morning in Singapore, I’d recommend visiting the Central Fire Station open house (9am-11am), followed by a visit to Civil Defence Heritage Gallery. Both are free of charge.

At historical level 1, we learned more about the Bukit Ho Swee Fire (河水山大火) on May 25, 1961 at 3.20 p.m. The devastating fire led to the HDB public housing scheme. As of 2014, 82% of Singaporeans (including baby Ren and his family) live in HDB flats.

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station antique old fire engines

Antique fire engines are on display. They played roles in keeping people safe, and now retired they served as educational huge toys for children and grown-ups.

At modern level 2, your little ones can don on SCDF firefighter uniform and hat, or put off ‘fire’ thorugh a virtual fire window.

I appreciate many interactive stations that help children to learn about firefighting and rescue technology.

Baby Ren in a firefighter uniform reminds me on on Paddington Bear who was discovered in Paddington Station, London.

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station firefighters

Baby Ren looks like a trophy won by the fearless firefighters. Cheers to the handsome brothers and abang!

Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, & how to be free from it, that’s the point. Necessity of action takes away the fear of the act, and makes bold resolution the favorite of fortune.” ~ Francis Quarles

You may also want to do a virtual tour of the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery.

Outside the gallery is a souvenir shop with many toys of fire engines being displayed. These really make little boys like baby Ren very excited and happy!

Address: 62 Hill Street 638482 ; nearby MRT stations City Hall or Clarke Quay
Fee: free

What’s next?
♥ Fancy a bird’s eye view? a future night Tower Tour when baby Ren can climb steadily on his own.
♥ See also our other #travelxp & #ministory posts

ServicefromHeart travelxp Singapore Central Fire Station tower spiral staircase

Final words … Thank you very much firefighters! You are our heroes and heroines.

With love,

Postcards from Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Thanks to MRT Downtown Line (coded in blue), the first visit of baby Ren to Marina Bay Sands (MBS / 滨海湾金沙) was a realization. Except for the transport fare, the visit to The Shoppes (shopping mall) in MBS – the world’s most expensive building at US$ 5.5 – 5.7 billion (as of 2010) – is free.

“Everyday is a journey in our lives, and an MRT ride can be an interesting journey.”


Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

Spacious seats of MRT serving Downtown Line make us happy! Thank you MRT.

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

We took the MRT Downtown Line from Bugis via Promenade to Bayfront station.

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

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Designed by Moshe Safdie (an Israeli/Canadian architect) with an inspiration from card decks, MBS is a unique icon of Singapore. “Does it look like ancestral tablets (tombstones)?” a taxi driver once asked me. To me, it looks like an ancient Chinese scholar’s hat (古老的中国学者的帽子).

A canal inside the Marina Bay Sands reminds us on the Venice (Italy) and River Cambridge (England).

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

A tea break by the water side beneath the Rain Oculus created by Ned Kahn – famous for transforming an invisible aspect of nature into visible, is pleasing and relaxing. That day, I had a snack leftover that I bought from near Lavender MRT station whereas baby Ren had grape cuts and a bottle of breast milk.

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

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Luxurious brands … offer a pleasant opportunity for window shopping! They are sources of inspirations: the creative designs (创意设计), the careful attention to details (精心细节) and exquisite craftsmanship (精湛的工艺).


Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

A different kind of worlds …

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

Are you interested to hire baby Ren as your little model?

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

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I remember …

When baby Ren was in my belly, my maternal grandmother, Dad, Mom and I had a memorable early dinner at Ding Tai Fung (鼎泰豐), Marina Bay Sands. It was a good decision so that we did not have to queue for a table. I did not feel significantly inflated prices as compared to other outlets of Ding Tai Fung, given the posh location.

My family encouraged me to eat more xiaolongbao (小笼包) – my favorite dish. I also like the chilli oil dumplings.

Xiaolongbao was originally from Shanghai and Wuxi, China. Their mini sizes made them so delicate and cherishable to savor.

It is not only about the food, but also the people whom you dine with and the people who transform our food into food art.

