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: http://skl.sh/1XGfDJ6 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! http://skl.sh/2189rzA

    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!!

  11. Krista says...

    JO! Where did you get the black/white throw that’s on your couch? LOVE it and I need something similar to protect from kids.

  12. Meggles says...

    Joanna, this is my favorite website you’ve featured. I live in N. MA and it is currently 20 degrees. I get the winter glums, big time! Also, I’m trying to get over a looong bug, and feeling crappy. So thanks for this pick-me-up! (Your blog is a favorite oasis for me..thanks!)

    Megan xoxo

  13. Rebecca says...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is an awesome post. The mystery of the Meatball Shop man reminds me of the hot farmer not too long ago…

  14. Em says...

    Thank you for partnering with Skillshare for an AMAZING offer! I just passed it on to all of the other ladies at my work. Can’t wait to dig in and learn some new things! :)

  15. Kelsey says...

    This is the best thing everrrrrr.

  16. I can barely wait to check this out. How fantastic! But which course to choose?! Decisions…

  17. So flipping excited about the existence of this website! What an exciting way to get exciting about learning new things in 2016!

  18. Amy says...

    Thank you! I signed up! I’m excited about the chopping class, the wine one you mentioned, the resume builder, and the vodka cocktail one. Yay for learning something instead of a Netflix binge.

  19. GoldenMoon says...

    Thank you! Just took the basic knife skills class and have new skills to practice in the kitchen + realized I’ve been destroying my knife blades by dragging them on my cutting board wrong! Thanks for this great skill connector. I’m tired of always acquiring more stuff and always reading about stuff… skill building is high on my list. What a gift!

  20. Gina says...

    So cool! I’m taking a couple of classes through Coursera (poetry & design innovation) & also just got a ukulélé which I’m using Youtube videos to learn to play. Most fun I’ve had in ages!

  21. Amanda says...

    Caroline- you definitely will be able to write just like the teacher! I took a calligraphy class in college (to fulfill an a Art credit requirement) about 8-9 years ago. I ended up doing my sister’s wedding invitation and my secretaries daughter’s invitations, they came out lovely and was a nice and calming thing to do…! Have fun!

  22. I’m so going to sign up for this! Thanks for sharing! This winter I’m working on perfecting my baking-I can bake, I just need to be better :)

    Allison http://allisons-eye.com/

  23. Cassie Feerer says...

    My husband has a Skillshare video in the Design section! It’s such an awesome site. We are fans, for sure. And what a great offer! I’m telling everyone I know to sign up!

  24. Diana says...

    Just finished the coffee course with Blue Bottle and it was great! Can’t wait to update my coffee tools and try making a cup!

  25. wow this looks awesome!
    i was already planning to learn calligraphy in the next few months. this will be a great way to learn. thank you joanna and caroline!

  26. Love this, thanks!

  27. Sarah says...

    Long time reader, first time commenter. I just signed up and am SO excited to get started, there are so many amazing classes to choose from. Thanks Jo!

  28. Hey! Joanna! I’m a manager at a wine shop in Cincinnati, Ohio and we carry the broadside cabernet pictured in your first photo! How did you like it?

  29. Tiffany says...

    This rules! Thanks Joanna and team! Super excited to learn how to do everything ever!

  30. Jodie says...

    Now this is my kind of sponsored post! I just took the Product Photography course and it was very informative. Thanks for the recommendation and for the discount!

  31. Rosanne says...

    Thank you for this incredible offer Jo. Just signed up and can’t wait to start my first class.

  32. Yishey says...

    I love the idea of learning a skill this winter. What a lovely way to brighten up an otherwise not-so-fun time of year! Just signed up – thanks Jo!

  33. I love learning new skills! This year my friend is teaching me how to knit and I’m going to practice drawing– I’ve never felt I’m good at it but 27 is as good an age as any to start!

  34. Nina says...

    Oh! What a wonderful idea. I can think of tons of things I’d like to know more about, including meatball making for my fav italian wedding soup. I’m signing up right now. Thanks to the “Jo” crew and to skillshare for the fantastic offer!

  35. JoAnna says...

    This is SO random, but I’m obsessed with your torn-knee jeans. Where are they from??

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you! they are from madewell xoxo

  36. Amazing. I so want to have time for this but I’m trying to write a book and plan a wedding and have a job all at the same time. Some day!!

