Monday, 7 February 2011

Fake Out Recipe #2: What a Sweetie Pie!

In America where I grew up, casseroles are old school comfort food - tuna casserole, chicken casserole, hamburger helper type casserole. In Britain, it's pies. Savoury pies. Steak and ale pie, chicken pie, fish pie. And at night, when you've been running the streets and you've had quite a few cocktails and you find yourself  starving, you can even get what I refer to as a mini-pie, called a pasty. De-friggin-licious, folks. England's just full of pies, man. Anyway, one day I decided to try my hand at making my own vegetable pie. I wanted to make the mother of all vegetable pies. I started out with root vegetables. I went for butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, and stuff like that. What I'd created was OK, but in my opinion, JUST OK. First of all, the squash was a pain in the ass to work with. I got blisters from all the awkward peeling and tough meat. And worse, in the end, the pie turned out to be little too bland and not intense enough - I wanted my vegetarian pie to rival the best, most hearty meat-based pies. So I decided to stick with it and experiment. One day I noticed that my local supermarket had run out of swedes (rutabagas). No surprise there, since my local is ALWAYS running out of shit just in time to make dinner food a problem for me. So that time I went for sweet potatoes. Lo and behold, I stumbled upon the best got-dam vegetarian pie I'd ever had since moving to England - and by my own hand, at that. Nobody else's recipe. This pie rocks, and I want to share it with you. So please, gentle readers, allow me to present tonight's dinner...

What a Sweetie Pie (the best got-dam vegetarian pie on earth)

Cooking time: I don't know, like 45 minutes to an hour, I guess.
Feeds: A couple of greedy f*ckers for about 3 days or 6 - 8 guests for one dinner

You'll need a deep pie dish or two not-so-deep ones - believe it or not, I use a deep, 8 inch cake dish and it works a charm. It ends up looking like one of those giant medieval pies with black birds in it.

You'll also need the following:

6 Sweet Potatoes
2 Bags of Fresh Spinach (preferable baby spinach) OR 1 Can of Spinach (WELL drained!)
5 to 10 Cherry Tomatoes
2 Packs of Jus Roll Puff Pastry blocks OR use the puff pastry mix that you add water to and follow the instructions
if you're in America, use those frozen Pillsbury pie crust type roll out sheets - but not the sweet, shortbread ones.
1 Pack of Goat's Cheese
1 to 2 Packs of Feta Cheese
1/2 Cup of Sharp Cheddar, grated
6 Shallots or about 2 Red Onions
1 Large Egg
3 Tbsp of Butter
1/2 tsp of Salt
A sprinkle of Pepper (to your liking)
1 to 11/2 tsp  Dried Thyme
1 to 11/2 tsp Dried Sage
1 Tbs Chopped Garlic
1 A couple of Tbsp of Light Brown Sugar or Demerara Sugar


Pre-heat the over to somewhere around 350 to 375

Peel and cook the sweet potatoes, like you're going to make mashed potatoes. Place them into boiling water and cook until you can easily stick a fork or knife through them. Drain them, mash them in a large bowl, and add the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter to them. Put this aside.

Chop the shallots or onions however you like.

Now, caramelize them by melting 1 Tbsp of butter in a pan, throw in a couple of Tbsp of light brown sugar or demerara sugar, toss in the shallots or onions and saute over a medium high heat until they darken and become sort of sticky. Add these to your mashed sweet 'taters.

Steam the two bags of spinach, then drain them well - squeeze out all the water and add them to the mashed sweet 'taters.

Chop the cherry tomatoes in the round and add them to the mashed sweet 'taters.

Crumble the goat's cheese and the feta and add them to the mashed sweet 'taters.

Add in the grated cheddar to the mashed sweet 'taters.

Beat the egg, then add it to the mashed sweet 'taters too.

Add the salt, pepper, thyme, and sage to the mashed sweet 'taters.

Finally, add the chopped garlic to the mashed sweet 'taters and mix all this stuff up. This is basically your filling for the pie.

Now grease your pie dish with a little butter - just spread it around the dish thoroughly.

Now roll out one of your puff pastry blocks. Roll it out enough so that you can line the entire base and sides of your pie dish AND have an extra half an inch of dough flopping over beyond the edge of the dish.

