The ad said "Use Real Magic to Find True Love," and it was hard to resist. Who among us, having tried the usual way to find true love (whining to friends) wouldn't want something more foolproof? So I sent off a check for $3.95 for a book called "How To Make an Easy Charm to Attract Love Into Your Life."

Pretty soon it arrived. On the cover were a man and woman walking through a meadow. He was wearing a golf shirt, which I thought added an air of normalcy to the whole thing, even though inside the book there were pictures of ancient Egyptians falling in love while carrying baskets of fish.The book sat on my desk, unopened, for a couple of months. And then, suddenly, it was four days before New Year's Eve, a night that never fails to remind a person that she doesn't have a date. Time to get serious.

It turns out that making an easy charm to attract love into your life is kind of complicated, but I discovered that if I got onto it right away I could have everything ready by New Year's at midnight, which the book said would be an auspicious time to make my love charm. In addition it would be a full moon, and not only a full moon but a blue moon. A full moon is always "a safe bet" when performing love magic, according to the author, Tara Buckland, who is also the author of "Beauty Secrets of the Ancient Egyptians."

If I was going to be ready on time I had to hurry up and make up my bottle of love oil, which had to age for three days. "Do not attempt to `cut corners' to save time," warned Buckland.

She offered several different recipes, but I chose "Nile Nights Oil," which she described as "a standard, all-purpose love oil." I took four ounces of salad oil and three whole vanilla pods and cooked them on the stove.

"What's this stuff?" asked my son when he came down for breakfast Saturday morning.

"Standard, all-purpose love oil."

"It smells good," he said. "Can I use some to make brownies?"

After we ate the brownies I went ahead with my preparations, which included finding an altar cloth (basically a napkin), then washing it in a special "quick and easy" magic salt mixture: 6 teaspoons of table salt, 1/4 teaspoon cologne, red food coloring and a crystal ("leave whole!" warned Buckland).

I was supposed to mix all this together during the waxing moon at dawn but by now it was almost noon. "Let no metal touch the ingredients," warned Buckland, but I didn't notice this until it was too late.

Next I had to find some beads. The book explains which colors and materials are best, depending on your goal (blue: devotion, sincerity; stone: wisdom, growth). I found a couple of old necklaces and a bracelet upstairs that I cut up. One of them had lots of different colors, so I figured I had my bases covered, lovewise.

Buckland suggests buying beeswax so you can wax the thread before you string the beads of your love charm. But she said you could also use waxed dental floss, which is what I did. I got mint-flavored (green: fertility, prosperity).

Then I wrote my magic spell. This is the most important part of making the love charm, she says, because words have power. The ritual, she says, is a way to access "the deeper aspects of the mind and body so that the thoughts you think and the words you speak will carry the greatest amount of power that you can give them."

Mainly it's just positive thinking, I told myself, if you don't count the oil and salt and beads.

You can't make another person like you, no matter how much magic you use, Buckland says. But if there is a particular person you like, make a list of what you like about him and concentrate on that. If that person "happens to be right, then she/he will come; if not, then someone else who is just right for you will come instead."

On Monday night I assembled all the stuff and took it to a New Year's Eve party. After a rousing game of Pictionary, the women retired to a bedroom to perform the ritual. I laid the sacred napkin on a Playskool chair, anointed the beads, recited the magic spell and began to make my bracelet. It was hard to tie knots in the dental floss but eventually I got the beads on.

And now here it is Friday again. I've been wearing my love charm every day and have slept with it under my pillow at night, just like the book says. I'd like to be able to report here that my life hasn't been the same since, but I haven't really noticed anything different. Probably it's too soon to tell.