How to remove a butt plug

When I first considered trying a butt plug I did a lot of research.  I read books about anal, I searched for optimal first-time toys, I looked at comparisons of different types of lubricant and checked blog posts outlining backdoor tips.  One thing I noticed was that a lot of the first-time info on using a butt plug was very focused on choosing a toy and inserting it, but almost none of those sources tell you how to remove the plug.  So I wanted to take some time to touch on this subject, because I know it’s something that a lot of people (myself included) worry about when they’re considering trying a plug for the first time.

It’s not as difficult as you’d think

First of all, I want to tell you that getting that plug out of your backside isn’t as tricky as you’re imagining it will be.  I always thought that taking a plug out was going to be really difficult.  I think that’s because I’d read so many articles about how strong your sphincter can be, and how your butt can suck up toys that don’t have flared bases.  All of this advice had given me the impression that my anus was akin to an industrial-strength vacuum, and once something was in there it would hold on relentlessly.  And this just isn’t true.

Sure, your internal sphincter can be mighty strong, and your butt is capable of swallowing items that don’t have a base.  But it’s also important to remember that your anus is designed to push things out.  So if you’ve got a plug anchored in your butt, it’s not  very difficult to remove it.

Relax

The most important thing you can do is relax.  If you’re tense and worried about getting the plug out, then your muscles are going be tighter and you’ll have more resistance to contend with. So even if you’re nervous, try to chill out.  Take a few deep breaths and exhale through your mouth.  The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be to remove the plug.

Don’t stress about mess

Another misconception about butt play is that it’s messy.  As long as you’ve prepared properly for play, and you’ve listened to your body, you’re unlikely to encounter any fecal matter.  However, it’s also important to set your mind at ease so that you aren’t tense and worried.  You might find it more reassuring to remove your plug in the shower or sitting on the toilet.  It’s also a nice idea to have some tissues or a towel on hand to wipe your hands and carry the plug in to wash it off.

Pay attention to your jaw

One of the first places we begin to hold tension in the body is our jaw.  If you’re feeling nervous, you might notice that your jaw begins to clench.  To help you loosen up, take a few deep breaths and consciously relax that jaw.  Unpeel your tongue from the roof of your mouth, separate your teeth and just let some of that tension go.  This will send a message to the rest of your muscles to relax and you’ll find that you feel less tense after you slacken your jaw.

Go slowly

Just like you (hopefully) inserted your plug slowly, you should also take your time removing it.  Sudden movements can shock your sphincter, causing it to tighten up.  You could also bruise or tear the delicate skin in and around the anus if you use too much force.

Once you’re ready and relaxed, get into a comfortable position.  Some people like to sit or squat, others like to stand with one leg on something sturdy.  Whatever feels comfortable and allows you to reach the plug is perfect.  Make sure your hands are free of lube before you begin so that you can get a good grip on the base of your plug.  Once you’re holding the base, begin to gently pull it downwards, nice and slowly.  Keep breathing and stay relaxed while you remove the plug.  It can also help to very gently bear down as though you were passing a bowel movement.  The combination of downward force and pulling slowly on the base should be enough to slide the plug out of position.

It won’t come out!?  What do I do?

First of all, don’t panic.  As I said at the beginning of this post, the more stressed out you are, the more difficult it will be to remove the plug.  Relax, wash your hands, walk around a little and then try again.  If you still can’t get the plug out on your own then it might be time to take yourself to the emergency room. Keep in mind that if you’ve used plenty of lube, chosen an appropriate toy and you’ve followed the steps above, having to get your toy medically removed is a very remote possibility.

Anal play is still a taboo that is shrouded with mystery and misconception.  But in reality, it’s not as scary and difficult as we expect.  Removing a butt plug actually isn’t as hard as you’d imagine.  If you stay relaxed and take your time, you shouldn’t have any issues at all.

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How do I approach people online for fetish play?

Today’s post is quite exciting for me, because it represents something I’ve been itching to do for a while.  I love helping people and providing sex education, and one way to do that is to answer questions that people ask about sex and sexuality.  I recently had a reader write to me with a question, and although I replied privately, I also wanted to take this opportunity to address the subject on my blog so that all of you can read about it.

 

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The reader who wrote to me is a heterosexual man who has a foot fetish.  He is interested in finding female partners online who are interested in indulging his fetish by chatting and sending pictures.  He wanted to know how he could go about finding receptive partners in a respectful way.  I had a number of suggestions for him that I wanted to share with you.  These don’t necessarily apply only to foot fetishists, but anyone who is online seeking partners for sexual or fetish play.