Fill your pie dish with the mashed sweet 'taters mixture, then roll out the other puff pastry block to make your pie top. SEAL this rolled out pie top along the perimeter by pinching it against the half an inch of dough sticking out from the lining puff pastry - in other words, make a giant parcel. Like any pie, you can shape the excess dough to make a decent looking crust around the edge.

Now simply slice 4 to 5 small vent holes in the center of the pie top before you put the thing in  the oven. Also you can use a bit of egg whites as a glaze over the pie top before you put it in the oven.

That's about it. Cook until the pie top is golden brown. Again, about 45 minutes to an hour.

*Note: if you choose to use two pie dishes rather than one big one, you may need more puff pastry than 2 blocks. Just think in terms of having to line the pie AND cover the pie, and you should be able to figure it out.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Fake Out Recipe #1: Witch's Wicked-Ass Caramelized Onion Chili

One of the things TheNewGirl vowed to do upon creating her blog was to share some of her Fake Out Recipes. There aren't many things TheNewGirl claims to be good at, but being one wicked cook is one of them. I'm particularly fond of creating recipes which taste like they're gourmet and slaved over, but aren't really. It's all very well and good to boast to your dinner guests about how you grew tomatoes in your back garden and squashed them with your bare feet in a giant barrel to make the sauce your guests are eating at that very moment, but in reality, who has time to do all that? It's my contention that slaving away and making everything from scratch is the reason why people say they hate cooking - it takes too damn long. And it can be way too expensive. I love great food, but I'm not rich. So enter, my Fake Out Recipes, which tend to be hearty, flavourful, comfort-food type dishes, without all the rigmarole - because I take lots of short cuts. I'm not afraid to open up a can of womp-ass (that's code for using canned ingredients). My recipes are very adaptable, so if you like to slave away, buy each and every thing to make it from scratch, or you're into eating tree bark, orange peels, rose petals, and tofu (i.e. you're a vegetarian), you can go for it and customize my recipes to your specifications. Also, I'm an American living abroad, so I'll be sure to appropriately note small differences like the use of grams versus oz, or names of ingredients. This recipe came about one time when we were so skint economically that I figured I'd better make something to last through a week of dinners. So please allow me to present tonight's recipe (once I'm finished blogging, this is tonight's dinner)...

Witch's Wicked-Ass Caramelized Onion Chili

Cooking time: About 1 hour and 45 minutes (but don't let that scare you - no need to babysit this meal)
Serves: A whole lotta folks or two greedy ones for several days!

First, find a BIG stew pot and a large wooden spoon. Ok, now you'll need the following ingredients:

(Optional) Rice, if you plan to serve it over rice (duh), but I like it on it's own in a bowl

(Optional) Cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top or sour cream

800 g (28 oz) Beef Mince (ground beef) - preferably 12% fat
400 g (14 oz) Vegetarian Mince (vegetarian ground beef substitute)


1200 g (42 oz) of either (I like to mix them, but you don't have to)

3 Large Red or Purple Onions

3 Bell Peppers

3 Cans of Beans: 1 Can of Red Kidney Beans and 2 Cans of Mixed Beans

4 Cans of Peeled Plum Tomatoes (or some sort of peeled tomatoes, I also like 1 of those cans to be cherry tomatoes sometimes)

1 Can of Sweet Corn (canned corn)

1 Can of Beer (8 to 10 oz will do)

900 ml (approx. 32 oz) of Chicken Stock (or Vegetable Stock for you tree bark eaters)

A BIG Dollop of of BBQ Sauce - like 4 Tbsp (I use Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, or Newman's Own)

7 tsp of Garlic Paste OR 7 tsp of Chopped Garlic will do

1/2 tsp Salt (Kosher Salt is nice)

1/8 tsp of Pepper

 1/2 cup of Demerara Sugar (or Light Brown Sugar)

1/4 - 1/8 cup of Chili Powder - or a bit less or a bit more - depends on how hot you want it, I like it milder

1 tsp Dried Oregano

1 tsp  Dried Thyme

1 tsp Dried Rosemary

(Optional) 1/2 Tsp of Coriander or Cilantro (I'm allergic, so I can't use these... but they're yummy too)

2 Bay Leaves

2 Tbsp Canola or Vegetable Oil

1 to 2 Tbsp of Butter

An Extra Dash of Salt (for the meat)

An Extra Dash of Pepper (for the meat)

A Dash of HP Sauce (for the meat)(if you're in America and you can't find HP, just use more BBQ)

3 Extra Tbsp of Demerara Sugar (or Light Brown Sugar) for the Onions


Set aside a half of a can of beans. Combine the rest of the ingredients, the tomatoes, beans, and corn into the big pot and set aside.

