Wednesday 28 December 2011

Are you a superstitious comper?

Winning competitions is usually about luck - even in a competition with an element of skill, there is still some luck involved: you need to be lucky enough to get judges who like your entry better than all the others.

And wherever luck is involved, there are superstitions. So do YOU have any comping superstitions?

Some compers like to send all their postal entries from the same postbox. You may try to argue the logic of it - that one is in  a visible spot where it won't get vandalised, or has the most convenient collection times - but I bet that deep down inside something is telling you that you are more likely to win if you post your entries there.

Other people may like to write with a lucky pen,  kiss the envelope before posting it,  or even walk three times round the post box (TIP: don't try this if it's set into the wall of a building!)

I'm sure lots of us have our own  versions of the well-known good and bad luck superstitions, with lucky charms, lucky days of the week to enter and always hoping to see two magpies rather than one. And although you probably keep the toilet lids in your home closed to keep germs  and smells shut away, isn't there a little voice in the back of your mind telling you that an open toilet lid drains money from the house?

With more modern comping methods, it's harder to be superstitious, after all a computer is just a machine, but do you arrange your desk  a certain way or approach things in a certain order? I know I do  - I have a list of bookmarked competitions to enter, and I feel very uncomfortable if for some reason I have to change the order. And if a Captcha word or security code number is one that has special significance for me, I'm absolutely convinced I am going to win! The other day I entered a competition that closes on December 31st, and the security number was my husband's old Army number. If you've ever been in the forces, or married to a member of the forces, you'll know how that number gets etched into your brain! So I am fully expecting a win from that!

Now we are all modern, rational adults and you might think there is no place in your life for lucky charms and superstitions. But there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the luckier we think we are, the luckier we actually ARE. This was demonstrated very well by Dr. Richard Wiseman in  his book "The Luck Factor"  - for which I was one of the guinea pigs. And while looking for the link to the book for you, I found that there is now a website dedicated to teaching you how to be lucky! is the site. I'm going to check it out now and will report back to you in the New  Year if I find anything exciting there.

In the meantime, I would love to hear what comping superstitions YOU have and whether they have ever brought you luck on a grand  scale.

Photographs courtesy of Valerie Dallimore. 

Thursday 22 December 2011

WIN one of the top 5 gadgets of 2011

Life is better ON are giving you the chance to win one of the top gadgets of 2011. The prize will be one of the Top 5 devices of 2011 (iPhone 4S, iPad2, Nokia Lumia, Samsung Galaxy S2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab)  - whichever turns out to be the most popular.

To enter, pop along to their Facebook page then go to the xMas game and pick your favourite device. Click the "Like" button underneath it, and if the one you have chosen is the one with the most likes at midnight on January 8th, when voting closes, you will be in the draw to win it.

Sunday 18 December 2011

The dinner that was a winner.

Back in  February 2000 I won one of the best holiday prizes ever, as a result of entering a competition in the Sainsbury's magazine. The task was to answer various questions about Indian food - a passion of mine - and write a tiebreaker, and I was absolutely delighted to learn I was a finalist.

The final involved staying at the Ritz for a night. I have never slept in a bedroom with a real chandelier before! We were greeted with a bowl of fruit and a freshly-ironed copy of the Evening Standard and left to explore our room. The price list for the mini bar and room service made entertaining reading – thank goodness we were being provided with dinner! When we got back to our room after the meal, not only had the bed been turned down, but a little mat had been placed on the floor at each side, with a pair of bedroom slippers on it. They think of everything, don’t they?

The meal itself was absolutely wonderful. I was pleased to see that it was to be all based on Indian food as my husband’s years in the Brigade of Gurkhas had given me a good knowledge of it. The first course was a soup and the questions were “what is the herb” and “what is the cappuccino made from” – the herb was easy, coriander, as my husband is violently allergic to it so I have to be able to recognise it easily. The cappuccino was impossible – by the time everyone had been served, the froth had sunk into the soup and was indistinguishable from the rest.

Next came a risotto of kedgeree, and as well as the spices and variety of rice, we had to identify the fish. Delicate pink strands in it led several people to say salmon, but I managed to isolate a pink piece – it was tomato! The fish was smoked haddock, unnoticed by one or two because it was undyed.