 

The mere thought of looking for partners for fetish play can be nerve-wracking.  For starters, most fetishes are still looked upon with a degree of fear and many are misunderstood.  A lot of people who have kinks also hold a lot of shame around those desires.  Add to that the nerve-jangling fear of rejection and social anxiety and you get a kinkster who would prefer to cower in the corner than put themselves in the vulnerable position of looking for a play partner. Luckily, the internet has provided a multitude of options when it comes to looking for someone to explore with.  But there are a few things to consider before you throw yourself in headfirst….

 

Choose your platform carefully

One of the biggest mistakes people make when searching for partners online is not looking in the right places.  There are so many different social media platforms that allow us to connect with other people, but not all of these are ideal for finding partners to engage with sexually.  Instagram and Facebook are fantastic for sharing pictures with your friends, but they’re not the place to trawl for people to play with.  If you imagine the internet as a city, then Instagram and Facebook are like the public park.  Just like people don’t go to the park looking for a hookup, most people aren’t using these sites to find sexual partners.  Therefore, approaching strangers on Facebook or Instagram with requests for fetish play is likely to cause distress.  You wouldn’t walk up to a strange woman at the park and demand that she shows you her genitals, so you shouldn’t message a stranger on Facebook asking the same.

 

On the other hand, there are a number of sites and apps that are filled with people who are actively looking for people to explore with.  These are like the kink clubs, the singles bars and the hotspots in a real life city.  If you look on these sites, you’re automatically off to a better start because you’re working with a pool of people who are open to meeting people to talk about kinks, who are interested in hooking up or online play.  Fetlife is a great place to find like-minded individuals who share your fetishes.  You can join groups devoted to particular kinks, find events nearby and make friends.  Tinder is good if you’re looking for dates or hookups and dating sites are a good place to meet people who are interested in meeting potential partners. For fetish play though, I’d start with Fetlife to meet people who are interested in your specific kinks.

 

Treat people as whole, not just a collection of body parts.

When you send a message to a new friend or potential play partner online, it’s really important that you treat them like a whole person, not just as the life support system for the particular part you want to engage with.  That’s objectification and it’s not cool.  Rather than leading with a message that says “I want to see your feet, send me a picture” open with something a little more casual.  Introduce yourself, ask what they’d like to be called and see if they’d be interested in chatting.  Ask questions about them and answer their questions honestly.  This helps your new friend to feel more comfortable and makes them much more receptive to a request for play when you offer one.

 

Respond to rejection gracefully

It’s likely that you’ll experience some rejection when you begin chatting with potential play partners.  There are going to be people who are not interested in your particular kink, or who are not looking for someone to play with. Whatever their reason, if they do turn you down, accept it gracefully.  Resist the urge to demand an explanation, call them names or plead with them to change their mind.  Treat their “No” with respect and thank them for chatting with you.

 

Bring in a professional

If you’re not looking for an ongoing relationship, it might be worth bringing in a professional play partner to fulfil your fantasies.  Many escorts, adult performers, pro-dommes and cam models specialise in fetish work.  A bit of research online is likely to turn up a few professionals who will be able to indulge your kink and give you the play that you’re craving. This is especially true if the play you’re dreaming of is very specialised, unusual or requires particular equipment or training.  In the case of a foot fetish, there are loads of camgirls and porn performers who will sell pictures of their feet to you, and many even sell their socks and stockings to their customers.  If you’re shy about meeting people online, paying a professional can be a great option.

 

Finding play partners for fetishists can be a minefield.  But the internet has given us so many avenues to search for likeminded people who may be interested in exploring with us.  As long as you’re looking in the right places and treating people with respect and courtesy, you’ll be off to a great start and hopefully you’ll find that special someone who will share your erotic kinks.

 

Do you have any suggestions for meeting potential play partners online?  If so, please feel encouraged to leave a comment.

 

 

 

How to avoid topping from the bottom

“Topping from the Bottom” refers to an instance in a BDsM scene where the submissive partner, or bottom, seeks to control the scene.  It’s a frowned-upon practice in the BDsM community and a somewhat controversial topic.  Today I wanted to unpack the idea of “Topping from the Bottom” and discuss some of the things I’ve found help to avoid it.

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What does “Topping from the bottom” actually entail?