Using the dash of salt, pepper, and HP sauce, season the mince (ground beef).

Coat a large pan in oil, and cook the mince (ground beef), adding the vegetarian mince towards the end. Cook fairly thoroughly, though you're welcome to leave the meat slightly pink, as it will cook through once stewed with everything else.

Add the cooked mince to the other ingredients in the pot.

Chop the 3 onions and the 3 peppers separately.

Using the same pan you used for the mince, add the butter and the 3 extra Tbs of sugar and cook the onions over medium heat until they brown and maybe slightly sticky - this is caramelizing, and this is the key.

Next add the the 3 chopped peppers to the onions, and also add all of the seasonings/spices and cook for about 4 minutes, constantly stirring.

Add this onion/pepper/spice mixture to the big pot with the other ingredients.

Reserve about a cup of chicken stock (8oz) and combine this with the half can of beans and mash this mixture up into a pulp, then set aside.

Take the remaining chicken stock and pour it into the pot with the other ingredients.

Pour the beer into the pot with the other ingredients.

Add the BBQ sauce to the pot with the other ingredients.

Stir all the ingredients in the pot and start cooking it over a medium flame, allowing it to come to a gentle boil, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. You should have a simmer going. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the chicken broth/beans pulp to the pot and stir well.

Cook for at least another 40 minutes over a medium low flame, or until the whole thing reduces considerably.

Again, serve over rice, on its own with a bit of cheddar cheese or sour cream on top, or go for "Chili-Cheee-Fry" like I do on a Friday night! That's chips (french fries), topped with lots of cheese, chili, and ketchup on the side.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

So You Want to Find "The One", Huh?

I was encouraged to write something about relationships and dating - specifically, the problems arising in courtship these days. I was told by someone close to me that part of the reason why people keep making grave mistakes in finding that special person is because no one ever tells them what they're doing wrong, particularly men, and particularly in Britain, where we live. Within the context of our discussion, he asked me to tell a mutual friend who was screwing up his chances with a great woman what he was doing wrong. I didn't feel that I could do that at the time, because the mutual friend seemed so embittered, (particularly towards women, especially towards attractive women) I felt that he wouldn't be open to what I wanted to share. The guy I was having this discussion with, my partner - who, by the way, is one hell of a work-in-progress himself - asserted that when he spent many years as a single man, he made all sorts of assumptions and all sorts of crazy mistakes, but that no one, least of all women, would tell him the truth about his own erroneous behaviors. It was then that I decided that I wanted to do my small part for the daters, mainly the relationship seekers of the west. This list is for YOU. Not her, not him, not about what he did to you, or how to get her to stop doing that to you. It's for you. Because you can't control what other people do, but you can control what you do. Start with yourself, and see what you attract after a while.

A quick note: if you're curious about my background and how I came about the desire to write these tips, scroll to the bottom of the list and read A Brief History of the NewGirlverse.

An additional note: you'll find much of the language here leans towards a hetero orientation (I'm a hetero woman). But, in my opinion, all of these tips can be applied to anyone of any sexual orientation... gay and lesbian folks, this means you too.

How To Stop F*cking Up 
When You Want to Find the Real Deal 
13 Detailed Tips

Tip 1: Forget what you think you know about 'attractive women' (or men).