Then came a lime pickle sorbet – powerfully flavoured and an easy one for everybody.

Next a meat dish which stumped us all – it turned out to be lamb, but had no discernible flavour apart from the spices it had been cooked with. The spices in the accompanying chutney were a challenge and left us all struggling – until I finished eating mine and I saw the plate stained bright yellow. I have bleached turmeric stains off my worktops often enough to recognise them anywhere.

Finally a delicious pudding of cardamom ice cream with a ginger dressing – another easy course for all of us.

Before the pudding we were told that two of us were close on points and well ahead of the others, but didn’t say which two it was. I was hopeful though, as from the conversation after each round I seemed to have had the right answers most of the time. However it was still a surprise and an enormous thrill to be awarded the prize!

The officials left soon after the meal, leaving the contestants and partners to gather together all the half-empty decanters of port and settle down for a long chat. It was great to find that there was no animosity from the runners-up.

The prize was a wonderful gourmet trip to India, staying at hotels  in Delhi, Shimla, Jaipur and Bombay. I'll tell you more about that another tine.

Thursday 15 December 2011

A bit of festive fun

You really don't want to hear anything about comping from me at the moment, do you? Either you've got RSI from trying to enter all the Advent competitions, or you've  decided to take a few days off now and prepare for Christmas. So I thiough I'd share a bit of off-topic festive fun with you.

First of all, something that has been around for many years - I first saw it as a badly Xeroxed copy handed round my husband's  office about 25 years ago, but it still makes me laugh every time I read it.



 1 cup butter                                         1 cup sugar
4 large eggs                                         1 cup dried fruit
1 teasp baking powder                        1 teasp salt
1 cup brown sugar                               lemon juice
nuts                                                     1 bottle whisky


Sample the whisky to check for quality. Take a large bowl. Check the whisky again to be sure it is of the highest quality. Pour 1 level cup and drink.


Turn on the electric mixer. Beat 1 cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and beat again. Make sure the whisky is still OK. Try another cup. Turn off the mixer. Break 2 leggs and add to the owl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Mix on the turner. If the fruit gets stuck in the beaters, pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the whisky again to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift 2 cups of salt or something. Who cares? Check the whisky. Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one babblespoon of brown sugar, or whatever colour you can find. Wix mell. Grease the oven.  Turn the cake pan 350 gredees.

Don’t forget to beat off the burner. Throw the bowl out of the window, check the whisky again and go to bed.


Next, something far more up to date. I first spotted this last year and thought it extraordinarily clever yet relevant to the season   a video on YouTube called "If  Jesus were born in times of Google, Facebook and Twitter" - you can see it here


Tuesday 13 December 2011

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

Have you ever had a prize that has become memorable for the wrong reason? A prize I won a few years ago was a perfect example of this.

The prize was a day of pampering and treatments at a small town-centre health club. I felt a bit uncomfortable when I realised that I was the only customer, but I soon got used to having a team of personal staff and had a wonderfully relaxing day. Until it came to the final treatment…….

The idea was to lie in a bath of water mixed with a bucketful of seaweed puree, and in a darkened room be pummelled by intense underwater jets that moved gradually up and down the body. The beautician said that this would make more blood flow towards my heart (from where exactly???) and collect particles of undigested food on the way, which it would excrete through my lymph glands. I kept as straight a face as I could, while surreptitiously checking my armpits for signs of my lunch emerging.

Despite that, the treatment was very relaxing and I was almost asleep when the new trainee beautician, on her first day at work, came to tell me that my time was up.

“Do I need to switch this machine off?” I asked.

“No,” she replied, “the beautician will be along soon to do that,” and departed to let me dress in privacy.

However the underwater jets were stronger than I thought – just as I finished dressing, the ones which should have been pummelling my back started up, squirting half a dozen powerful jets of seaweed slurry straight into the air! I was soaked, and the walls and ceiling were covered in a thick brown sludge – oozing down the walls and dripping off the pictures and mirrors!

Thank goodness it was my last treatment, I couldn’t get away fast enough! And something tells me that the trainee beautician was probably not far behind me!

Image: think4photop /

Friday 9 December 2011

Don't be a Bad Egg on Twitter

Are you a comper? Do you have an avatar on Twitter, or do you still use the egg picture you were given when you signed up?

