Skill It Home

creative handmade family cooking

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Why Skill It?

Skill It is based on the belief that cooking a meal, sewing a hem, tending a garden, and fixing a leak are the kinds of skills that all children should and can learn.

We believe that working with your hands nourishes your spirit and connects you to your family, your past, and your community.

When something is handmade or homemade, we taste, feel, smell, and sense the difference.  Food connects us and meals cement our memories and traditions.

I have a grandmother who grew up in Russia and makes amazing soups, sour cream mashed potatoes and butter-soaked green beans. She talked me through her borscht recipe over the phone when I was in college and eager to carry on the tradition of cooking these comforting foods.

My other grandmother passed away when I was very young. She was a scientist and an artist and ate sushi in the 70’s.

I am lucky that my mother kept her alive for me with stories.

Passing on knowledge from generation to generation gives us roots. Making time to teach and learn the traditional talents of our family and culture helps us find our place in the world.

At this time last summer I visited my mother in Hawaii. I spent the day in a children’s summer camp that taught cooking, gardening, and crafts of the traditional Hawaiian culture. They planted taro root, the staple food of the Hawaiian people, and talked story about its importance in their daily life.

Working in the garden, the children connected with their history through their hands.

And they had fun! They got to to what kids do best – being outside, moving freely, and taking on their assigned task with focus and determination.

Season’s Eatings, our cooking class for families, is a workbook for learning together.

It will teach you more than delicious recipes, it will create a conversation in your kitchen.

Class starts this Friday, August 3rd, so you can join us today.

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A Little Routine

One of the things a wonderful teacher provides for their students is consistency and routine.  We draw boundaries, maintain schedules, and uphold standards. We know this creates safety and comfort for children, not anxiety or stress.

When a person feels safe and comfortable, they can freely express their creativity, joy, and happiness.

Whether it’s nurture or nature, cultivating and maintaining consistent routines does not come easily to all of us! But when you practice them, aren’t the results amazing?

My good habits include:
Shopping for food once a week.
Eating cereal and fruit every morning, Monday through Friday.
Serving greens at every dinner, either lettuce, broccoli, kale or spinach.

From declaring a Kids Make the Pizza Friday to assigning salad prep to your oldest child on Mondays and Wednesdays, you can take out some of the guess work around food and dinnertime. You’re likely to see an increased level of peace and a decreased level of stress and confusion on everyone’s part.

And your children are learning wonderful habits of responsibility, perseverance, and nutrition!

They’ll come to accept cooking, conversation, and eating fresh food as an integral part of daily life.

Good habits become life-long healthy reflexes.

Your children will find themselves cooking with their children, and passing the same happy memories onto the next generation.

Your routines become treasured family traditions.

You need not change everything at once.  Instead, start where you are. (Confession, I borrowed this expression from a very well-known book)

Pick one small thing and do it for a week or two. Allow yourself time to become comfortable with the adjustment. Give it time to take root in the rhythm of family life.

After those few weeks, take a moment to reflect on what happens for you, your kids, your attitude, and your outlook. Is there a little less bickering on those Pizza night? Do the kids eat a few more green things now that salad is on the table every night, rain or shine?

Whether you pick something weekly or nightly, here are a few things to try:
Eat a simple lettuce salad every night
Have the kids chop veggies on Thursdays
Assign your children to set the table every night
Finish your meal with berries every Tuesday

What would you like to incorporate in your life this week?
Share it here and in the comments below.

And we can’t wait to hear the difference it makes in your day…

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Book Review: Silver Spoon for Children

A friend told me about a gorgeous, fully-illustrated cookbook for children a year ago and I instantly knew I had to have it

The Silver Spoon for Children takes it’s cue from a culinary classic by the same name. The original Silver Spoon is a 5 pound, sacred tome for those who enjoy Italian Food.








If you check your mother’s cookbook shelf it’s likely to be standing there in all it’s tomato saucy goodness and glory.

Three years ago the talented artist Harriet Russell took some of the classics and crafted them for a younger generation of chefs.  The step by step instructions with accompanying illustrations are delightful from a pure artistic standpoint.  It’s basically a bonus that you also learn how to cook delicious food from these pages!

This book is not especially easy to find in stores.  I was at the Strand in NYC (1 mile of book shelves being their claim to fame) this spring.  They had sold their last copy just hours before my arrival.

A week later I was at the Brown University Bookstore here in Providence. I decided to ask at the counter if they had a copy, prepared for disappointment. But wouldn’t you know, they had one beautifully red children’s cookbook waiting right there for me! I was delighted and learned my lesson to always, always shop local.

But let’s get back to the food.  It’s amazing.  It’s delicious. 

It’s a little adventurous for some, but I promise you this book will be an inspiration to aspiring chefs of all ages.

While the publisher suggests this for children ages 10 & up, I believe you can include kids at any age in the kitchen.  5 year olds & up will happily take part in some of the mixing, stirring, and even veggie chopping with a cutting board and table knife.

And why not read this to a 3 or 4 year old and use it as a way to talk about food?  Or have them look at this book on the kitchen counter while you’re cooking up one of the recipes?

During a Skill It after-school cooking club, 16 kids in 1st-5th grades made spinach and ricotta ravioli using the basic pasta dough recipe. No need for a pasta machine here, you can do quite well using a simple rolling pin.

Our Skill It chefs filled their ravioli with a teaspoon and cut each cheese-filled pillow with a table knife. With a fork, they gently pressed around the edges to seal it up and give it that very professional, finished look.  Simple, impressive, and delicious.  What more can we really ask for?

If you already know and love this book, leave a note with your favorite recipe in the comments below!

Have another favorite children’s cookbook you want to share with the crowd? Leave that here, too, and perhaps we’ll get to review it another time!


Sharing Family Dinner

My busy mother, enrolled full-time in grad school, cooked lots of one-pot meals. And while dinner was often served later in the evening (how European of us!) it was always served around our big, sturdy, oak kitchen table.

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

“Oh, are you hungry?  What time is it?  Almost 9 o’clock, hmmm…”

Mom turned to the fridge and the pantry and threw something together. Usually pasta tossed with olive oil, parmesan cheese and a random medley of vegetables.

The kitchen was attached to a sunny, yellow dining room Mom called, “The Breakfast Nook.”  My sister and I had the job of setting the table with placemats, silverware, and cloth napkins.

Honestly, the food was not usually that memorable!  It was simple, I was never hungry when I went to bed.

What I remember is talking to each other about everything going on in our lives.

Mom and Dad included us in the conversation.

They asked us about our homework.  We planned upcoming weekend trips to food festivals or one of the small towns within an hour’s drive of our house.

And we learned about the world of responsibility, big projects, work and family by listening to our parents’ conversation. They discussed the ongoing remodeling of our house, what dad was working on, or the latest news of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.

This was our perfectly imperfect Cherry Family dinner ritual and I have held on to all the best parts.  Perhaps it is because of, and not in spite of, the chaos of our typical family life that I walked away with a love of food and cooking.   And that I sit down to dinner at the dining table most nights of the week.

We are all looking to carry on the best of our family traditions as well as creating our own.  And we can all use a little inspiration!

So tell us, what is your family dinner tradition, past or present?

Is there a question you ask your children at dinner every night?
Maybe the very same one your parents asked you all those years ago?

I hope you’ll share your family dinner memories and traditions in the comments section below…and I hope you have a lovely dinner tonight, too!


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