The Breakdown: This tip is particularly aimed at men, because of how the media paints female beauty in particular, and how some men process it. Ok, so here goes... Forget how the media has glorified beauty and held beautiful women up as the end all-be all of human attainment. Attractive women live in this world too, which means that they have all sorts of esteem problems stemming from childhood and they're affected by the disease called perfectionism just like everyone else. In other words, NO, they don't have some amazing-but-evil mystical power over you because they know how gorgeous they are and want to use it against you. Most of the time, they have good esteem days and bad esteem days, just like anyone. They ALSO feel insecure. They ALSO feel powerless. They ALSO want what you want, which is to be loved, not played, be respected, and have good sex. You know how you know some crazy ass mofos? Or some guy from back in school was just no good? Well the same goes for women. Some of them are rotten, some of them are cool; just like men, they're all different. I'm telling you this so that you understand that women aren't opponents who have an advantage over you. They're not objects of beauty created to mesmerize and confuse you; they're not a 'they' like the Borg collective; they're individual, real people with real feelings and egos which can be hurt just like yours. Most of the games you assume that women are playing, aren't actually games. They represent confusion, combined with feelings of vulnerability and an inability to appropriately communicate desires and needs. Why am I making this my first tip? Once you get the idea behind this tip firmly implanted into your consciousness, read on, bearing this tip in mind.

Tip 2: Refrain from talking about yourself as if you're the grand pimpzilla, giving play-by-play details of your other conquests to a person you're hoping to bag.

The Breakdown: Doing this doesn't make you seem more attractive or popular. It makes you look like an asshole. People you're interested in, particularly women, don't actually want to know who else you're interested in. This is not the internet. This ain't facebook where they get to see all your 'friends' in bikinis, which make you look really popular. This is real life. Even if they know you're interested in, and/or seeing other people, they really don't want to know how many other people there are, how pretty or handsome these other people are, or how they have a 'banging body'. It doesn't make you look more special, and more importantly, it doesn't make the other person feel more special. You don't need to puff yourself up this way because it does the opposite; it makes you look shabby and like you lack focus, and it makes the other person feel like a dime-a-dozen conquest. They may find themselves thinking, 'If they're sleeping with all these people, then what do they really need me for? They already have enough sex and people interested. I'll save myself for someone who's not so overextended.' You also may be under the mistaken impression that taking an attractive person down a peg or two will make them more available to you. WRONG - again, once you process Tip 1, you'll come to realize that the goal shouldn't be to break another person down, but to build them up as an equal and gain their respect. Don't assume that they feel they have power. Assume that they need to be built up and encouraged just like you do. If taking them down a peg or two does work, then you should proceed to Tip 3 and ponder the concepts therein.

Tip 3: Please stop dramatically announcing to the world that all women (or men) are crazy.

The Breakdown: Respect the rules of attraction, by first asking, what am I attracting? Notice the I part of that question. If all women or men seem to be crazy, maybe you just suck at choosing people. Hey, if you've spent a good deal of your time breaking the tip before this one - you know, the one about talking about your conquests and exploits to potential keepers - then perhaps the only people you're attracting are the crazy ones who are capable of being impressed by your yammering on about the five other women or men you're trying to hit. Think about it. Another thing to consider is that perhaps to well adjusted people, you sound like a crazy homeless person shouting about the end of the world, and they won't want to even try to give you a chance because you're too bitter.

Tip 4: Stop ambulance chasing.

The Breakdown: One of the finest men I ever knew, one of my dearest friends, was an ambulance chaser. Not a lawyer, not a pet dog, but what I call  an ambulance chaser in the romantic sense. Ambulance chasers go for a lot of flashing lights and loud sirens in who they pursue. Ponder the fact that ambulances with flashing lights and sirens usually have nobody inside, or they're carrying someone very damaged inside. Those were the kind of women my dear friend chose to chase; extra beautiful and flashy and either empty inside, or very damaged inside. Conversely, my friend had a lot to offer. He was very unusual. He looked unusual, had unusual sensibilities, had a big heart, and he was very intelligent about everything... except for women. He'd always choose to chase someone who had a lot of flash on the outside and very little to offer on the inside. He was desperate to fit in, to be accepted into the status quo, and somehow, these women represented entree into that status quo. He also wanted someone to accept him for who he was, odd face, large sloping gut, unusual sensibilities and all. Yet, he wasn't really looking to accept women for who they were. I don't think my friend ever gave a nice, OK looking woman a snowball's chance in hell. He went for the ambulance type women and then used their rejection as evidence that all women were shallow, manipulative, and vain. Don't make the same mistake he made. Reject the status quo and open your mind a little to the internally beautiful people around you. Ultimately, this will also help you to steer away from becoming guilty of the faulty behavior mentioned in Tip 3 because you'll make wiser choices in who to pursue in the first place.