If you are still an egg, you might be surprised to learn that it might be reducing the number of competitions that you win. This is because most people on Twitter, including many of those who run competitions, believe that if you haven't personalised your account,  you are

a) brand new to Twitter, possibly having only set up the account to enter that particular competition
b) too lazy to change it, in which case why should they make the effort to give you a prize
c) a spammer - all those "throwaway" accounts that send you the dodgy "Free Starbucks gift card" and "Free iPad contest" tweets have egg avatars.  Spammers with egg avatars are getting into such a problem on Twitter that many people hit the "Block and report spam" button as soon as  they see a tweet from an egg, so you could be a genuine person and find yourself blocked.

Now I'm not saying that everyone takes that attitude, but why not take a few minutes to make sure that NOBODY ever deletes your entry just because you look like an egg?

Not everyone want to show their face to the world, so here are some ideas for pictures you might use.

  • a picture of something you would like to win. A lot of compers believe this can bring them luck - why not give it a try?
  • a picture of a family pet.
  • one of your holiday photos
  • a close up of a flower
  • something relevant to the current season - for instance a Christmas Tree or the Easter bunny
Have fun thinking of something. Try to make it something that will make your tweets instantly recognisable, so everyone will know it is you.  Don't choose a copyright image, such as a Disney character or a photo you've seen on somebody's blog, without permission from the owner.

To change your avatar, log in to your Twitter account and go to the arrowhead to the top right, by your name. Choose "Settings" from the drop down menu then go to the "Profile" tab. Use the Browse button  to choose a picture from your computer,  and once it appears in the box, click "Save" at the bottom of the screen. It may be a few minutes before your tweets start to show up with your new picture, and you may need to send a few tweets, but once it starts to appear, you won't be a Bad Egg any more!

Thursday 8 December 2011

Win Strictly Live tour tickets!

If you are a fan of Strictly Come Dancing - and I know that a lot of you are - you'll be pleased to learn that Hotels4U are giving you a chance to win tickets to see the tour next year. Shows are to be held in London, Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow, Cardiff, Dublin and Belfast. One lucky person will win a pair of tickets to their choice of venues on the tour.
To enter, you will need to like their Facebook page then click on the "Win....." button in the left hand menu and  answer one simple question.

But hurry! The competition closes at 11am on Monday December 12th.

And on the 13th, they will be launching a "12 Days  of Christmas" competition, so look out for that too.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Win one of 5 pushchairs from Silver Cross

Silver Cross have gone all out on their last competition before Christmas and are giving away five Pop Classic pushchairs (which comes with a cup holder, harness pads, ventilated raincover, shopping basket and carry handle).

It's the same entry process as the two previous competition as to enter you have to like their Facbook page then go to the competition tab then answer the simple Christmassy themed question.

The competition lasts until 3pm on Friday 16th December 2011 and you can read the full terms and conditions here

Good luck - but save one for me. If you also read Mellow Mummy, my daughter's blog, you'll know I'm going to be a grandma again in the spring so I'd love to win one of these.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Those boomerang postcards!

Have you ever had a boomerang postcard? That is, one that you've sent off for a competition, but comes back to your own address instead? They are annoying, aren't they - and expensive too, as the stamp has often been franked when it comes back to you, so just popping it back in the postbox might not work as the recipient might be asked to pay a surcharge, and refuse the delivery. Also, sometimes it takes so long for these boomerangs to come back to you that it's too late to send it again - the closing date has already gone.

When it happens, you might be lucky enough to get a refund of the cost of the stamp, if you complain to your local Post Office. If they are feeling very generous, they might give you a whole BOOK of stamps. But of course that won't compensate you for missing out on the prize that you could have won if the card had reached its destination.

So here are a few tips to help to make sure your cards go where they are intended to, and don't come flocking back like homing pigeons.

First of all, remember that most post is sorted by machinery these days. The "magic eye" in it isn't trained to look for words like "to" and "from", so most of the time putting those on your card doesn't help. All it looks  for is the postcode. And it expects to see that clearly and boldly written, on a line on its own, at the very bottom of the address. So when you are writing the address you are sending to, make sure that it really is as clear and distinct as it can be.