One of the reasons why it’s so difficult to discuss topping from the bottom is that there isn’t a universally agreed-upon definition of the kind of behaviour that it involves.  What some dominants consider acceptable, others will be angered by.  For example, some submissives indulge in “bratting” during a scene, where they refuse to do what their dominant orders until they are made to comply.  For some people, bratting is part of their dynamic, and having the dominant “make” them submit is an important aspect of play.  For other players, this type of behaviour is deeply disrespectful to the dominant.

 

So it’s difficult to say “X behaviour is topping from the bottom, while Y is not” because what is acceptable varies from person to person and scene to scene.  There are a range of practices that might be considered topping from the bottom depending on the circumstances.  But generally speaking, any instance where the submissive partner tries to manipulate play in a way that has not previously been agreed upon would constitute topping from the bottom.

 

Why does it matter so much?

Topping from the bottom is so frowned upon because it violates the power exchange that is the core of most BDsM scenes.  Usually, when a scene takes place, the submissive party gives up some of their power and control to the dominant, who promises to look after them and drive the scene.  For many dominants, when their submissive tops from the bottom, it can be seen as a declaration that they do not trust them.  It can also be extremely frustrating for a dominant who has carefully planned a scene to have it disrupted by a submissive saying “No, use the red flogger, not the black one”.  Planning and executing BDsM scenes is mentally and physically draining for a dominant, and it can feel like the submissive doesn’t appreciate that hard work and effort if they interrupt or manipulate the scene.   At it’s core though, topping from the bottom is seen to matter because it means that the submissive has failed to carry out their role in the scene.

 

So, how can we avoid topping from the bottom?

Clear and comprehensive negotiation is the best way to avoid topping from the bottom.  Negotiation is an important part of BDsM scenes, and there are a few things that should definitely be touched on to diffuse a situation that could give rise to topping from the bottom:

  • A lot of the time, when a submissive won’t submit or tries to manipulate a scene, it’s because they’re afraid.  They’re worried that they might get hurt or that their dominant will harm them in some way.  Discussing fears, phobias, triggers and limits is a vital part of negotiation and if the submissive party feels that they’ve been heard in this realm, they’re a lot more likely to be able to hand over the reigns to a Dom.
  • Sometimes, people have a very clear picture in their minds of how they want a scene to play out.  Perhaps they have a particular fantasy that they’re trying to recreate, which means that certain details have to be just so.  If you’re trying to do a fantasy role play scene, discussing these details and planning out how to achieve them beforehand can help.
  • Set out rules and limits that all parties agree upon as to what is acceptable during play.  For example, if you know that you like to be a bit of a brat during a scene, speak up and decide if this is ok.   Whatever works for you, just make sure that you’ve set out the rules for the scene clearly before you begin.
  • Finally, agree on a safeword or signal and decide what will happen if the safeword is called.  Many submissives will have one safeword that means “Slow down and check in” and another that means “Stop right this second”.  Both parties should commit to following the rules you set out for safewords.

– Trust is another important factor in BDsM in general, but it is a huge component in avoiding topping from the bottom. When a submissive feels secure in their relationship with the dominant, and they are confident of their top’s abilities, it’s so much easier to put themselves in that person’s hands:

  • Build up scenes slowly over time.  Don’t leap right into a suspension rope scene or heavy impact play with a new partner.  Start with something simple, a light spanking scene or some scarf bondage and build up to the heavy stuff.  Each time you navigate a new scene or type of play with your partner, your trust in them will grow.  Start out with play that involves a small exchange of power, and work towards the big, complicated power dynamics as your trust grows.
  • Talk about your individual skills and abilities, and don’t commit to doing scenes that are beyond your comfort or skill level.
  • Debrief after the scene is over.  Once everyone is feeling calm and you’ve done your aftercare, have a conversation about how things went, what was good and what could be better next time.