One additional note: this tip is in my dear friend's honour, because he passed away before he could fully apply it to his romantic life - but I know he was listening. Love you, buddy wherever you are.

Tip 5: Be honest about your dating status when trying to impress someone.

The Breakdown: This is the flip side of Tip 2. Let's be real. Some people are cheaters. Yes, we all know this. But some people aren't really cheaters, they're just not in exactly cleanly definable situations, like long term relationships or marriages. This tip is for people in that grey area. If you're hanging out with a person you're interested in, it's best to be honest, otherwise you could blow it and really get stuck in the friend zone. This is not to negate Tip 2. There is a firm line between being honest and boasting about conquests. We're talking about a basic desire not to misrepresent your dating status, so that you come off smelling cleaner. For example, you just got out of a long term relationship and now you're playing the field a bit. You're dating a few people, and you're also seeing someone, but you're not really serious yet... then you happen to meet another someone that you feel you could get serious with - you know, one of those opportunities you can't pass up. What to do? What to say to that person? BE HONEST with that person. Resist the urge to omit. You don't have to give them deep details like that issue we covered in Tip 2, but don't omit basic information about your status, or worse, tell them that you're not really seeing anyone. It could come back to haunt you when you show up two weeks later and mention to a bunch of people that you've been seeing someone for a few months. If your circle is tight enough, the person you've been seeing for a few months could find out that you've kept them a secret to score more dates. But worse, the person you really like is very likely to feel sorry for the person you're dating, deduce that you're a liar and a cheater, and ultimately you're likely to lose your chances with that person... all based upon what you believed to be a small white lie. Just tell the truth to the person you really like; that you're playing the field, you're seeing someone currently, but it's not that serious yet. They will respect you more, and you'll have more of a chance with them in the future.

Tip 6: Be a friend. 

The Breakdown: You find yourself in a situation where you like someone very much, and it's obvious that they like you as well but they're moving slower than you'd like for any number of reasons, so you just drop them. You stop calling to find out how they are. You don't bother getting together with them anymore. Really nice of you. Look, don't be an asshole. Were you only interested in sex, or did you actually like them? If you actually liked them, then it stands to reason that you liked being around them, and you actually care about what goes on in their life. So why treat them like a basic sex organ once you discover that a hookup is not immediately available? Why not just stick around and be a friend. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Some people really are worth waiting for - and I'm certainly not encouraging you to carry a torch for them by refraining from dating anyone else. What I'm asking you to do is not to drop them from your life like a hot tater just because you can't have sex with them today. Be a friend. Get to know them more. Some of the best, longest lasting love affairs have been slow burners. You know those couples who seem really to have made a life together and sort of annoy you because you don't seem to be able to get to that point with anyone? I'll let you in on a little secret. Those couples are that way because they're friends. They like to chat with each other, watch classic flicks together, and have taken the time to build a friendship. Romantic pursuits based on sheer acquisition don't really work in the long term. The 'gimme now or you're nothing to me' approach really doesn't produce sustainable romantic relationships. Reject instant gratification and build something better.

Tip 7: Nobody has to push, wait your turn. 

The Breakdown: (Mom, cover your eyes) I love sex. Really, I do. I have sex nearly every day - If I had my way, I'd have it every day without fail, but that's just not possible sometimes. Sometimes to make up for the fact that I can't have it every day, I might have it three or four times on a Saturday or Sunday. Now that that's out of the way, you don't have to ask if I'm a frigid broad who doesn't like sex when I share what I'm about to share with you. Are you ready? You don't have to sleep with someone you like right away. This tip is for my good friend who really wants to date, but really doesn't like the 'put-out or get out' culture that has descended upon us. She likes sex too, and has had her share of one night stands, but doesn't understand the 'test drive' culture we're living in now. Why can't we get to know each other over a month or so? Why do we have to talk, find that we have a lot in common, talk some more, then sleep with each other all in one night? Or one week? Old fashioned courtship rituals like dating a few times without having sex help us to get to know a person better and even builds an exciting sexual tension.I can hear people laughing as they read this, but I'm not laughing over the fact that I see a lot of single people treating potential dates like they're vending machines, complete with the expectation of instant gratification of getting a treat within seconds, and if they don't get it quickly enough they storm away angry. Sorry but real human beings aren't porn. Stop trying to fast forward to get to the screwing. And speaking of which...