Now turn your attention to your own details on the other side of the card. This time you want the sorting machinery (which apparently isn't clever enough to think "Oh, the stamp is on the other side so that must be where the card is  going to" - something that would solve all our problems) to be as confused as possible and miss spotting your postcode. The first thing you can do to help is to turn your postcard through a right angle and have the short edges at the top and bottom. As it goes through the machine with the long edges top and bottom, your postcode will seem to be sideways on to it, so it won't be able to read it.
Then make sure the postcode isn't on the bottom line. Put something underneath it - your phone number, your email address, the answer to the competition question if there is one, or even a pattern of pretty squiggles! You could also put  your postcode  on the same line as your county, if the card is wide enough.

If you are using picture postcards with all your writing on one side, your finished card would look like this. Note how the sender's own details are as low down the card as possible, so that they don't get obscured by the postmark. If your card is drawn as a winner and they can't read your address, they'll have to throw it away and draw a different winner!

All this is good practice anyway as it makes your card clear and easy to read for the promoter as well as the Post Office. It won't guarantee that your cards don't come back to you, but it will make sure it happens less often.

But there is one way to make sure your cards DO come back to you, and I experienced it  just yesterday. I picked up the mail and there was a boomerang card among it, so I started to get angry and turned the card over to see which competition I'd lost out on. Yes, the card was stamped, but I'd been in such a hurry to post my entry that I had completely forgotten to write the address it was supposed to go to.  Please don't ever do that!

Saturday 3 December 2011

Blip your way to a win!

Technology is moving frighteningly fast these days, and every time something new turns up, it isn't long before promoters start to use it to run competitions. One of the latest  innovations sees competitions being run through apps for smart phones and iPads.

The last few weeks have seen prizes being offered through apps from Black & Decker, Richer Sounds and  Wetherspoons  - all of which are still running as I write this.  I'm afraid I only have links to the Apple versions and don't know whether they produce versions for other phones.

Latest on the scene is a fun app called BlippAR which comes in Apple and Android versions and can be used on a phone or an iPad, although the larger screen of the iPad gives more dramatic results. You simply open the app and hold the camera of your device over the item to be "Blipped"  and information about the product, links to online content, recipes and even  competitions appear on the screen as if by magic!

Here I am blipping a jar of Marmite - can you see how the link to the recipes has  appeared over the image of the jar on the screen? All I needed to do after that was touch the screen and I was taken to a selection of tasty recipes.

But I know that you are probably not here to read about Marmite Omelettes, you are thinking, "But where are the comps?"

Well right now, if you blip a bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup, you could instantly win  one of two packs of Heinz branded kitchen goodies every day until January 19th. You can enter once a day and I entered early in the morning and won a pack while I was testing it for this article.

And  if you blip the cover of the new album Now 80 you could win one of 80 prizes, from a signed  iPad to a Spotify subscription. Unfortunately the terms of this competition aren't working at the moment so I can't tell you when it closes.

The really good news is, you don't always need to have the product to hand - the BlippAR Facebook page often puts blippable photos of the products up for you to try, or, as you can see from the photo above, you can simply search the web for a decent photo of the product and try blipping that. It worked from me, when I wanted to enter the Now 80 competition.

Your Blippar app has a catalogue of things that are currently blippable, and updates with any new ones each time you open it, and new ones are announced  on the Facebook page too. Another current blipping competition is the Mercedes Benz "Escape the Map" game - there are no photos of it here because I can't make head nor tail of it!  And I believe there has also been a competition in Metro.

It's incredibly easy to use, great fun and trying out new blips can  be quite addictive! One more tool to add to your comping kit.

Friday 2 December 2011

What on Earth were you looking for?

I can't resist looking at the search terms that people have used to find this  blog, and recently have chatted to a few other bloggers  who do the same. Sometimes I wonder what they were REALLY looking for - and whether they found it here or went away disappointed. If you are a blogger, do you do the same? I'd love to hear about the terms that were used to find your blogs!

Obviously the most frequently used terms are to do with competitions. And judging by the number of people who come here by searching for "Competitors Journal" there are a lot of us older compers who still have very fond memories of the magazine.

People looking for help with Twitter also regularly find their way here, with searches such as
  • how to get out of Twitter jail
  • blocking on Twitter, how it works
  • what does "dm your address mean", and
  • what does #followfriday mean
Captcha code queries also bring quite a few visitors, as do gardening queries about growing grape vines (I'm very sorry to disappoint you if that's why you are here but here's a bunch of grapes for you to look at).

