Many people resolve to take up a new hobby in the new year, and with the country in the midst of a second lockdown, there’s never been a better time to try something new.
New research by online florist Serenata Flowers has revealed that half of British women have taken up a new hobby since the pandemic began in March last year, with the most popular new hobbies listed as cooking (34 percent), baking (31 percent) and gardening (26 percent).
Caroline is the owner of the School Run Cafe in Caythorpe, and has shared a simple recipe and her top tips for novice chefs and bakers on how to get the best out of your cakes.
Caroline's easy Victoria Sponge
200g caster sugar
200g self raising flour
1tsp vanilla extract
Raspberry or strawberry jam (approx 5 tbsp)
Fresh double cream
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180c (160 fan).
2. Mix together the margarine and sugar, ideally with an electric mixer or hand mixer until the colours changes to almost white and the texture is fluffy.
3. Add the eggs one at a time with a little of the flour until all the eggs are mixed in.
4. Add the rest of the flour slowly using a very slow speed on the mixer.
5. Add the vanilla essence.
6. Grease two 20cm cake tins and split the mixture equally between the tins.
8.Bake for around 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Leave to cool completely.
9. Once the cakes are cooled, spoon the jam onto one half and spread, whip the cream until light and stiff and then add on top of the jam. Sandwich together and sprinkle the top with a little caster sugar.
- When baking, try to use a baking margarine such as Stork and make sure your ingredients are at room temperature.
- When creaming the margarine and sugar, when you think it’s done, it probably isn’t! Give it another couple of minutes, this will make your cake light and fluffy.
- When you add your eggs and flour, don’t worry if it starts to look a bit curdled. This is often a sign that your ingredients were cold, it should turn out fine once baked.
Caroline added: "My favourite tip is be sure to lick the spoon when you have finished mixing and your cake is in the oven! It’s the best bit!"
After seeing everyone pull together to help those in need in 2020, maybe this is the year that you decide to volunteer your time for a local charity.
One such not-for-profit organisation that is desperate for more volunteers to join their ranks is the LIVES First Responders, based in Horncastle, whose numbers of emergency volunteer first-aiders were greatly depleted during the last lockdown.
Chief executive Nikki Cooke said: “We’re always on the lookout for more volunteers and for people to fundraise for us. We had to cancel all of our fundraising events last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and if anyone wants to do some fundraising for us we’d be so grateful.”
LIVES are also in need of more First Responders, who volunteer their time to attend an emergency in those critical first few minutes before paramedics arrive.
To be a First Responder, you need to be over 18 and have a reasonable level of fitness as the medical kit bags can be heavy and you need to be able to perform CPR for at least two minutes.
If anyone would like to fundraise for LIVES this year, or consider becoming a First Responder, email [email protected] or visit their website at https://lives.org.uk/ to find out more.
To challenge your brain, there can be little more fulfilling and rewarding than learning a new language.
If you’ve always had it in your head to brush up on the French or German you learned at school, or start learning a brand new language from scratch, then this latest lockdown could be the best time to do it.
Kate Sydney, English Language lecturer at Boston College, has offered her three simple tips for learning a new language:
To help with the reading aspect of your new language, keep a magazine in the language you are learning available to pick up at any time you have a spare five minutes.
Write a diary in the language you are learning, or create a word diary noting the new words you have learnt recently.
Speaking and listening can be boosted by joining a class or social group that has people that speak the language you are learning, even if it is online you can still chat to them and practice your language skills.
She added: "There are many apps available to download on your phone where you can listen to stories and articles in the language you are learning, watch TV programmes with subtitles on or develop your language skills through specific language apps.
"At the college, we offer English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) for those learners who wish to learn English as a second language as well as introductory adult short courses on other languages throughout the academic year."
If taking on something as involved as learning a new language is a little too much for you to take on at the moment, why not take advantage of your time spent at home in lockdown to do more reading?
Nicola Rogers, partnership manager for Skegness and other Lincolnshire Libraries, gives us her top tips for new year reading:
- Set yourself a goal and keep track: Whether its one a week or one a month, set yourself a target and keep track of how you are doing.
- Remember its reading for pleasure: If you’re not enjoying a book you don’t have to finish it, especially if its making you miserable. There is a reader for every book, but sometimes its not you so don’t be afraid to move on.
- Incorporate reading time into your routine: By bringing reading into your daily routine, you’re more likely to keep your reading resolution. Dedicate half your lunch hour to a couple of chapters or, instead of scrolling through social media, take your book to bed instead.
- Read with your ears: Listening to audio books is not cheating – we all take on information in different ways and so maybe audio books are the answer for you. They also let you multitask and are perfect for last thing at night.
- Try something new: Don’t let your reading prejudices get in the way of you finding your next great read. Keep an open mind and actively mix it up by trying different genres, authors, fiction, non-fiction and so on.
- Talk to others: Share your love of reading and find out what your friends and family are reading and get their recommendations. Read reviews and see what takes your fancy.
- Use your local library: Why would you turn down access to thousands of free books? If you are not already a member, you can join Lincolnshire Libraries for free and instantly get access to thousands of free reads.