A visit from Consolidated Credit: Diamonds and debt don’t have to go hand in hand!

Just when we think we have no more holidays to buy for, up pops Valentine’s Day. The idea of using our credit cards or putting out cash for gifts and dates gives us chills. It amost makes us want to do away with Cupid altogether. Luckily, we chatted with Ann Dennis, Communications & Public Relations Manager for Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, who gave us awesome tips for keeping our budgets in check. Read on for Ann’s advice.

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Cupid’s arrow is soaring, signaling it’s time to search for the brightest and best Valentine’s Day gift – otherwise known as something very sparkly for someone you love. However, if you haven’t saved enough to pay for that little gem, it could become the cause of unwanted financial stress on your heart and your bank account. 



“Money worries add enough stress on a daily basis. Don’t add to it by buying a Valentine’s gift that leaves you debt-laden,” said Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, Inc. “One of the keys to financial heart happiness is changing habits and attitudes towards money.”

Like Dustin, an alumnus of Consolidated Credit Counseling Service of Canada’s Debt Management Program, who has a new outlook on spending. “My wife and I are saving for a house this year. To help stay within our budget this Valentines Day, we’re staying home and enjoying a romantic movie night with pizza and wine. The time spent together will far outweigh the value of diamonds!”

Here are a few more ideas that will help take the pressure off your wallet:
Surf the internet, not the stores. There are so many free e-card websites out there with creative cards – you’re bound to find more than one to fit the occasion. In fact, send multiple messages to keep your special someone smiling all day long.
Home is where the heart is. Follow Dustin’s lead: pick up a bottle of wine, order pizza and rent a romantic movie. Or sub in boozy hot chocolate and a roaring fire – whatever it is that takes you and your partner to your happy place! 

Take a walk down memory lane. Celebrate on Sunday, February 13 instead, and spend the day visiting the places in the city where you met, had your first kiss, the coffee shop where you spent hours getting to know each other or took your first walk in the park.

Exchange homemade presents. Receiving a gift that’s homemade and comes from the heart is more meaningful than receiving something store-bought that doesn’t fit right or you don’t really like. 

For more money-saving inspriation, visit Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada’s Facebook page or follow them on Twitter: @debt_free_2day.

Yum yum: Wedding cakes and desserts

Some of us have been planning our weddings since the day we could say “Vera Wang”. And, with a few brides-to-be on the fourth floor, wedding talk has been amped up a notch (or seven).
Once he’s put a ring on it, many important decisions must be made. While choosing between calla lily bouquets and rose arrangements will prove difficult for many brides-to-be, not all decisions must be so. 

We chatted with Catherine Lash, the brains behind the boutique Wedding Show (January 14 to 16 at the Carlu!), about must-have sweets at 2011 nuptials. In her expert opinion, “it’s not just about the cake anymore.”

“The centerpiece of the wedding has become the stylized sweet table. Think macarons, meringue, biscotti and gourmet candy. But, the cake is still the star of the show.”
 
She pointed us in the direction of two amazing dessert and cake makers. Forget Say Yes to the Dress and say “I do” to these one-of-a-kind wedding desserts from Cake Opera Co. and Bobette & Belle.  

Straight from the kitchen of this chic bakery, cake girl geniuses Alexandria Pellegrino and Jessica Smith whip up the best crazy-original couture desserts. 

From the simple to the outrageous and everything in between, Cake Opera Co. has the macaron towers, designer cupcakes, handmade marshmallows and quirky cakes for any fabulous occasion.

Done up in non-traditional shades of grey and muted pink, influenced by current fashion, 2011 wedding cakes are all vintage-inspired glam. Decidedly posh and playfully textured, Cake Opera Co.’s confections come in a variety of flavours, from lemon blueberry to banana with salted caramel ganache. 

For a whimsical touch, top your cake with Lacroix-inspired gems and flowers, Gothic pirate ships, floating butterflies, Victorian-styled figurines or even feathered birds.

While they set up (bake) shop in midtown Toronto about a month ago, the Cake Opera Co. already has a following of Hollywood starlets that only continues to grow. For their much-anticipated wedding, Nicole Richie and Joel Madden offered guests a taste of the company’s red velvet cake. Decorated with look-alike figures dressed in her Marchesa dress and bearing his tattoos, the white, black, turquoise and 24-karat gold-trimmed cake has the gossip mags buzzing.    

Nicole Richie and Joel Madden’s gorgeous cake. 
With desserts inspired by Chanel and Elie Saab, Holt Renfrew can barely keep Bobette and Belle’s oh-so pretty and delicious macarons in stock. That’s because when it comes to dessert, Bobette and Belle is always one fashionable step ahead.
The owners of the sweet shop, Sarah Bell and Allyson Meredith Bobbitt, bake fancy cakes that are nothing short of spectacular. They also offer soon-to-be brides a non-traditional dessert route to wedded bliss. 

Wow guests with sweet tables filled with macaron towers in Gianduja (chocolate flavoured with hazelnut paste), salted caramel, passion fruit and pistachio flavours. 

Customize yours in small or large sizes, and choose from trendy 2011 purples, lush pinks and metallic colours to match your event. 

For the ultimate in up-and-coming trendy treats, skip cupcakes in favour of whoopie pies. The chic version of an Oreo, whoopie pies are the new “it” dessert of choice. Fun and tasty, guests won’t be able to get enough of them. 

Hungry yet? 

PS: For more inspiration on choosing your wedding cake, check out this Wedding Bells article

Rave: Dessert before Dinner

If you are anything like us, you know no meal is complete without something sweet. Yes, our mothers taught us that dinner comes before dessert, but for the following indulgences, we simply cannot help ourselves. We’ll always reach for these sweet treats first!

Cookie Dough Shots
Because frosting shots are so last year, now is the time to try cookie dough shots from Sweet Flour Bake Shop (2353 Bloor Street West). While the shop brings warm delicious cookies your way in just minutes, we’re more focused on their unbaked snacks.

Sold in mini individual sized containers, these dough shots offer just the right amount of cookie.

Flower Power Cupcakes 
Taste kindness with statement cupcakes from Eat My Words (300 Campbell Avenue). These treats with heart help raise money to benefit the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Order them in regular or mini versions, and these flower-topped cupcakes will be delivered in one of the company’s signature turquoise hat boxes. Available in four original flavours, you’ll have to try them all to choose a favourite!

Buttery butter tarts
We love butter tarts as dessert, and they are definitely something that we can eat at any time of day – whether having eaten a real meal before or not. Flaky Tart (711 Mt. Pleasant Road) makes some of the best in the city. They are flaky (of course) and buttery. The top has a satisfying crust and the filling is like heaven – sweet, creamy and classic. If you’re a butter tart aficionado, you must pay a visit to this adorable Mt. Pleasant and Eglinton bakery, owned by the former pastry chef at the Rosedale Golf Club. Mmmm.

Whether you’re a dessert-before-dinner sort, or the dinner first, dessert second type, what’s your must-have snack? Tweet us @rockitpromo!