But some of the more unusual searches that have brought people here are
  • rising taste
  • 1950s image source
  • Ireland souvenir shops
  • grape design on a plate
  • comebacks for "don't do as I do, do as I say"
and one that really puzzles me, especially as it seems to have been used several times
  • sex hotel roof vancouver
I promise you, you can search every single post on this blog and while I HAVE written about a trip to Vancouver, I didn't make any mention of sex on the hotel roof!  But,  for those who might get excited by the thought, here is a  photo of a hotel in Vancouver. I'll leave the rest up to your imagination.

Thursday 1 December 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

.... and a  a comper, we all know what that means - ADVENT COMPETITIONS!

I'm not going to make a list, because that has been so expertly done by two of the biggest and best websites for compers. So I'll recommend that you look here for the Loquax  one and  here for the Prizefinder one.  Both are excellent lists and thoroughly well researched and  I'll certainly be referring to them many times over the next 24 days.  There seem to be more than ever before this year!

So since I'm not making a list (and checking it twice)  I have shared a few photos of my hand made Christmas  cards with you, and I'll give you a few tips for coping with the Advent comping mania.

  • First of all, allow yourself a set amount of time for Advent competitions, and no more. It might be an hour, it might be half a  day - just don't let it take over your whole day.  Entering every single one would be impossible!
  • Once you've read through the list of competitions, choose the ones that interest you most. If there's a baby in the family, or a teenager, there will be some that are aimed at people like you. Pick ones with prizes that match your hobbies and  interests. When your time is limited, it's not worth spending time on the Your Cat Advent if you aren't a cat lover! I plan to pick 15-20 competitions and concentrate my efforts on those.
  • Don't enter the competitions first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Some of them are only open during office hours - a problem for people out at work all day - and some are manually updated every day so aren't ready until the person responsible has got to work and had their first coffee of the day. If you try to enter at 6am (my preferred time!) you will waste a lot of time going to sites that are still showing the previous  day's competition.
  • Don't have too high expectations. We compers love this time of year,  so lots  of us enter the Advent competitions, so don't expect a huge number of prizes to suddenly come rolling in. And bear in mind that although some are drawn, and winners contacted, daily, some promoters leave everything set to run automatically while they cope with the Christmas rush, and don't draw winners until the New Year. My personal record  for a  late Advent notification is March!
  • Remember  that lots of other competitions are still running! Because it is such a busy time of year, and many compers are concentrating on either their own Christmas plans or the dozens of Advent competitions, other competitions can be neglected and see entry numbers falling dramatically. And low entry numbers mean good odds.

Finally, having said I am not making a list,  I HAVE made a little list of sorts. It's a Twitter list, and I'm hoping to add  to it all the Twitter pages that are running Advent competitions. It's still very much a work in progress, but you can follow it here

Monday 28 November 2011

How to comment on a blog post

Many Grape Vine readers are new to the world of blogs, and some of you have never visited any other blogs, or commented on them, but there are so many lovely competitions being run by lovely, friendly bloggers that it really is well worth joining in. Not only do you stand a better chance of winning than you do in many other kinds of competition, but you could get to know some interesting new people too. The majority of blogs are run by individuals and one-person businesses, so there isn't the "facelessness" of simply filling in a form on a website or writing your details on a postcard.

But when I have run competitions here on the blog, a few Grape Vine readers have told me that they didn't know how to comment. Go on, you old blogging hands who are tittering behind your hands now, you must have been first timers once! Today's advice is for the newbies who may, one day, be as experienced as you are!

First of all, a blog is different from a website and often the blogger doesn't have much control over the form that they use. So some blogs  - this one included - don't have a box to collect your email address. This means that unless they are using a widget like the Rafflecopter one I have used for recent competitions, the blog owner will need a way to contact you if you win.

One way to do this is to sign up for  a Google account. You can do this at or by clicking on the "Join this site with Google friend Connect" button that you will see on the right of many blogs. Once you have signed up, go to your dashboard and  choose "privacy" and tick  the box marked "Show my email address". That won't show it to the whole world, but if you have followed a blog and then win  a competition on it, the blogger will be able to email you to tell you that you have won.