There is a lot of introspective work that goes into BDsM.  A huge amount of time goes into soul searching and self evaluation

  • Be very honest with yourself about your personal limits and desires.  And then be unwavering on your limits when negotiating a scene.  Don’t agree to participate in play that you aren’t comfortable with.  That way, you won’t be put in a situation where you’re afraid and anxious and trying to manipulate play to protect your ego.
  • Commit to your role in the scene. If you’re in the submissive role, your job is to submit.  Even if you’re a brat or you resist, your ultimate role is to submit and do as you’re told.  And if you don’t want to do that…then maybe BDsM play isn’t for you. Or maybe you’d be better off in the dominant role.
  • If you’re a submissive, it’s very normal to experience resistance to submission.  Even when I trust my partner and I’ve given my full consent, I still experience moments where Sir will tell me to do something and I hesitate.  In these moments I’ve learned to have a quiet word with myself, to remind myself that I trust my partner and that He has a plan for the scene.  I remember that He knows what He’s doing and that Sir would never harm me.  Reminding myself of those facts helps me to relax and give myself over when anxiety or fear creep in during a scene.
  • Manage your own expectations.  This is particularly important if you’re doing a fantasy role play, because fantasies rarely translate perfectly into reality.  When you let go of the need for the scene to go exactly the way you pictured in your head, it makes it easier to resist the urge to micromanage it.

Topping from the bottom is a very tricky topic to discuss, because it can mean many things to different people.  But ultimately it’s about a submissive who is either unwilling or unable to surrender and submit.  And I believe that honest communication and slow building of trust will go a long way to allowing that submissive to let go and hand control over to their dominant.  It’s not easy to submit, but once you’ve established that safety and trust, it’s so much easier to release your grip and just enjoy the ride.

 

Do you have any tips on how to avoid topping from the bottom?  Or any questions about BDsM scenes and negotiation? If you do, please leave a comment below.

 

 

Vegan transition tips

We are now into the third week of Veganuary and I thought that this would be a great time to share some of my tips for transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.  I’ve been a vegan for around eighteen months now and I can tell you that the first six weeks are the most difficult. But those weeks were difficult for reasons I hadn’t anticipated.

I had expected that I would have to deal with strong food cravings during my transition period.  In particular, I predicted that I would have the most trouble separating from cheese, because it was my favourite food in my pre-vegan days.  In actual fact, food cravings weren’t that much of an issue for me.  What I found the most difficult was just navigating the shops and restaurants as a new vegan.  Tasks that had previously been second-nature took on a whole new dimension and became time consuming and difficult.  I had to check labels, ask questions and the whole process was kind of overwhelming.  Additionally, modifying recipes to make them vegan was tricky in the beginning.  But as time passed and I gained more knowledge and experience, these things became much simpler and less stressful.  Let me share with you some of the things I wish I’d known when I first became a vegan, as well as my top transition tips.

  • Go at a pace that feels manageable for you.  There is no rule that says you have to be completely vegan from the get-go.  You might find it easier to cut out meat one month, then progress to dairy and eggs when you are ready.
  • Don’t rely on meat substitutes.  In the early days of adopting a vegan diet, you might be tempted to replace your usual meals with the “meat free” version.  Although this sounds like a good way to ease away from meat, I found this actually made it more difficult.  Meat substitutes are great, but most of them don’t have the flavour or texture of meat.  This means they’re less likely to satisfy cravings. Use meat substitutes sparingly and instead stock up on fresh veggies, legumes, grains, pasta and spices.
  • Try new things.  This is the perfect time to experiment with new recipes and ingredients.
  • Eating out can be a bit of a minefield when you’re a new vegan.  But there are loads of options available, even at restaurants that aren’t specifically vegan.  Mexican restaurants have a huge range of options, pizzas can be ordered without meat or cheese, salads are served at most restaurants and most burger places have at least one veggie burger.  Even my local pub has a veggie stir fry with smokey soy sauce that is accidentally vegan.
  • Plan ahead when you go shopping.  Make a list and spend a little time researching at home which brands offer vegan options.  You can find lists of accidentally vegan snacks at Veggieful which are super helpful.  This will save lots of time and stress when you actually hit the shops.
  • Embrace home cooking.  If you don’t know how to cook, this is the perfect time to learn.  Even though it might be difficult to find vegan versions of your favourite foods in stores, it’s pretty easy to make your own snacks, sweets and meals at home.  It’s also so much cheaper than buying pre-packaged meals or eating out.

