Finding yourself with a few extra hours in your schedule? Join the club. There's no time like the self-isolating present to learn something new. For virtually any subject you ever hoped to master, there's a California expert teaching it online. Class requirements are simple: your laptop, internet access, and a little self-induced motivation. And here's another good reason to go back to school right now—many of these classes are tuition-free.
For home chefs looking to improve their cooking talents, the internet is a gold mine. Christina Tosi, founder of Milk Bar in Los Angeles and New York City, hosts the Baking Club Instagram live show every day from her home kitchen. Tosi, who's like a super-fun BFF who just happens to be a baking genius, shows you how to make something yummy every day, like decadent butter cake, blondies, and chocolate chip cookies.
It's probably smart to eat some healthy calories along with those sweets, so check out Seamus Mullen's Instagram live show, Quarantine Kitchen. The healthy-eating chef, avid cyclist, and culinary director at Hollywood's Wanderlust Cafe shows how to cook "clean" comfort foods like chicken stew, tacos, and celery root soup. And Santa Barbara restaurateur Cat Cora, the first female Iron Chef and Culinary Hall of Famer—not to mention a mother of six kids—hosts “CORA-ntine Cuisine” Instagram live cooking classes, which focus on family dinners like "Taco Night" and "Breakfast for Dinner."
And what's dinner without a pre-dinner cocktail? Learn how to make a refined whiskey sour or hot toddy from Leandro DiMonriva, actor, filmmaker, and bartender at the iconic Cole's French Dip in Hollywood. His YouTube channel, The Educated Barfly, serves as a mixology masterclass featuring DiMonriva’s riffs on the history of how each cocktail was invented along with detailed tutorials on how to make the classics at home.
Olivier Said of Berkeley's Kitchen on Fire cooking school has free video classes on making omelets, lentil salad, mayonnaise, and more. ("Chef Olive" delivers his lessons with a fabulous French accent, so just listening is fun.) If you want to learn about the craft of plating or take your knife skills to the next level, check out Pasadena's Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) online videos.
Acting and Playwriting
You know you've always wanted to take an acting class. If shyness has stopped you in the past, an online class is an easy way to dip your toes in the water. The Michelle Danner Acting Studio in Santa Monica offers online acting classes for people of all ages and experience levels. Learn the Meisner and Adler acting techniques in Acting 101, or prepare for your Hollywood debut with Auditioning for Film and TV. Director Joshua Waterstone has joined with Redwood City's Dragon Productions Theater Company to offer an online course in the Meisner technique, as well as classes in "stage combat" (fighting techniques) and theater history.
If you'd rather write a play than star in one, take a lesson from playwright Lauren Gunderson of Marin Theater Company, who posts videos of her classes on storytelling structure and beginnings and endings. Review the classics by tuning in to Virtual Shakespeare Aloud Zoom sessions sponsored by the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach. A different Shakespeare play is featured every Thursday; participants can read aloud or just listen and learn.
Photography and Art
Channel your inner Ansel Adams—or just learn how to edit your iPhone snaps—through online photography and digital arts classes sponsored by the Los Angeles Center of Photography. Intermediate Photography starts April 20 and Environmental Portraiture starts April 25. Or tune in to free Zoom chats offered by Santa Ana's California Center for Digital Arts (classes in image editing with Photoshop and Lightroom are scheduled for various April and May dates).
On Saturday, April 25, art lovers can take part in a Zoom-based acrylic painting lesson with Gregory Adamson in Art d'Vine, a class sponsored by the Riverside Art Museum. Or learn about the traditions of Chinese painting in a free online art history course from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
California Native Plants and Gardens
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has moved some of its gardening classes online, including the May 2 workshop Designing with Water-Wise Natives taught by landscape architect Bill Goodnick.
The Agriculture and Natural Resources Department at the University of California offers a huge list of online gardening resources, from the Jepson Herbarium's YouTube channel featuring California native plants to the California Garden Web database on sustainable gardening, which is overflowing with information on everything from growing backyard berries to planting a home orchard.
If grapes are your groove, check out the viticulture and enology classes offered online by the University of California, Davis. On April 21, the college will hold a free online information session on its Winemaking Certificate Program.
Go Back to College
California's top-notch colleges and universities offer an extraordinary range of classes for lifelong learners of any age. Stanford University's Continuing Studies program delivers online classes year-round. Many classes starting in late April still have openings, including The Beatles: Four Extraordinary Albums That Transformed Pop Music and The Internet and Psychological Health. The University of California, Berkeley and The University of California, San Diego offer free online courses through edX. Scroll through dozens of classes running the gamut from The Science of Happiness to Bitcoin and Crypto-currencies. Or if you really want to expand your mind, dive deep into astronomy with videos and live chats from experts at NASA's "Universe Unplugged," produced by Caltech in Pasadena.