If you don't want to do that, and have a Twitter account,  you can use that as a way to be contacted. Just put your Twitter name in your comment.

If you don't have either of these ways  top be contacted, you may want to give your email address in your comment. But please, don't write it in its usual form. There are computers set up to search the internet for email addresses that appear anywhere public, and when they find them, they deluge them with spam. You don't want that to happen, so write it in a way that a computer can't recognise. The most popular way to do this, and one that most bloggers will understand, is to replace the @ sign with the word AT.

Right, we've worked out how you can be contacted when you win, now we need to find out how you are going to actually make that comment! First of all, make sure you are reading the specific post rather than the whole blog. To do this, click on the subject line at the top of the post you are reading, for instance "How to comment on a blog post" at the top of this one. Next look for the words "comment on this post" or "post a comment". They will usually be at the very bottom of the post, but occasionally right at the top. Sometimes you need to scroll a long way down, past other comments, to find them. On the Grape Vine blog, scroll right past the end of the post and past the "You might also like" suggestions  and you will see a box to write your comment in. On some blogs, instead of the box,  there will be a  link: click on it and the box will appear in a pop-up window.

Write your comment in the box, making sure that if there is a question, you have answered it correctly,  and if necessary, left a way to contact you as described above. Then select "Google ID" if you have one, or otherwise "anonymous" from the  drop down menu, and click on "Post comment". On some blogs you will be given a Captcha code to fill in before your comment is complete.

Once that is done, your comment will appear immediately, or a little while later after the blog owner has approved  it. There is one final thing to do if you are entering a competition that uses a Rafflecopter widget, and that is to go back to the widget and click "I did this" next to the "Leave a comment" option. The widget  will collect your email address safely and securely so you won't need to worry about spammers.

If you are new to commenting on blogs, why not try it out here? Just say Hello, tell me what you want for Christmas, tell  me about the weather - just say SOMETHING so that next time you see a competition that asks you to comment on a blog, you won't think "I can't do that, I've never commented on  a blog". And as I check all comments before they are posted, I promise I won't allow your comment to appear if you have accidentally included your email address.

And then why not take a look at some of the lovely blogs on "My Blog List" on the lower right of this page, where you might find some competitions to make a start on!

Thursday 24 November 2011

Win some gorgous treats for the babies in your life!

Silver Cross has another wonderful competition for us. This time they are giving away the whole of their Owl and the Pussycat range  - a massive bundle of treats consisting of:

  • Owl & the Pussycat Musical Waterball

  • Owl & the Pussycat First Year Picture Frame

  • Owl & the Pussycat Moneybox

  • 2 x Owl & the Pussycat Trinket Boxes

  • Owl & the Pussycat Musical Ball

  • Owl & the Pussycat Owl Rattle Set

  • Pussycat Rattle Set

  • Owl Comforter

  • Owl Hug Toy

  • Pussycat Hug Toy

  • Owl Beanie

  • Pussycat Hug Toy

  • Owl Beanie

  • Pussycat Beanie

  • Boat Beanie

  • All you need to do to enter is head over to their Facebook page,  "Like"  the page if you don't already (I expect most of you already like it because of the beautiful doll's pram competition they ran recently!) and answer the simple question on the Competition tab. The competition closes on December 2nd.

    Wednesday 23 November 2011

    My day in Reading - what a lot of new competitions!

    Grape Vine readers, and others who have read my "A day in the life..." post, will know that I try to have at least one day a week devoted entirely to visiting as many shops as possible in search of new competitions. Some days they are utter failures and I come home with nothing at all, but most trips yield a fair crop of new competitions. However yesterday I staggered home with a bumper bundle of new competitions, and some of them close very soon so read on for more information. For anything you need to act on before the next issue of Grape Vine comes out, the information you need is given here.

    This week for my "safari" I drove to Reading and parked in the Oracle centre, so my first stop was the shopping centre there. Although these competitions were found in Reading, they should be available in branches of the same stores all over the country.

    Shoon had an entry form with their Ecco Gore-Tex shoes - simply try a pair on to be given an entry form to hand in for a draw to win a trip to the Ice Hotel. Closing 30 Nov.

