The ABC’s of your next new hobby

The ABC’s of your next new hobby

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Okinawa

How’s that goal of dedicating home time solely to worthy pursuits working out? Probably just about as well as ours is. Been wondering how that bedroom wall would look in the latest trend color of Dusty Teal or Ancient Grain? Now’s the time to find out! Or could this be the perfect opportunity to take up a new hobby entirely? Here’s a list of pursuits, both new and old and from A to Z, to keep you occupied for the next 15 minutes or the rest of your life. Who knows, you just might discover a fresh pastime or a hidden talent!

Astronomy: The art of identifying stars can be traced back to many ancient civilizations, who used the knowledge gleaned from the skies to know when to plant their crops or prepare for the long winter ahead. Wondering how to begin an intergalactic voyage of your very own? The remarkable Stellarium is your online map to the stars. Described as a planetarium that runs on your web browser, users can enter their present locations to obtain a map of the skies as they appear at that very moment.

Birdwatching: Wouldn’t it be great to finally get to know the names of the species that inhabit the country you presently call home? A possible way to tackle this would be to take photos of the birds you observe with a smartphone and use Google image search to identify the species. Learn the bird’s name in both your native English and host country language. If there are no birds outside your window, consider building a birdfeeder. You’ve got time!

Calligraphy: The art of giving form to the written word in an expressive, harmonious, and skillful manner can be mastered without the benefit of specialized instruments; even your everyday ball-point pen can work in a pinch. Find a font online that appeals to you; open a Word doc, write out a sentence you find inspirational and do your best to copy it on paper.

Dessert making: Hone culinary skills by learning to make decadent treats inspired by your time in Europe. Eclairs, macarons, Baumkuchen, pastel de nata or perhaps even a semifreddo? Yum! Won’t your family love you?

Esperanto: This unique language belongs to no one nation but rather the world. Introduced way back in 1887 in hopes of bringing peace to the world by ensuring all could communicate with clarity, it has seen its fortunes rise and fall, and never really caught on as its inventor envisioned. What better way of gaining world citizen street cred than by rattling off a few words in Esperanto? The app from Duolingo will get you started.

French or Fulani braiding: Do you or a family member have long lush tresses, or at least hair long enough to hold a braid? Now’s the time to learn how to weave those gorgeous strands into true works of art. Be sure to photograph your efforts from back to front and sideways.

Gardening: A lack of space is no excuse for not having a few growing things in your midst. One single window box can hold several varieties of herbs, just as long as they all require the same sunny or shady environment. To combine beauty with good eating, choose such lookers as dill, Thai basil, spearmint or thyme. No window box? Tin cans or glass jars, crockery or even an old shoe can stand in as planters.

HIIT Training: High-intensity interval training is an exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with recovery periods of lesser intensity. With workout regimens that can be completed in less than 30 minutes, such training can be great means of incorporating exercise into a tight schedule. Use this downtime to discover which particular exercise strategy works best for you.

Ikebana: The Japanese art of flower arrangement traces its roots back to the 6th century, when Chinese missionaries introduced the ritual of offering flowers to the Buddha. In its most traditional form a triangular composition of three elements representing heaven, earth and man, modern interpretations of Ikebana may stray from that, but they keep their aesthetic of a search for balance amongst opposing elements. Plants and flowers of the season plucked from your very own garden and a simple vessel already lying about the home is all you need for your first efforts toward mastering this ancient art.

Journaling: We’re experiencing a unique place in history, and your thoughts might be all over the place. Start your very own journal to map out your present feelings and hopes for the future. You can surely do this on your computer or device, but putting pen to paper somehow makes the exercise more intimate.

Kaleidoscope construction: Got an empty toilet paper roll? Of course you do! This can serve as a body for your very own, do-it-yourself kaleidoscope. Building one of these cool classic toys is actually a lot easier than you might think, and you don’t even need mirrors to make one. Mylar sheets, tin foil or even the shiny insides of a chip bag can be used to create the three-sided prism that’s critical to the success of this easy craft.

Lampshade art: Building a classically styled lampshade from scratch is hard, so consider instead breathing new life into an old one. For the simplest take ever on this endeavor, dig out an old beloved pair of patterned tights with runs in the toes and cut out one of the legs to form a tube slightly bigger than the shade in question. Craft a bow or carnation from the remainder of the material and further embellish the shade with ribbons or rickrack. Mini-shades you’ve put your own touches to look great atop a wine glass with a tealight candle.

Mixology: instead of learning to make every cocktail on the International Bartenders Association Official Cocktail List, why not hone your skills at making your very own signature cocktail? Choose the spirit you like best and refine your ingredients and mixing skills until you’ve achieved perfection in your chosen concoction.

Noodle jewelry crafting: There’s more to pasta crafts than gluing shells on a box. All those shapes and sizes you stocked up on beforehand are all you need for a necklace so pretty even an adult will want to wear it. The trick to creating a standout object is amping up the bland yellow hues of macaroni. Pastel crayons or watercolor dips will do the trick, or just use the dyes from your next Easter egg coloring project – try dipping to achieve a gradient effect. Alternate the macaroni pieces with wooden beads or what have you and you’ve got a true work of art on your hands.

