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A fun evening making French macarons

I’ve been obsessed with macarons for a couple of years now, but have never attempted to make them. Everyone always told me how hard and finnicky they were to create, so I just left it at that and continued to buy them regularly. But when I saw a TeamBuy coupon for a 2-hour macaron making class for $45, I jumped on it.

We booked a few weeks ahead of time, and ended up going to a class last night at Professor and the Pigeon – a cute little bakery and coffee shop located in Kitsilano. The class started at 6:30, and we had about 15 or 16 people in the class. BF was the only guy there, which wasn’t surprising.

There was a wide range of skill level in attendance. One woman said she’s tried to make macaron at least a dozen times before, and there were people like us who have never attempted it at all. I bake a few times a year – banana breads, pies, cookies, etc. But am by no means an expert.

The first thing we did was watch a demonstration on how to make the macaron shells. Then, she divided us into 3 teams, and we started making our own shells. The group I was in was making Earl Grey macarons. Yum!

We started out by measuring the ingredients, and we were both pretty surprised at how simple the recipe is: just egg whites, white sugar, icing sugar, and almond flour. :) We blended the egg whites and white sugar together until the batter formed stiff peaks, and then we were ready for the next step.

We then poured the icing sugar and almond flour on top of the egg white mixture, and started mixing together. It was really important not to overmix, but I was surprised at how runny the batter was (similar to the consinstency of melted chocolate). After we got it just right, we filled a piping bag and went to town. Ours came out a little bit uneven, but pretty good for a first try. :) Then you let them sit on the tray for at least 30 minutes, until they dry out a little so that you can touch them (kind of like a blister).

They don’t spend long in the oven, and it makes a big difference temperature-wise whether you are using a convection oven or a regular oven. Once removed from the oven, they have to cool completely before you can move onto filling them with deliciousness.

While they cooled, we started to make our Earl Grey buttercream filling. It’s a little disgusting knowing how much butter and sugar actually goes into the filling, so I’ll just skip over that part. :) We used ground up tea, mixed it with hot cream, and then added it to butter, sugar, and vanilla extract.

Now the fun part – assembling the macarons! :) I was a little bit stingy in the amount of buttercream I put into my macarons. Thought I could somehow make them healthier… but, don’t skimp out. They were much better when you put more buttercream than what you think is a healthy amount, haha!

Making macarons was a really fun experience, and made an awesome date night. We were concerned before going to the class that we wouldn’t be able to make them at home. But it turns out, they’re quite simple to make. You just need to know how to get the right consistency with the batter, and get the timing perfectly. I’m glad we took the class because it gave us hands-on experience before we attempt to make them ourselves. :)

Here is the finished product. So pretty!

photo 1

NOTE: This wasn’t a paid review or anything (although I did use a referral link to the coupon site), I just love macarons and was really excited to share this experience. The price for the class is normally $99, but you can buy it through TeamBuy (referral) for $45.

Have you ever tried to make macarons before?

When do you have the “money talk” in a relationship?

As some of you know, I’ve been dating someone new for the past few months. I haven’t had to deal with having a “money talk” since my ex-BF (Nic) and I started dating in 2011. Nic and I were pretty open with our finances from the start. He knew I was a personal finance blogger, and always read my blog, so it was never an awkward topic.

But with my new boyfriend, I wasn’t sure when to bring up the topic of money. I’m 31 now, and after a few relationships with financially incompatible men in the past, I knew I had to find out if we were a good fit. But as you know, it can be tricky talking about money. In fact, a 2013 survey for Match.com revealed that even though 94% of Canadians believe that it’s an important quality to be able to manage finances in a relationship, only about half those people had the financial talk with their partners within 6 to 12 months of dating.

So when is the right time to start talking about money? I guess it’s different with every couple, and it’s not like I’d bring up money on the first date (although I have done that before, whoops), but there’s no way I’m waiting 6-12 months to figure out whether I’m financial compatible with someone or not. Once you’re months into a relationship, you’ve likely already gotten emotionally attached. How are you going to walk away from someone if you find out they carry a huge balance on their credit card, or that they’re horrible at budgeting? It’s so much easier just to say that you’ll work on things, or that you’ll try to figure it out together, than leave an established relationship. :|

Related: Would you ever date someone who had debt?