“I choose to collect memories instead of things.” ~ Elena Levon


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What’s next?

1. visit Sands SkyPark that connects the 2 hotel towers and is large enough (1.2 hectare) to park four-and-a-half Airbus A380 jumbo jets. Plan your visit at the end of the afternoon before dusk to enjoy the view during daytime and at night. It costs a visitor SG$23 to get to the Skypark by high speed elevator of the middle tower. The ticketing office is not accessible by lift, and a friendly staff kindly offered to carry my pram / stroller, but in the end I decided to visit Sands SkyPark next time.

2. Alternatively, you can take the free elevator (Tower 3) to Ku DÉ Ta Lounge to enjoy some drinks and scenery of Singapore’s cityscape and skyline. PS: casual dress is not allowed, no shorts, slippers, singlets and tank tops plese.

3. swim @ The Infinite Pool on the 57th floor – the largest elevated pool in the world, which is only accessible to the hotel guests.

4. watch Wonder Full: Light Show and Water Show. Each show starts daily at 8pm and 9.30pm. On Friday and Saturday nights, there is another show at 11pm.
To watch the Water Show, be at the Marina Bay Sands side.
To watch the Light Show, cross the Bay.
Please remember to bring your tripod for taking blur-free photography / video.

Address: 10 Bayfront Ave Marina Bay Sands, Singapore 018956

Other travel posts that I love:
♥ Ku De Ta by Journeys of the Fabulist
♥ SkyPark Infinity Pool by Escape with Style
♥ Light and Water Show by Rosie and Edmund Tay
♥ our #travelxp posts

With love,

B for broccoli for #AtoZChallenge: cheese broccoli cauliflower recipe

Tell a story to little children how similar broccoli and cauliflower florets are to tree in the forest. Imagine that they are heroes who are going to rescue a beautiful princess. To find the princess, they have to finish eating both the florets of darker color broccoli and the lighter color cauliflower. These mini-tree-like vegetables are the secret why Prince Charming is so charming!

B for broccoli for #AtoZChallenge: cheese broccoli cauliflower recipe  by ServicefromHeart

Melted or grated cheese is a natural partner for broccoli and cauliflower. Mix with yogurt to achieve whiter color in appearance, I prefer melted cheese covering their florets. Don’t they look like snow-covered tree?

For #AtoZChallenge on 2014 April 02 Wed, I lovingly present a cheese broccoli cauliflower recipe by ServicefromHeart.

Servings: 2
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

♥ 3 cups broccoli florets
♥ 3 cups cauliflower florets
♥ 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
♥ 1 egg, hard-boiled, peeled, quartered
♥ 1/2 cup cheese, melted Parmesan/ feta
♥ 5 tbsp plain / Greek yogurt
♥ 1 tbsp sesame oil*
♥ 1 tbsp white sesame seeds*
♥ 1/2 tsp pepper

* For any concern of potential nut allergy, substitute sesame oil with olive oil and exclude sesame seeds.

1. Hard-boil egg. Cook the broccoli and cauliflower in boiling slightly salted water for about 3 minutes (for younger children with yet-to-complete set of teeth, cook slightly longer for softer florets). Refresh with cold water. Drain.
2. Warm sesame oil on top of boiling water. Mix cheese, sesame oil, sesame seeds and pepper. Then, add yogurt to the mixture.
3. Combine tomatoes, egg, blanched broccoli and cauliflower. Spoon the cheese mixture over them before serving.

♥ Besides egg, you can also use quails’ egg (substitute in 1:4 ratio of egg:quails’ eggs).
♥ Try naturally dyed eggs. Engage little children in this fun scientific experiment at home kitchen. It’s magical to see everyday eggs with white soft skin turns into a rainbow of pastel colors!

Other recipes that I love:
♥ Martha Stewart’s naturally dye eggs with turmeric (pastel yellow), red cabbage (pastel blue), beets (pink), vinegar.
♥ Shirley’s fusilli pasta with broccoli and anchovy sauce @ Køkken

With love,

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,

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

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,