Oenology: There’s much more to the study of wine than uncorking a bottle and attempting to give a name to the scents and tastes. Train your senses by means of creating a blind sensory experience. Into identical cups, place items with some of the distinct smells encountered in wine. To enhance your sense of red wine, incorporate elements such as black pepper, vanilla, honey, coffee, whiskey or chocolate. To get to grips with whites, use tropical fruits, green peppers, or violet, rose or jasmine essential oils in your homemade sniff kit. Of course, it’s not so much of a challenge to identify the elements when you’re the one who’s assembled the scents, so spouses and members of the same household might want to organize this challenge for one another.

Photography and photo editing: Most smartphones these days have a top-notch camera built right in, but have you ever taken the time to read the user’s manual? Whatever brand your phone, chances are an online guide to its specific functions will unlock features you never even knew it possessed. The other side of the coin is the photo editor function, which can turn a snap taken on a day of low light and overcast skies into a thing of beauty. Or take things to the next level by installing an app that will allow you to edit like a pro. You can even learn how to remove flash-caused red-eye from photos taken ages ago.

Quizzing: There are countless ways to go about quizzing. A family quiz can be made by giving all family members a set amount of time to research and write out a given number of questions falling into a certain category. Each family member then asks his or her question in turn and doles out markers to all those with the correct answer. Writing down the answers is a way to keep all players honest. Rather play online? is just one of many websites you can turn to for that.

Renegade dance challenge: Learn the moves to this viral dance craze that first took off in the autumn of 2019, which probably makes it seems as old and classic as the waltz to younger generations. Choreographed by a 14-year-old Georgia teen by the name Jalaiah Harmon, the 15-second dance is made up of smooth arm and upper body movements to the sound of “Lottery (Renegade)” by rapper and songwriter K Camp. Once the moves have been mastered courtesy of the numerous online tutorials out there, users post videos of themselves doing the dance to their TikTok accounts, although that’s optional. Once you’ve mastered Renegade, endless other viral dance crazes await mastery. Explicit lyrics alert!

Soap carving: Soap is precious these days, but you can always save the shards from your creation as you go. This project demands minimum supplies: an ordinary bar of soap and a knife and refining tools. Using a plastic knife makes this activity child-friendly, and the softer the soap, the easier it is to carve. The more intricate detail work can be performed with something as simple as a toothpick or paperclip.

Toy voyaging: Military families often have no shortage of friends living overseas, which can be to your advantage when taking on this challenge. A small cuddly toy or other mascot is photographed enjoying landmarks or activities typical to his home turf. It’s then packed up and shipped on to the next family or individual, who takes photos of it next to their local sights before packing it up and sending on to its next temporary guardian. Mailing the toy along with the mailing addresses of who gets it next before it makes its way back to you gives you control over the process, but just setting it loose with your own address and an ultimate date for when you’d like him or her back works too. Track your inanimate friend’s journey on Facebook or Instagram.

Upcycling: Despite the trendy terminology, the process of breathing new life into an old item is nothing new. Not only old and worn-out pieces of furniture can benefit from upcycling. Jewelry boxes, clothing, kitchen utensils, and handbags get a new lease on life with a lick of paint, decoupage and snips of the scissors.

Voice training: A free online course on how to become a better singer probably won’t get you ready in time to compete in The Voice 2021, but by exercising your vocal cords for a few minutes each day, you might just get up the nerve to sing Karaoke once the bars are open again.

Windchime crafting: Mismatched cutlery and one-of-a-kind dishware? Give it a new life by reshaping it into beautiful wind chimes. Grab a hammer and flatten out the spoons and forks, then using wire, twine or fishing line, attach them to a plate with super-strength glue. To avoid the tricky task of punching holes into a plate, the holes of a disused colander make it easy to string up the utensils. No silverware to sacrifice? Try using old keys, washers, spare bicycle parts…you get the idea.

Yogurt making: Making your own homemade yogurt might prove easier than you think. All you need for this culinary endeavor is some good-quality milk, a little yogurt to use as a starter and time. There are many ways to crack this nut, but the basic process includes heating the milk, cooling it down, adding pre-made yogurt with live cultures to serve as the starter, and incubating the resulting mass for at least half a day.

Zen meditation: This meditation technique rooted in Buddhist psychology is all about the regulation of one’s attention and being in the moment. Practitioners usually adopt the lotus or other sitting position while focusing their attention inward, perhaps by counting breaths, and think about – well, nothing. One of the goals of Zen meditation is to help us to better access our unconscious minds, which fosters creativity and increases awareness about how to go about attaining our goals. Meditation, in general, is a great de-stressor, meaning there’s never been a better time for some Zen in your life.

Which hobbies and activities are keeping you and your loved ones sane these days?


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