But I learned a long time ago that it’s incredibly hard to be with someone who doesn’t have the same financial goals as you do, or the desire to lead a financial responsible and independent lifestyle. No matter how much you love them, it just doesn’t work long-term, and can lead to some serious frustration. :| Because honestly, money influences most of what we do in life. It affects where we work, where we live, what we eat, and how we spend our free time. The relationship we have with our money is for life, and if you want your partner to be for life too, well you’d better be on the same page. :)

According to a Forbes article, there are 6 types of financial conversations to have with a significant other:

  1. Earning. This means discussing whether or not you both plan to have a job, length of employment, and what you want out of a career (if anything). If kids are in your future, who will take care of them?
  2. Spending. What are your priorities in life? Is it traveling, buying a home, taking care of aging parents, or going back to school? Is there a dollar amount you would be comfortable spending before checking in with each other before making a purchase?
  3. Accounting. How will you keep track of your money and net worth? Will you keep a budget? Who will pay the bills?
  4. Saving. You will need to figure out if each of you is a saver or a spender. Figure out your goals, and how much you need to be saving to get yourself there.
  5. Investing. Knowing each other’s risk tolerance level is important, as well as the investing vehicles you want to utilize.
  6. Building wealth. How will you make your money grow, will you put your kids through university, and what kind of lifestyle do you want to have when you retire?

Related: Guest Post – What I’ve learned from combining finances with my husband

There’s a lot you can learn about someone’s spending habits without asking any questions, but eventually the money talk will have to happen. And for me, financial incompatibility is a deal breaker. BF and I have spoken about most of these topics already. I’m confident that we are financially compatible, and that is a really good feeling to have.

As Gail Vaz-Oxlade says, “don’t hitch your cart to a horse headed into a ditch.”

In your last (or current) relationship, when did you talk to your partner about money? Do you wish you had the discussion sooner?

A return to the single life

greece07A few days ago, I read a pretty good post by Nelson over at Financial Uproar. It was about dating. Specifically what somebody is generally looks for in a partner. As someone who has been writing about finance for over 6 years, and someone who is single (yes, the BF and I have recently broken up), I found that the post really hit home.

It reminded me of a post I wrote not too long ago, asking readers if they’d ever date someone who had debt. The responses were pretty varied. Me personally, I would date someone with a low to moderate amount of debt, as long as they had a reasonable plan in place to get themselves out of debt. That being said, I would find it hard to date someone who perpetually carried a balance on their credit cards, and didn’t think it was a problem.

In Nelson’s post, he talks about how most personal finance bloggers are looking for a financial equal – someone who knows how to budget, knows how to spend less than they earn, and understands the importance of saving for retirement. All admirable qualities, and I’ll admit that I’m looking for exactly those same things too. I think that it’s natural when dating that people are drawn to others with the same sort of goals and lifestyle.

But the thing is, outside of the personal finance blogging world, there are very few people who care as much about money and financial independence than me. There are only a few friends in my life that I can discuss money issues with, that’s why I started this blog. And there was definitely a time in my life (not so long ago) where I had a ton of debt, and didn’t give a crap about my finances. So how can I be so willing to dismiss someone because of something that I once struggled through myself?

Related: Dating Etiquette – would you use a coupon on the first date?

It’s something to think about. After dating my previous boyfriend, I told myself I would never date a student again. I was tired of waiting for someone to “catch up” to me, and was looking forward to a comfortable lifestyle. But when I met Nic (he was a masters student), I decided to go for it. And even though we are no longer together, I consider him to be one of the most important people I’ve ever met. And I’m pretty sure I was a good financial influence on him too. :)

So maybe dating someone with debt wouldn’t be so bad. As long as they had the right attitude about it.

As for returning to single life, I’ll admit that not much will change in terms of my finances. I still have the same goals of traveling, paying down my mortgage, and saving for retirement. And for some reason, being single makes me even more motivated to focus in on my goals. I’m also going to be bringing back a more personal approach to this blog, because I really missed using this place as an outlet for my everyday thoughts on money. :)

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