To Acquire a New Skill

You've known it since the dear old days at Faber College: Knowledge is good. Here are seven places where you and your kids can put that credo into action this year with no risk of double secret probation. Unless that's the kind of thing that floats your boat, in which case, see our How to Break Your Resolutions Guide coming next week.

Central Market Cooking School (214-361-5754, www.centralmarket.com) Let Linda McKay or one of the other resident culinary gurus give you hands-on experience in how it's done. Linda's specialty is cooking with herbs, but she and her colleagues offer classes in everything from knife skills and desserts to sushi and wine tastings. Evening classes are 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily except Sundays; there's also one-hour Learn at Lunch nooners and Saturday classes at 10 a.m. Prices include eating privileges for the meal that you've prepared and run from $25 (seafood tacos--teach a man to fish taco and you've helped him for life) to $150 for the two-part extravaganza based on the incredible menu featured in the French film Babette's Feast. (It's worth it. Trust us.) Included is the opportunity to bring a guest to the second half (the eating part) in order to impress him or her with your skills--seduction is optional.

The Writer's Garret (214-828-1715, www.writersgarret.org) Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, The Writer's Garret now boasts more than 400 members and offers a variety of classes and workshops in everything from poetry and fiction to grant writing. Their Writer's Studio, in partnership with KERA-FM 90.1 and Theatre Three, offers upcoming readings and receptions with noted writers such as Kathryn Harrison, T.C. Boyle, Nicholson Baker, Julia Alvarez and Alice Walker. Year-round, their Stone Soup Discussion Group meets to read and critique each other's fiction (first and third Tuesdays) and poetry (second and fourth Tuesdays). Spring fiction, poetry and grant-writing classes begin this month. Membership is $35 a year with individual events ranging from $3 for the drop-in Stone Soup events to $295 for the grant-writing course.

DCCC and CCCC classes It seems kind of obvious, especially if you've been hearing and seeing the commercials, but the two community college districts (www.dcccd.edu and www.ccccd.edu) offer courses in damn near every academic and non-academic subject you'd care to explore. Has the Mars landing reawakened that long-standing urge to learn astronomy? Has the ubiquity of auto supply stores caused you to realize anew that a lot of money is to be saved with DIY basic auto maintenance? Did you lose a bet that somehow involves learning floral design and/or calculus? Well, there you are, or at least, there they are with campuses all over the place and class times to suit almost any schedule. Spring registration now.

Lakewood Arts Academy (214-827-1222, www.lakewoodarts.com) "We teach art, but we think we also teach mental health and self-confidence," says Lakewood Arts Academy founder Barley Vogel. "Our approach is twofold: to help kids learn to keep the creativity that is a natural part of them until about age 10 and to help students of all ages learn in a supportive atmosphere." One specialty is a portfolio class that offers preparation for young teens who want to enter Arts Magnet High School. "We help them build the samples they need for admission and prepare them for the extremely competitive audition and interview. Our success rate has been gratifyingly high," Vogel says. "Our adult students are mostly divided between those who see our nurturing environment as sort of a relaxation therapy and advertising artists who feel stifled creating art on demand and want to express themselves as individuals." Five full-time instructors (more during the summer) teach a wide variety of classes at times appropriate for the various age groups. Course prices start at $165 plus supplies.

A good bet whose time has come Poker classes. Unfortunately, a Web and telephone search turned up nothing on this game that's suddenly poker-hot. Personal inquiries netted so many invitations along the lines of "Come sit in on our game and we'll teach you how to play," that one has to be suspicious of the motives with which they were offered. So, if you have the skills and motivation to put together such a class--preferably one in which the students pay a one-time fee and then play only for chips--we'll be pleased to write about it next time. Meanwhile, try www.pokersavvy.com.

Cookie classes by Liz Wells (972-547-9789, www.cakeforallseasons.com) These classes by master cookie baker Wells offer younger kids (5 through 8) the chance to decorate pre-made cookies and older kids (9 through 13) the opportunity to start from scratch with the dough. "The older boys go for gross things, monsters and worse, but everyone has a good time," Wells says. "As for the younger kids, of course we just finished Christmas, and for some reason, almost everyone decided to make reindeer." Classes cost $30 per child for a two-hour session; birthday parties offer a slight discount for a minimum of 12 kids. Plus, they can mess up someone else's kitchen.

Purple Glaze Ceramics (214-987-1440) The Hendrix-inspired name notwithstanding, this 10-year-old contemporary ceramic studio helps kids create visual, usable works of art in every color as varied as piggy banks and candlesticks--nearly 300 items in all. The kids make their own designs or create using a variety of stamps and stencils. Once painted, the piece is glazed and kiln-fired by the management. The result: a one-of-a-kind work that is dishwasher and microwave safe. Painting time costs $6 per kid per hour plus material costs that run $10 and up per item. Money well spent.

 
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