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shopping the net but keeping it local

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The World Wide Web has drastically simplified the research leg of shopping and window shopping, at least for those of us who know what we want — or might want. A narrow search such as "chocolate brown leather platform wedge size 7" yields endless — and overwhelming — possibilities, including a pair of Christian Louboutins packing a price tag that rivals a typical mortgage payment. And while researching on the Internet is convenient, it can lead to some undesirable shopping habits, including the impulse transfer of cash to nonlocal businesses, when the state of our Bluff City economy relies on us keeping our dollars at home.

That said, shopping the Internet for a better life — or at the very least an improved set of cooking skills — can return some great local finds. Here's our short list for self-improvement on the quick:

Search phrase: "Cooking Classes Memphis"

Top pick: Viking Cooking School, Superfoods Wine Dinner, May 8th

Cost: $119

Even if you bought the Superfoods cookbook for your kids (and actually used it), chances are you aren't as careful with your own nutritional intake. After a three-and-a-half hour Superfoods crash course, you'll have fewer excuses. The course catalog references cooking with antioxidant-rich foods and the logic behind perfect wine pairings. The menu takes you from a black-bean and roasted-red-pepper frittata, paired with a dry rosé, to honey-poached pears with raspberry sauce and lemon-almond cookies, paired with demi-sec sparkling wine and framboise. Viking Cooking School, 1215 Ridgeway, Suite 101, in Park Place Centre. 763-3747. Go to vikingcookingschool.com for full course list.

Search phrase: "Leadership Development + Continuing Ed Memphis"

Top pick: "The Client Lunch" offered by Continuing Ed/University of Memphis, March 6th at Napa Café

Cost: $129

Okay, so this may seem like an odd choice for "leadership development," but what's more basic to business than the power lunch? Breaking bread with a big client or potential client may be just the thing to cement a relationship. Unless, of course, you unwittingly steal your lunchmate's drink and/or utensils. With help from instructor Debbie Neal, you'll have nothing to worry about. She covers everything — from where to sit to what not to order to the classic etiquette dilemma: Which bleeping fork to use first? Bonus: "The Client Lunch" takaes place at the Napa Café. Go to umce.memphis.edu for more information and a full list of courses at the University of Memphis' Continuing Ed.

Search phrase: "Six Sigma + Memphis"

Top pick: Lean Six Sigma Green Belt at MSQPC, a joint venture by Southwest Tennessee Community College and the Memphis Regional Chamber, four-week course beginning March 16th

Cost: $4,500

Never heard of Six Sigma? Thought it had something to do with Battlestar Galactica? Nope. It is the current strategy-darling of the business set, and its power can be yours after four short weeks and, well, $4,500. The "lean" in the course title refers to the process of identifying "waste" in certain business processes then finding ways to eliminate that waste. Six Sigma is a business management strategy first developed by Motorola in an attempt to remove imperfections from the manufacturing process. The Wonder Twin powers of Lean Six Sigma have been adopted by the service sectors of companies such as Lockheed Martin and GE Capital to lower costs and improve efficiencies. (P.S. If you've recently been right-sized out of a position, the cost of the course may be worth the investment. Six Sigma skills are all the rage on the job boards.)

Shop This is compiled by Shopgirl. E-mail shopgirl@memphisflyer.com with tips and suggestions for items to be promoted.

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