  37. bridget says...

    i definitely want to try the photography classes! what a cool resource.

    one functional note for joanna and team – i have noticed in the last week or two, when i come to your site i frequently find that the page is stuck and can’t be scrolled down. when i click into the top article, it remains stuck and i have to close the window and come back to it. not sure if it’s my mac or if others have experienced this, so i thought i’d make a note! love your site every day!

  38. Colleen says...

    What an affordable offer!

  39. Janet says...

    Jo, you made me an offer I can’t refuse! Thanks for informing us about this great community and getting us to expand our horizons. Can’t wait to gain some more skillzzz!

  40. Lena says...

    Thank you so much! I just signed up!

  41. What a fun and creative way to kick off the new year. Thanks for the generous offer. I signed up and can’t wait to get started.

  42. Katie says...

    Cool! I don’t really care for watching videos, but this sounds like a great way to learn from the pros!

    I’ve enrolled in an Extreme Aerial Conditioning class at a trapeze studio! It’s fun but SO HARD! Those girls make it look effortless, while my poor muscles are getting shredded. I’m taking it alone, so I’m also working out getting out of my comfort zone in that way. So far so good!

  43. andra says...

    i love this place (cupofjo.com). thank you!

  44. Such an incredible and generous offer.
    I’m signing up!

  45. I signed up — I had never heard of Skillshare, but I’ve been looking for something like this! I have a bunch of things I’d love to learn more about and get better at, and many of them are listed as classes on Skillshare! I feel like that’s a much better use of my time than watching crappy TV after my kids are in bed. ;)

  46. Prudence says...

    This is the first time I heard of such an interactive online learning community and I think it’s a brilliant idea! Busy women can pick up new skills without the need to travel and at a reasonable price too! Thanks so much for sharing!


  47. I got to meet Gary Vaynerchuk last year and it was a great experience! I’ve started teaching myself more and more about wine because my family actually has a little vineyard and I thought it’d be a shame not to know much about it. Well, that has changed now. I want to learn to do calligraphy but also how to sew and knit. I suppose I’ve just got to get started with it!

  48. Jo says...

    I signed up, too! Thank you for sharing, Joanna, Lexi, and Caroline! You ladies totally rock. This is just what I needed. :-)

    (Yes, I’m the nutty mom who’s still up working at this hour… Well, wrapping up now and thought I’d stop by your blog. :-) 4 more hours till the younger one wakes! Woo hoo!)

  49. Hi Joanna! What a nice article! I’m willing for the weekend to begin in order to sign up :)
    Btw, I LOVE the huge photograph behind you on 1st the pic of this post. Could you share with me where is it from? Thanks in advance :)

  50. aman says...

    OH MY BOB!
    Joanna! Thank you!
    this is the best :)
    Just signed up and telling my family to check it out too..

  51. Thanks so much for sharing! I signed up with your code and I already told my family about it.

    It feels like I’m in college again. It’s wonderful. When we start working full-time, it’s easy to get into a routine of eat, work, exercise, and sleep (repeat x5). Now, I’m going to try and devote an hour everyday to learning something new.

  52. I just started FutureLearn, which is an a series of totally free courses that cover subjects like filmmaking, astrology, food science and even a little King Richard III! All courses are delivered from universities from all over the UK and courses are usually 3 to 4 weeks in length and take a few hours a week. You can pay for a certificate at the end too but other than that it’s all free! http://www.futurelearn.com

  53. Vicki T says...

    I absolutely LOVED (loved loved loved!!) this post! And the blog in general, I just absolutely ah-dore it! I know I sound like I’m gushing … cause I totally am. I’m stil technically a teenager (until March, at least) and am not even close to becoming a mother or being in a relationship, but I feel like your blog is good education for us younguns (as in single, babyless people.. I know there are teenager girls out there who are not only in relationships but probably had 2 babies by my age). I love how you guys made this post together; and Lexi, the way you pointed out what that dude said about the meatballs, totally made my day! ‘He looked straight ahead..’ Hahahaha so great! ( by the way, this is actually my first comment I’ve ever written on a blog … any blog… But you all are just so amazing..couldn’t help it :) ) and signing up too!

  54. Christina says...

    What a great idea to break the winter blues! Thank you!! Already started watching!

  55. Julia says...

    That’s perfect timing! Thank you for showing us this – just what I need.

  56. Nina says...

    Wow, what an awesome special! im gonna do it!