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  • Don’t stress out about protein.  A lot of people believe that meat, eggs and dairy are the only sources of protein.  This isn’t true at all.  If you’re eating a wide range of foods that includes nuts, legumes and grains, you’ll be fine.
  • Some folks love to be jerks to vegans.  It sucks, but it’s a fact.  Accept this, but realise that it’s not your job to respond or be an ambassador for the vegan lifestyle.  If you want to, that’s your choice, but you do not have to engage with someone who is harassing you over your diet.
  • Don’t be alarmed by portion sizes.  When I first went vegan, I got really worried because I had to eat a much larger meal in order to feel satiated.  This occurs simply because plant-based foods don’t have as many calories and therefore it takes a larger amount to make you feel full and satisfied. So if you’re eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans, you might find that your serving sizes need to increase in order for you to feel full.
  • Make your own rules and choices.  You don’t have to be the “perfect vegan” and you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself.  You get to decide how to implement your lifestyle and make choices that suit you.  For example, some vegans get rid of all of their animal-based clothing and only buy animal free clothes.  I still own wool and leather from my pre-vegan days, and I will continue to use these things until they are worn out.  I won’t buy new items that are made from wool or leather but I will still purchase second-hand items made from animal products because I believe in recycling and getting the most out of clothing that is still wearable.  That’s my choice, and it feels right to me, even if it might not be the “perfect vegan” choice.
  • You are going to make mistakes.  You will buy things that have sneaky animal products in them.  You will accidentally order a meal that you didn’t realise had cheese or cream included.  It’s ok.  Mistakes happen and we learn from them.  Don’t beat yourself up or expect to be perfect.

It’s true that the first month or so of trying a vegan lifestyle can be difficult, but I promise you that it does get easier.  And the benefits definitely outweigh the initial struggles.

 

Do you have any transition tips that you’d like to add?  Or any questions about transitioning to a vegan lifestyle?  I’d be happy to answer them.

Why I can’t teach you to orgasm

I love writing about sex.  It’s one of my favourite topics to blog about and I enjoy publishing posts about toys, BDsM and sexuality.  But I’ve never felt right publishing those Cosmo-eque “15 ways to have an explosive orgasm” posts.

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I was a passionate consumer of these types of articles for years.  I never had trouble finding my orgasm, but I was always eager to find new ways to bring on that pleasure for myself.  I felt compelled to try every new position, every technique that might possibly bring on a bigger, better climax.

 

And for years I found myself deeply disappointed.  Because each time I read one of these articles I wound up feeling broken.  More often than not, the fail-safe techniques contained therein didn’t work for me.  They didn’t bring me an earth-shattering orgasm.  In fact, most of the time they didn’t bring me any orgasm at all, just a feeling that I was inferior, that my body wasn’t working right and that I was missing out on untold pleasures as a result.

 

I vividly recall one holiday I took where my hotel room was equipped with a spa.  I was excited because I’d read so many stories of women who had masturbated by allowing the water from the jets to stimulate their clitorises or by letting a running faucet flow over their vulva.  Eager to try this method out, I ran myself a bath, scooted in line with one of the jets and waited.  And waited some more.  And shifted position.  And then began to wonder “at what point does this start to feel good?”  It wasn’t doing a darn thing for me.  I pulled out the plug, towelled myself off and went to bed feeling disappointed.

 

This pattern repeated itself over the years in so many different ways.  It even popped up when I was given my first ever sex toy.  I jumped into bed, eager to play with it because I was sure it was going to give me an earth-shattering orgasm.  I pressed it to my genitals, turned it on and waited for the magic.  And turned up the power and waited.  And finally gave up.  I thought my beautiful new vibrator was a total dud because I hadn’t wanted to scream with pleasure as soon as it made contact with my body.  How wrong I was.

 

I think the problem I had was twofold.  Firstly, I was taking a purely mechanical approach to pleasure.  I was reading the techniques in these articles and following them stringently.  But the thing is, our erogenous zones can’t be manipulated by pressing the right series of buttons in the right order.  You’re trying to have an orgasm, not operating a coffee machine.  And a lot of the time articles that promise to show you a new technique to help you come are written like an instruction manual.  So even if you follow all the steps, you still might not reach the desired end result because most of us need more than that to orgasm.  We need to be sufficiently relaxed and we need to feel safe.  There are hormonal fluctuations, physical rhythms and stress patterns that come into play.  Our body is a hugely complicated system, and so many factors come into play when you’re talking about physical pleasure.

 

The second part of the problem is decidedly more personal.  It’s taken me a while to be able to articulate it.  But a few days ago I listened to a lecture by Sonalee Rashatwar that set off a lightbulb in my brain.  In the lecture, Sonalee pointed out that in many non-Western cultures, people hold the idea that each person is born with all the knowledge they need to be happy and fulfilled, and that it’s merely a matter of accessing that knowledge.  This is different to the more western notion of a person looking outside themselves to learn what they need to know.  This statement resonated so fiercely with me because it so beautifully described how I feel about learning to orgasm.

