Character & Soul, Self-Improvement

The Best Way To Beat Stress – Deborah Tan

I hate to admit this but I’m an out-of-control workaholic. As long as there is an Internet connection, I am there checking my email, Material World’s Facebook Page, and trying to write on my iPhone. I once wrote a 1,000-word email debrief to an ex-colleague using my phone so yes, I’m that crazy.

Project #2: Orange Rind & Raisins Scones

Project #2: Orange Rind & Raisins Scones

Vanessa asked me a couple of weeks back how I manage to keep going on so little rest. My answer was NOT a good one. I told her, “The thought that there is work to be done keeps me going. I live to work.”

But I know I need to learn how to decompress. Most importantly, I need something that will keep me away from the computer and my phone. After having considered many options, from going back to doing hot yoga to knitting, I decided on BAKING. Reasons?

1. Baking gets your hands dirty. When your hands are covered in dough and butter, you can’t touch your gadgets.

2. There are so many steps and instructions to follow, I cannot afford to get distracted. That means, baking does not allow me to multi-task.

3. It’s an activity that rewards the participant with a great sense of achievement. When Denise said, “Maybe your hidden talent is baking” to me on Thursday, I think my chest puffed up with pride just a teeny weeny bit.

Project #4: "Ugly" cakes

Project #4: “Ugly” cakes

Of course, like every novice, I had my fair share of hits and misses. My first project was Buttermilk Biscuits – the type they serve with fried chicken. I forgot to sift the flour and the entire batch turned out heavy and stony. My second project, Orange Rind & Raisins Scones, fared better. The boyfriend devoured eight of the 12 I made and Vanessa finished the one I managed to save for her in less than 10 minutes. The third project, Cheese Scones, was an EPIC fail. The fourth, Dark Chocolate Cake with Cointreau Icing, was tasty but turned out really ugly.

With my fifth project tonight, I think I have performed a personal best, enough for me to want to share it with you. It’s Dried Fruit Scones (yes, I think I am quite gifted in making scones, actually). The entire thing took me less than 30 minutes to make, so if you are up for a spot of baking, try this!

Project #5: Dried Fruit Scones

Project #5: Dried Fruit Scones

1. A quarter bar of unsalted butter, cut up into small pieces (roughly 50g)
2. 2 cups of self-raising flour
3. 3 teaspoons of baking powder
4. 1/2 a teaspoon of salt
5. 30g of sugar
6. 1/2 a cup of dried fruit – like the ones used in fruit cake
7. 1 cup of full cream milk
8. A little bit of beaten egg mixture for glazing

1. As the key to good scones is to make sure the butter doesn’t melt when you cut it into the flour, I like to cut the butter up before I do anything, then put it back into the fridge until I need it.
2. If you’re unsure whether your scones are done, take a knife and gently tap on one while they are still in the oven. It should give off a “hollow” sound.

1. Heat your oven to 400F or 205C.

2. Use whatever butter is left on the wrapper and grease up your baking tray.

3. Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl.

4. Add the salt. Stir up the dry stuff a little.

5. Take the butter out of the fridge and rub it into the flour mixture using ONLY THE TIPS of your FINGERS until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

6. Mix in the sugar and the dried fruit. At this point, you need to work quickly so the “crumbs” stay as cold as possible.

7. Pour in the milk A BIT AT A TIME, using a spatula or a wooden spoon to make a soft dough. It should NOT be too wet. Work quickly. Once the whole thing comes together, STOP mixing.

8. Sprinkle a bit of flour onto your work surface and pour the dough on top of it. Using your hand (NOT A ROLLING PIN) to make a round pie about 2cm thick.

9. Coat a sharp knife (I use one of those herb cutters) with flour and cut the pie into 8 small triangles.

10. Set them on the baking tray and coat the top with some egg mixture.

11. Pop the tray into the oven for 15 minutes or until the scones turn golden brown.

12. Cool on a wire rack before eating.

You can eat these with some cold butter (my favourite way) or with some clotted cream and jam (which I find too sweet for my taste).

Who will get to eat these scones? Not the boyfriend. Tomorrow, Denise and Vanessa will be over at my place to finish up a project so they will be the lucky ones.

Meanwhile, if you have a great recipe for baking … do share it with me! Or, how do you beat stress? Take our survey here and share your secret with us!

Happy weekend, everyone!

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits and wants to know how to make a good cake icing. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle

So You Think You Know Everything About Your iPhone Camera? – Tan Lili

Well, I thought I did … until recently, when Vanessa and I discovered some really cool features we never knew existed. Trust me; you’d start looking at your iPhone camera in a whole new appreciative light, too.

With all the features we discovered, it’s no wonder the iPhone camera is the most popular camera in the Flickr community – yes, even against the DSLRs! In fact, the top three cameras right now are of the various iPhone models.