Tip 8: IIf you're hooked, get porn out of your life, for good.

The Breakdown: If you know me, you already know how I feel and why. If you don't know me, let it serve to say that I know what porn does when used excessively. It isn't good for you. It isn't good for the sex you have. It isn't good for helping you to meet people and date them successfully. It isn't good for your self image or how you view the opposite gender (or same gendered potential partners if you're gay). If you're a man, it isn't good for your sustained erectile function with actual partners - they'll never tell you that on porn sites, but I will. I just did. If you're a woman, it isn't good for your arousal either. Stop watching other people have sex, and get to having sex with real people yourself. You'll be a better lover.

Tip 9: Please refrain from saying you're good in bed to someone you're trying to get into bed.

The Breakdown: You sound like a gigolo or a hooker. It's okay to talk with your friends about liking sex.You may be great in bed. It's okay to complain to friends about relationship problems and sometimes find yourself saying, 'Well I'm good in bed...' What we're talking about here involves a specific context. If you're trying to sleep with someone, keep your mouth shut. Just enjoy, woo, do what nature intended, but please don't try to use claiming to be good in bed as a selling point to get someone in bed. It's just tacky.

Tip 10: If you really want someone, refrain from going for someone else in front of them just because you can't have the original person at the time.

The Breakdown: Congratulations! You just proved that you have so little patience and attention span for that special someone that you're going to shit where you eat. That's right, I said it. This is low behavior. Just because someone you really like hasn't said yes yet, doesn't mean that it's a good idea to pick up on, and slobber all over a mediocre replacement right in front of them. You have just sealed your fate. You're dooming yourself to always end up with the sort-of-ok-when-you're-wearing-beer-goggles person at the end of the night, because you're being greedy and sloppy about it. Additional hint for men: there's no faster way to turn off a really attractive woman than to go for a not-so attractive woman right in front of her. Women will hold poor taste against you.

Tip 11: Refrain from going with someone if they've spent the night talking about how they can't score with someone else.

The Breakdown: (This is the reverse of Tip 10 above) You say you're lonely. You say you're looking for Ms. or Mr. Right. You can't ever seem to get anyone to who wants to become serious with you. Why? Because you're choosing to be a substitute most of the time. You look like a whore. Nobody likes sloppy seconds but perves. If you're in a social situation with a group and you have your eye on someone, be mindful that if she or he carries on during the whole evening about how someone else won't give him or her a chance, you're only cruising to be a sub, baby. Refrain from stroking your ego about how you're going to 'take his/her mind off '  that other person and then she/he will want you. Sure, you'll take her/his mind off the other person... while you're both drunk or high, but come tomorrow, you will have been nothing more than a temporary distraction, and you'll be stuck singing that same old song about how you can't get a real partner. 

Tip 12: Try dating your equal. 

The Breakdown: This is for the folks who are 35 +. You're only as old as the person you fondle. People who say this are really revealing their motives. People will be angry with me for going there, but I don't care. Is it good to keep the same hairstyle from age 15 to age 50? Shouldn't your style change, or rather evolve? If it doesn't, you look out of date and like you're hanging onto your past.  Your taste in the opposite sex (or same sex if you're gay) should shift, or rather evolve. If it doesn't, you look out of date and like you're hanging onto your past. Age is just a number? Okay, whatever. You look sad, partner. Why? Because it's clear to everyone around you that you want a follower, a disciple, not a partner. I'll give kudos to May-December romances if they last a lifetime, because then there's evidence that the younger person has grown into a full personality, and represents more than just some extension of a fountain of youth... but it's never a shock to me in these relationships when, once the younger person comes of age, the older person just finds another young person to replace them with. Grow up. A fifteen year age difference works well when the younger person is like 40, which is about the time the maturity catch up begins. But there's nothing sillier than a 45 year old person complaining about relationship problems with their child-date. How exactly is all this a tip for dating? If you're 45 and your date is 22 you look like an idiot, especially to potential, well adjusted partners. If you're in your mid 30s or beyond, stop hanging out at clubs to find dates. The age of consent is 16 in Britain. But just like many other things in life, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Now, maybe you're asking yourself, Who the hell is she to be so judgemental? I'm the chick telling you the truth. I'm also a woman with a partner 10 years her senior, and I wouldn't be with him if I were 22 - I'd be looking for someone around my own age. But I digress. I've known quite a few solid, good looking people and most of them, particularly women, are simply too polite to tell you what they're really thinking. A lot of people, particularly women, are tired of being accused of being envious over stuff like this, so they don't really bother to say anything anymore. They figure, if you want to go out like a sucker, that's your business - they'll just try going for someone who wants to be a grown up and likes dating people who are all grown up.

