Winter Challenge: Learn a New Skill

Skillshare Online Learning Community

Do you ever get the winter blues on these cold, dark days? I usually do, but this year it has actually felt kind of cozy to chill out at home — reading, cooking, exercising (!) and watching Frasier reruns.

I’ve also been getting really into Skillshare, an online learning community of more than 2,500 classes. They cover a huge range of topics, such as design, photography and food. You can watch a class anytime, anywhere. My first one was about wine, and Caroline, Lexi and Stella signed up, too. Here’s what we learned…

“Buy Smarter, Taste More: Getting Started With Wine”

Gary Vaynerchuk Wine Class on Skillshare

Joanna: A cool part of Skillshare is that many of their classes are taught by rockstars in their fields. You can take a lettering lesson with Jessica Hische, who’s worked on the opening sequences of Wes Anderson movies, a marketing class with bestselling finance author Seth Godin, and learn how to make the perfect cup of coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee’s barista-in-chief.

My hour-long wine class focused on the basics of buying and tasting wine. Gary Vaynerchuk led the class, and his expert, enthusiastic, straightforward delivery made it feel playful and unintimidating. For example, when talking about tasting notes, he compared flavors to Big League Chew and Skittles. He also suggested “biting a piece of bark” to help better identify the oak flavors of wine! He has dozens of great tips (serve nice bottles of white wine at room temperature, $12-18 is the sweet price spot for quality entertaining wine, screw caps should not be judged and what you shouldn’t do when picking out a bottle).

“Show Us Your Balls: Meatball Making With the Meatball Shop”

Skillshare Meatball Shop Class

Skillshare Meatball Shop Class

Lexi: Five minutes into this video class, I paused it, opened up a new browser tab and Googled to see if Daniel Holzman, the co-founder and executive chef of the Meatball Shop (and my Skillshare instructor) was single. (I am not, mind you.) But he was so cute and charming and so meatball-knowledgeable — at one point he looks at the camera, while forming a meatball, and says “I’m not even watching. I’m looking straight ahead and these balls are perfectly round” — that I was ready to set him up with every available friend I know. Just listen to the way he says “ri-cot-ta cheese” and you’ll see what I’m saying. What’s more, he helped me learn several things I’ve always wondered about, including what kind of olive oil is best for tomato sauce, how to sauté diced onions so they cook evenly, the “magic ratio” for the ingredients of any kind of meatball and which tool guarantees perfectly sized balls: an ice cream scoop!

Three Photography Classes


Skillshare photography class

Stella: Like many people, I use my camera to document all the big and little moments of my life. And since moving to New York last summer, I’ve been trying to get better at photography so I can capture my new home (and hopefully convince my friends from Missouri to move here). Photography is one of Skillshare’s biggest categories and you can take classes on seemingly every aspect of shooting and editing, including specific software like Photoshop and Lightroom. So, I watched three different lessons by photo masters and learned about street portraits, food photography and DSLR basics. I love how Skillshare’s creative classes allow for direct interaction with classmates and instructors, who critique your assignments and boost your confidence.

Calligraphy I: Writing in Classic Modern Script



Caroline: I took an intro calligraphy class, taught by the wise, friendly Bryn Chernoff, founder of Paperfinger. I sat rapt with my special pen and listened to her talk, which felt more like hanging out with a friend than a teacher. Many times, I’ve received a wedding invitation, and long after the blessed event, let the envelope clutter up my counter for longer than it should. Would I ever be capable of producing the playful-yet-sophisticated scrawl that made my address seem SO MUCH FANCIER than it is? While I wouldn’t yet recommend hiring me to hand letter your invites, it was really fun to learn the techniques behind a new skill.

Ordinarily, you can sign up (and take as many classes as you’d like) for $10/month. But here’s a bonus for Cup of Jo readers: Skillshare is offering three months for just $0.99 through Jan. 31. Go here to redeem it. Thank you so much, Skillshare!

Which topic would you choose?

(Top photo by Julia Robbs for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Skillshare, an online learning community whose motto is “the future belongs to the curious.” Thank you so much for supporting the brands that support Cup of Jo.)

  1. thanks for awesome article!! I really appreciated.

  2. Roxana thank you for the inspiration!
    After your post I signed up in the platform, took a million lessons and decided to teach mine too. Cause all this inspiration and fun is contagious.
    Here it if you are interested: It is a little guide on how to germinate avocado seeds in less than a month (most of times it takes 3-4).

    Best, Despoina

  3. Thank you for this post! I went on the platform, started taking classes, and loved it. Then I saw an offer for a teaching workshop, and decided to try and teach myself.

    Here’s my class, it’s free!

    The class is about making a social issue documentary. :)

  4. I absolutely LOVE this, I’m just doing a photography course and I have to say it has made winter nights at home so much more enjoyable!

    Thanks for sharing, as ever a brilliant post x

  5. Just signed up and I´m really excited! This site seems like greatness :D

  6. I am so thrilled with this! Thank you for the 3-month offer, Jo. I signed up right away! Can’t wait to check out these classes.

  7. This is so amazing! I just signed up for the .99, 3 months and have already saved so many classes! It’s such a fun way to remind myself what I’m interested in when I’m so early in my career! And learning new skills. Currently looking forward to a weekend of watching those classes you four suggested! :)

  8. I love this! The gloomy days are killing my motivation. All I want to do is lay in bed all day, which is not good being that I just started my own business and blog so Im working from home a lot. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Kimberly says...

    This is a random question about the picture above your sofa, could I get the details of who and where you purchased it from? It’s lovely!

  10. This is perfect hahah!! Im learning all about the ins and outs of computers!!! I just started my own blog and this was my goal for the winter!! Perfect timing!!