So, without further ado …

The Object That Can’t Stop Moving
You know how you can simply tap to focus? You can also tap and hold to lock the focus – perfect for capturing moving objects! For instance, you’re trying to take a picture of your very fidgety cat. Each time your cat moves, you have to tap your screen to get the focus back from the background to your cat, right?

Here’s a simpler technique: tap and hold the location of your cat on your phone. (Once you’ve successfully locked the focus, you’ll see “AE/AF Lock” at the bottom of the screen.) This way, even when you wave your camera around because your kitty can’t stay still, you’ll still get the perfect shot!

The Secret Remote Shutter Release
Besides tapping the Camera icon to take a picture, you can also press the volume-up button on the side. Okay, maybe that is old news to you … How about this: The volume-up button on your iPhone headphones also acts as a shutter release! Gah! All this while, I could’ve taken a group selfie without looking ridiculous (though the jutting collarbone effect from all that clavicle stretching can be kinda slimming)!

Another great thing about this feature is that it’s great for stability. Simply prop your phone up against a sturdy object on a flat surface, plug your headphones into the headphone jack, fire up your camera app and change it to self-portrait mode, position yourselves to fit the camera screen, grab the headphone cable, and click!

group selfie

The Function No One Bothers Using
You don’t need a fancy-schmancy DSLR to capture a beautiful wide-angle shot. Activate the Panorama mode (under Options) on your camera app, then move your phone steadily from left to right, following the arrow steadily as much as you can. It intelligently stitches images together, so it not only captures moving objects clearly but also gives you a seamless wide-angle shot. Great for capturing nature and skylines.


Did you know you can also capture panoramic shots from right to left, as well as bottom-up and top-down? For the former, simply tap the arrow to reverse the direction. If you want to capture a vertical panoramic shot, like a really tall building, hold your phone horizontally then pan it bottom-up or top-down.

The Photo-Editing Apps You Gotta Have
To date, there are over 900,000 apps available on the App Store; more than 20,000 of them are photography apps. Here are two awesome ones: Mextures and TouchRetouch (both $1.28 each on the App Store).

Mextures is quite possibly the most amazing photo-editing app I’ve seen. It has over 70 original textures (with really awesome names) for you to choose from, all of which specially made for photographers by photographers. The coolest part? You can add more than one texture to your photo to achieve your desired blended effect, and make changes to your added textures at any point, simply by scrolling through your layers. You can even save a custom edit for future use! Mind = blown.

Mextures collage

With TouchRetouch, you can magically erase objects (or people) from a photo without distorting the final image. It cleverly clones the area surrounding the offending object (or person), so it looks picture-perfect – just the way you want it! Perfect for getting rid of blemishes (or an ex).

TouchRetouch collage

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as (now, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

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Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle

iWatch Features: A Wish List – Vanessa Tai

"Wow, the iWatch is a total game changer!"

“Wow, the iWatch is a total game changer!”

Rumours of Apple launching an iWatch have been spreading like wildfire, and it seems like these rumours aren’t unfounded. According to legit news sources like Forbes and CNET, Apple has been going on a trademarking spree with the term “iWatch,” leaving speculators to conclude this gadget is likely to be launched within the next year.

I know what you’re thinking … who still wears wristwatches these days? The only people I know who still wear watches are either into sports or are collectors of luxury timepieces. Then again, the iPad had its detractors too, and look where it is now. So what sort of features would make the iWatch as ubiquitous as its smartphone and tablet counterparts? Here’s a personal wish list:

1. Appointment Scheduler
Yes, I know I can do this with the Calendar app on my iPhone or iPad, but what I have in mind is a program where I can record my appointments with a single spoken sentence. Plus, the program will give me a daily rundown of scheduled appointments so I don’t ever double-book or worse, forget an appointment.

2. One Ticket Fits All
Movie tickets? Concert tickets? Boarding passes? Who needs all that when you’ve got your iWatch? Here’s how it works: buy your tickets online, and your purchase information will be stored in your iWatch. Just flash your watch and enjoy your movie/concert/trip!

3. Information on the Go
This is kind of like a combination of Google and Shazam (the app that recognises music playing around you.) Say you’re on a camping trip and you chance upon an unfamiliar plant … wave your watch over it and ta-dah, you find out it’s a Dionaea muscipula (commonly known as the venus flytrap.) Or you’re meeting somebody whose name you can’t seem to place. Discreetly wave your watch over them and watch their LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media profiles flash across your iWatch screen.

And since we’re dreaming, we might as well dream big, right?

4. Time Travel
C’mon, it’s 2014. Somebody should have come up with the technology by now!

What are some of the features you hope the iWatch will have? Tell us in the Comments section below!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. She yearns for time travel so that she can fulfill a lifelong dream of walking among dinosaurs. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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