 

I believe that for each of us, our body already knows what it needs to feel pleasure.  Think about it.  When we’re hungry, often our body will give us a signal of what kind of food we need to satiate ourselves.  If we are feeling agitated or upset, often an idea will pop up of something that will feel good or comfort us.  And I think that our bodies know what we need to bring us physical pleasure and orgasm.

 

In my experience, the times when I’ve learned a new way to orgasm, whether that be using a different sexual position, a different technique for touching myself, a new kind of toy or whatever, the orgasm has been a result of finding something that feels good and moving towards it.  In the case of my first vibrator, the way I eventually got it to work for me was when I was playing around with it one day, noticed that one of the settings felt really good against my body, and just relaxed and ran towards that feeling.  Finding that spark of “Oh, this feels nice” and then pursuing it has always been the way that I’ve achieved climax.  I’ve learned to look for the signals that my body throws up when I’m enjoying myself, or listen to those ideas that pop into my mind about different ways to move or play that might feel good.  It’s that experimentation and willingness to listen to my own body that have allowed me to learn how to have great sex, not from rigidly following the instructions in an article I read in Cosmo.

 

And that’s why I don’t feel comfortable writing articles that set out techniques that “guarantee” amazing orgasms.  Because I don’t think that approach to pleasure is helpful.  Sexuality and pleasure is intensely personal, and varies so much from person to person.  Although I can give you suggestions for things to try, or recommend toys that are great to play with, I don’t want to offer guarantees or step-by-step instructions.  Because by doing that, I’m discouraging you from being creative and playful in bed, from listening to your own body and chasing pleasure when it pops up.  I don’t ever want to write something that makes someone feel ashamed or broken.  I want to write posts that inspire you to try new things and look for the ways you can achieve pleasure that work for you.

 

Substituting vegan ingredients in recipes

I am an enthusiastic cook and I enjoy puddling about in the kitchen.  Few things excite me more than the prospect of a new recipe to try out.  When I was contemplating switching to a vegan diet, I felt a bit wary that my cooking would become very limited.  I was under the impression that I would have to stop making all of my favourite non-vegan dishes and that any new recipe I tried would have to be vegan approved.

 

I quickly learned that it is very simple to adapt recipes that are intended to be made with meat, dairy or eggs to make them vegan-friendly.  Today I want to share a list of the common non-vegan ingredients and the vegan alternatives that I typically use in their place.

 

Beef: Thickly sliced portobello Mushrooms.  Thickly sliced eggplant.  Seitan stir fry strips, black beans, Nut mince.

Chicken: Firm tofu, Fry’s rice protein and chia stir fry strips, Quorn vegan nuggets sliced into pieces, chickpeas, lentils.

Fish: Pulse chickpeas, lemon juice and a dash of soy sauce in the food processor.  This makes an awesome alternative to tuna in sandwiches, pasta bakes and can be mixed with breadcrumbs and fried to make “phish” cakes.

Eggs: For baking, I use an egg substitute product called The Vegg.  It’s a powder that you mix with water and add to your baking.  It bakes really well and looks and smells like egg when you mix it up.  Flaxseed oil or other vegetable oils can be used in place of eggs in baking. Applesauce may be used in sweet recipes.

Ham or bacon: For soups or stews that use ham or bacon, I like to add a can of white beans such as cannelini or butter beans for protein and texture.  Liquid Smoke can also be added to give the smokey flavour that these cured meats add to cooked dishes.

Milk: There are so many milk substitutes to choose from that it can make a vegan’s head spin!  My personal preferences for everyday are soy and almond milk. Coconut milk is naturally sweet for baking but can have a coconutty-flavour.  Rice, oat and hemp milk are also great options.

Cream: For pasta sauces that call for cream, I like to blend silken tofu in the food processor until it’s smooth.  For sweets and desserts, try this cashew cream recipe.

Sour cream: Simply blend silken tofu in a food processor until smooth and add a dash of lemon or lime juice, a pinch of paprika and a pinch of salt.

Cheese: Nutritional Yeast is perfect for adding a cheesy flavour to risotto, pasta bakes, soups or on top of pasta.  My favourite vegan cheeses are Biocheese and Green Vee cheeses.

Butter: It’s easy to find vegan spreads on the supermarket shelf. My personal favourite is the Nuttlex Buttery Spread.