  57. Frasier reruns get me through the dark period of Jan-March! Hard as i try, the beginning of a new year always gets me a little depressed. I did sign up for a class in Japanese woodblock printing and it’s helping a lot. And so does exercise. Are you running outside? Because in this weather, the treadmill is as far as i can make it….

    • Japanese woodblock printing sounds awesome!

  58. Melissa Stafford says...

    Ha! Fraiser reruns are my favorite past-time right now :)
    Love these ideas for learning a new skill. I’ve always looked at the skillshare classes — this might be the inspiration I needed to actually take one!

  59. Jillian says...

    OMG Thank you for the special! I signed up immediately and just started the Learn to Think Like A Designer course.

    • On behalf of all the designers of the world, we thank you.

  60. Aga says...

    Learning a new skill is always so much fun! Although I do i think that taking a wine class is usually just an excuse to drink lol :)

  61. okay, i should probably learn a new skill… but frasier reruns are my FAV!

  62. I need to get better at knitting — I’m still doing the simple stitch and making a scarf, but I want to do more! So maybe this site will help!

  63. i have a class on skillshare about how to juggle! it’s a bit out of the ordinary, but it’s the only thing i knew how to teach. http://skl.sh/1Q2Da6b

  64. Nina says...

    So cool! I’ll check it out. My husband and I are dealing with some serious winter blues. We feels like its been so much harder since our kids were born. They nap from 2-4 then wake up to darkness. Blech.

  65. Sounds like fun and love the idea of online class that is fun and I can still chill with my husband in the evenings!


  66. I love Skillshare! I am keen to look at that DSLR basics lesson. I really love the fashion illustration classes by Katie Rodgers and also Elizabeth Olwen’s pattern design =D

  67. eg says...

    wait, so Lexi, IS he single?

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      I only know what the Internet can tell me, but it seems like he might be! Either way, he is adorable.

    • escondista says...

      I think he’s dating a Brooklynite named Ginger Warburton.

  68. Signed up! Thanks so much for the code! I think I saved half of their classes too – it looks like I’ll be busy for the next six months :o).

  69. Michelle Carr says...

    Joanna great picture of you- you look so cool!! Wondering where your light scones are from??

  70. Diana says...

    I signed up! Enrolled in the calligraphy class. Also looking forward to landscape photography, indian cooking, brewing coffee, and picking out wine!

  71. No way! My husband and I were thinking of signing up for Skillshare and couldn’t decide to take the plunge. Now that we have a good review and a promo code, the decision is easy. Thanks!


  72. I just got a new camera, so I definitely need a photography course! My boyfriend loves things like these – he has a watchmaking class coming up soon!


  73. This is exactly what I was looking for! I definitely want to learn a new skill this winter! It’ll keep me out of trouble! =P

  74. Jessica @ {Black.White.Yellow.} says...

    Perfect timing! I’m so excited to try some classes!

  75. di says...

    what a great idea for cold winter months!

  76. Sara says...

    Hi there,
    Great idea, as usual! How long will the Cup of Jo bonus be valid for?


    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Through the end of January!

  77. I’ve been taking graphic design classes through Skillshare and am amazed at the quality of each lesson and course. It’s definitely a goldmine for people who want to get better at _______.

  78. Rachel says...

    I have been feeling much happier this winter also! I wonder if it is the mild weather? Also- I have started to exercise, so maybe that is it.

  79. I actually JUST signed up for Skillshare the other day – they were having a 50% off sale. I wanted to learn more about InDesign and Photoshop but there are a ton of other exciting classes too!

  80. Websites like skillshare have changed the face of learning. Have taken a few courses on their site and found them all valuable!

  81. Jennifer Riley says...

    I love, love, love this! There are so many things I’ve wanted to learn and skills I’d love to have and this makes learning so much fun!!!
    Can’t wait to sign up.

  82. Amy L says...

    I currently received a treadmill from my inlaws when they moved so we put it in our basement. I love running but in Edmonton (Canada) our winters are so long and it’s too hard to run outside at insanely freezing temps. So I’d love to see if they have a class on this site about running and how to do it properly to get the most out of it!

  83. Wow, what an awesome way to learn stuff without having to spend a fortune (or leave the house :) ). Thanks for sharing, Jo!

  84. Mary Jenkins says...

    LOLed at the meatball guy! (He is cute!) I am signing up as well. A good way to beat the winter blues for sure.

  85. Whithey Kaye says...

    I love this and am definitely signing up right now!