Tip 13: Take off the mask.

The Breakdown: Be yourself. Refrain from attracting people under subtle false pretenses. This certainly applies to men but I'll go out on a limb and aim this one at any women who might be reading this, because often women feel social pressure to dumb themselves down just to score. There's nothing more annoying than being around a sharp, clever, interesting, talkative person who turns into a high-voiced bubble head when attractive men are around, thus crushing her own individuality and special qualities. Come on, we all have our own flirting styles, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about creating a tap dance that you can't sustain over a long period of time. The goal is to enjoy, seal the deal, and possibly partner with someone because of your human qualities, not because of the phony persona you presented at a cocktail bar. It's always better to let someone get to know what you're about right away so that you can see if they're really ready for you. If you act like a prisspot, hide your wicked sense of humour, and act like you don't want to talk about yourself in favor of listening to him talk about himself for three hours, you'll end up attracting people who don't know, or really want the real you. Share opinions, talk politics if you like politics, talk sports if you like sports, and be yourself, because ultimately it's better that you attract people who aren't afraid of the real, bold, you.

A Brief History of the NewGirlverse (how I came to make the list)

It's noon and I'm just now eating breakfast. I'm eating caramelized onion hummus for breakfast. I know this is a little unusual. But then again, I'm an unusual kind of chick. For example, I don't know anyone else in my age group who was wife for like fifteen years. I also don't know anyone else in that situation who is best friends with their ex. Not that this isn't a wide world full of people, many of whom are bound to share a similar perspective with mine, it's just that I don't know any of them.

When I was married, I observed the mating rituals of single people and thought many of them were strange, and then, once I was let loose on the world as a freshly single adult (something I'd never actually experienced in my adult life), I found the mating rituals to be even stranger than I thought they were when I was married. By the way, I'd be being less than truthful if I didn't correct myself at this point, or at least elaborate a little more to explain that I wasn't truly single after my ex and I separated - I'd started dating someone, but admittedly, the complexities of that relationship led me to... let's just say, keep an open mind.

WTF? ...or Culture Shock

What I didn't realize was that I had entered into a complex social/romantic sphere the likes of which might not have existed when I was last single (a lot had changed from the early 90s to the late 2000s) and the likes of which I had managed to avoid, since my then-husband was unclouded by factors like YEARS of being a single serial monogamist, the common place use of internet pornography, online dating, and general bitterness. Plus I was naive - I thought everybody had been raised having real friends of the opposite gender, like my then-husband and I did. What I didn't realize was that my then-husband and I were pretty unusual, so once I got out of the married years I found myself in shock.

Concepts like saying what you really mean, telling someone that you actually like them, taking your time while dating a person, developing a friendship which then might eventually develop into a romantic relationship, and having vaginal hair seemed to be totally lost on the participants in this new dating scene. 'Good sex' would be most likely used as a term to define a one shot deal encounter where you never even asked the other person for their phone number afterwards (even if you enjoyed yourself), rather than a term associated with the amazing, intense shag you had with your partner on a Sunday afternoon, which was the result of a slow, methodical, build up of a language of sexual intimacy created between two people. 'Playing the field' which, at one point, might have been used to describe dating around because you hadn't found that special person yet, sort of became 'Playing' which might be used to describe dating around, because you haven't found that special person or you have found that special person but you don't want the person to think she/he is really that special, because after all, you like blonds too, and wait, there's a cute little Puerto Rican over there who you might be able to get with... and on and on and on.

It's The Meeedia!