Beef or chicken stock: use vegetable broth. Alternatively, Massal stocks contain no animal products and come in beef and chicken flavours.

Gelatine: Agar flakes or powder.

 

When you become more practised at vegan cooking, you’ll get a feel for how to adapt regular recipes to make them suitable.  When choosing your substituted ingredients, it’s important to consider the ingredient’s role in the recipe.  Is the ingredient there for texture?  To bind the mixture together?  For flavour?  This will help you to select a substitute that performs the same role so that your recipe is more likely to be a success.

 

Do you have any additions to this list?  What do you substitute to make ordinary recipes vegan-friendly?

 

 

 

A geek’s guide to online dating: your profile picture.

I’ve been dabbling in online dating this year.  It’s been an *ahem* interesting experience.  I’ve met some fantastic people, and some not-so-fantastic people.  I’ve been on more first dates in this year than I have in my entire adult life.  And it’s been eye-opening.

I truly believe that online dating can be awesome.  It’s a great way to meet new people and broaden your horizons, particularly if you are shy or live in an area where the dating pool is sparsely populated (I tick both boxes).

However it’s easy to make mistakes.  I know, because I’ve made plenty.  So I thought that it might be cool to share some of my do’s and don’ts for online dating, so that you don’t make the same mistakes I have.  I’m hoping to make this into a series, and it seemed logical to kick off with a post about your profile picture.

Keep in mind that a lot of the tips here are based on my own personal opinion.  You may entirely disagree with me and that’s cool.  A lot of them are directed towards men because generally that’s who I’m looking at when I’m browsing online matches.  I do look at women too, but not as often.  So I apologise if these tips are male-centric.

Profile pictures- What not to do

  • The first one is so obvious I can’t believe I have to say it: make sure you’re in your profile picture.  I have seen profile pics that are everything from a cup of coffee, to a guitar and even a picture of Bilbo Baggins.  And I never click on those ones.  Why?  Because I have no clue about the person behind them.  People are visual creatures, and they want to see the person they will potentially be chatting with.  Even if you’re shy taking a picture of yourself, actually having your face on your profile will dramatically increase the likelihood that someone will read your profile.
  • If there is more than one person in your profile picture, make sure it’s obvious which one is you.  I see so many people who use group shots as their profile picture. Or worse- pictures of them with their exes.  I’m a busy girl, and I’m not going to take the time to try to figure out which one of the peeps in the picture is you.  You should be the star of the picture.
  • Don’t use a professional headshot as your profile picture.  I get it, you want to look as good as possible to attract a potential mate.  But a professional shot makes it look like you’re trying way too hard.  A simple selfie is fine and makes you seem more approachable.
  • Make sure that your face is clearly visible.  No blurry shots, no back-of-the-head shots and none of those weird eyes-and-forehead crops.  Show your whole face.  All of it.  I want to see who I’m talking to.
  • Don’t take your profile picture in bed.  It just reads as sleazy.  Ditto shirtless pics.
  • Don’t be holding a gun in your profile picture.  To me it’s a major turn-off for two reasons: 1. I’m really anti-hunting and 2. It makes me wonder if you’re a serial killer.

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Profile picture- Things to try

  • Inject a little personality into your profile picture.  For example, if you like to travel you could use a picture of yourself from your latest adventure.  Into animals?  Choose a pic of you with your furry friend.  Even something quirky and geeky like wearing a fandom tee shirt can really speak volumes about who you are and what you like.
  • Use a picture where you are dressed nicely, as you would for a coffee date.  That way you look presentable and approachable without being too over the top.  (If you normally wear full makeup and a cocktail dress for a coffee date, that’s also fine.  Best to be real).
  • A word about cosplay photos: I’m a cosplayer and I get psyched when I meet someone who is also into cosplay.  But I’m iffy about using a cosplay picture as my main profile pic.  The reason for this is that you don’t really look like “you”; you look like a caricature.  By all means, add some of your wicked cosplay snaps to your albums, but I’d hesitate to use one as your profile picture.
  • Don’t be pressured to smile in your profile picture.  I mean, a smile is nice but if you aren’t a typically smiley person then don’t feel like you need to paste a fake grin on your face for the picture.

I think the best advice I can give you is to choose a picture that accurately represents who you are.  That way when people are flicking through loads of profiles they will have a good idea of what you’re about and you’ll be more likely to snag the interest of a like-minded person.

 

Do you have any questions about online dating you would like me to answer?  What do you think my next post in this series should cover?