It's my assertion that many people have been trained out of recognizing the special qualities of each individual and been trained into keeping a mindset that everyone's replaceable. And even more sadly if, by chance, they still realize that deep down someone they encounter is really special and unique, they spend a lot of energy maintaining a facade to convince that special person that they mean absolutely nothing to them. It's become a cold world, folks. And I'll take the risk of sounding like Chris Rock when I say, "It's the Meeedia." We're living in a grand society where we put our lives, faces, bodies, and hobbies online like resumes. And even if some of us don't, I'd be willing to bet that the majority of us have adjusted cozily to 'browsing' or 'cruising' for attractive people online. Even if you're like me, never having ventured into online dating, the contemporary pervasive norm of point-and-click-to-pick-a-date is very likely to have coloured how you view other people. Our social/romantic sphere has been tainted. A few short decades ago, if we women met a man, and noticed that he was losing a bit of hair, but we were charmed by him and liked him... and then we found out that he had children, we might very well have overlooked the fact that he was balding and he had children. We would have figured that he was a great guy, and those few things we weren't sure about would've more likely been adapted to. That was how chemistry worked. Now, we might very well overlook him, in favor of looking for that slightly more perfect person. I really like Single Dad Laughing's blog on perfection, but I'm pointing towards a few sources for the disease of seeking perfection. This didn't happen overnight, but I've looked up and noticed that so many of us have changed so radically, and become so brainwashed so insidiously, it's scary.

Brave New World

Here's the world we live in: if we can't get a date, a lot of us PICK people from a bunch of photos and stats, thanks to the world wide web... without the pesky element of feeling real, live chemistry. If we're lonely and have few friends, we can create an instant persona and talk to people, with very little introduction... and without the pesky element of feeling real, live chemistry. If we can't find someone to have sex with, we simply point and click so that we can watch hundreds and hundreds of steroid enhanced, plastic surgery enhanced humans screwing, and then masturbate... without the pesky element of feeling real, live chemistry. If we want to feel connected to someone's emotions, but we don't feel like talking, we can just go watch The Hills and watch the drama unfold, and feel sorry for them.

Now, if you're taking the time to read this, you've got a bit of an attention span still, and you're probably one of those people who isn't particularly extreme. You know that you're not that disconnected. I'd be willing to bet that like a lot of us, you don't want to think that you're disconnected to people. You don't want to think that you're unlikely to be able to recognize a special and unique person when you meet them. But the connection that I'm trying to make is that the bombardment of media, or maybe the injection of a pseudo-reality orientated hybrid media into our lives is screwing people up. It's my belief that all people are vulnerable to this influence, but particularly, if you never had a husband, a wife, a life-partner, kids, a dog - any one of the sorts of relationships which keep you tethered and grounded to reality, you're at risk of picking up, and harbouring some very strange ideas about other people. Don't get me wrong; even people with those sorts of relationships can get caught up in the mix, it's just that it seems easier to exist in LaLa land when interpersonal relationships are sort of floating in and out of your life without any real interdependence at play. I'm going to make a bold statement: I lived in Los Angeles from the mid to late 90s and I used to think people there were phony and disconnected. I hated L.A. I hated industry people. Now I'm finding that my whole microcosm is filled with people who remind me of phony, disconnected L.A. people. I don't think people are bad, I just think the Internet, YouTube, and reality TV have inadvertently trained a lot of youthful, single people to communicate like they need to sell themselves to everyone by being a talking resume, and to view other people as one of many point and click options. Delayed gratification is becoming a dinosaur. This worries me.

The Big Fat Mess

Enter dating, which then becomes a mess. Seriously, as I watch my single friends, I see examples of cringeworthy slow motion train wrecks, and emotional spaghetti junctions all over the place. I really want to help - and I mean that. Hell, I'm in a relationship, though not married, so I still get offers... and let it serve to say that the men who have been interested in me have done as much as possible to help themselves right out of my dating-possibility pool with a quickness - and they never even knew it. It wasn't because I was too picky, or playing games, or a princess, or spoiled, or wanted to crush and eat anyone's heart. Those aren't my M.O.s. They just screwed it up because they've become part of the big brainwash and got a few things twisted in their minds. A person's brain can be his or her own worst enemy.