    The Fenn Wright Manson concession in House of Fraser had a form to hand in for a draw to win £500 worth of gift vouchers and £500 of diamond jewellery, closing 11 Dec.

    Also in House of Fraser, the Triumph lingerie department had a form to hand in when you bought any item of Triumph lingerie, for a chance to win a trip on the Orient Express, closing 31 Dec.

    Heading on through the centre, I passed Disney store  where the Gift List competition closes on 27 Nov  and New Look where store card holders will  be given a lucky treat envelope  every time they make a purchase  of £30 or more, until 15 Dec. Each envelope will contain a treat ranging from a discount voucher to a holiday.  Ernest Jones had a comp with GC  watches, closing 16 Dec (for full details, see the December Grape Vine).

    H Samuel had a form to hand in for a chance to win a Chamilia bangle, closing 04 Dec and Hush Puppies  had one to hand in to win a pair of shoes a month for a year (oh, yes please!) closing 31 Dec. Another form to hand in in L'Occitane - sign up to their mailing list for a chance to win a £500 hamper. No closing date was given.

    The Bank Fashion catalogue  contains several competitions, all closing in December and January, while the Office one  directs you to for a chance to win a chalet holiday in the french Alps,closing 31 Nov.

    Moss Bros have posters advertising a competition to win  a 40" LCD TV and Blu-ray home entertainment system and  a digital camera, with 10 runners up getting a digital camera and  a copy of the film The Hangover Part II. Closing 11 Dec.

    In Debenhams the Virgin Travel shop had a form to hand in for a chance to win £1,000 off your next holiday, closing 30 Nov.

    My final stop in the Oracle was HMV  where I bought a copy of the DVD Top Gear At The Movies which had a sticker on the outside saying "Win a trip to the Valencia Grand Prix". Apparently the comp details are on the DVD, so as  it doesn't close until 22 Mar I've not watched it yet. I was pleased to find that the DVD case also contains a comp to win a Smart TV, which also closes next March.

    Out into the town centre itself, to hand  in my own entry for  the  Clas Ohlsen competition. Check your November Grape Vine update for a reminder of the details - it closes on 10 Dec.

    High and Mighty menswear  shop had a form to hand in to enter a draw for £1,000 to spend in  store, closing 29 Feb. A few doors along,  Jessops catalogue features two rather specialised photography competitions.

    In Hawkins Bazaar you are given an entry form when you spend  at least £10. Fill it in there and then and return it to the assistant for entry into a draw to win £1,000, closing on Christmas Eve. The Modelzone catalogue says there is a Christmas competition in store with £100 and 5 x £20 vouchers to be won, but all I could find was their usual monthly draw for £50 of vouchers. And talking of catalogues, the JD Sports catalogue contains a competition to win a trip to next year's Snowbombing Festival, closing 31 Dec.

    In the Altimus store, the Paramó catalogue contains a comp to win walking equipment, closing 01 Feb and a reminder of the ongoing  Nikwax competition.

    Having exhausted the town centre, I drove on to some of the out of town retail parks. First stop was  Toys'R'Us to spend some gift vouchers I had won. The assistant persuaded me to take up the offer of a Gold Card loyalty card, and I'm glad I did as registering it online at gets you entered  into a draw to win a £500 trolley dash, closing 30 Nov.

    Then on to Hobbycraft where, as usual, I spent far too much. Luckily there was a money-off voucher in the latest issue of their magazine, which also is giving away a trip to the Ice Hotel - head over to  to enter. Closing 30 Nov.  There are other giveaways in the mag, which will be listed in the December GV.

    My next stop was Tesco where I picked up a pack of Sugar Puffs with a competition on them to win one of 40 x Wii and 5,010 x Skylanders characters. This closes 30 Sep 2012. A few other on-pack competitions I spotted turned out to have closed,  but a leaflet promoting the Tesco credit cardhad details of a draw to win back the cost of Christmas. closing 05 Jan, and one at the Tesco Pharamacy had a draw to win a holiday to Lapland, closing 31 Dec.

    By this time the sky had turned black and  it was about to pour with rain, so, with a quick glance in The Range and Majestic Wine to see if either had any new competitions (they didn't) I headed home. But my day wasn't over - I  had to sort through all the Christmas brochures and catalogues I had picked up to see if any of them contained competitions, and then open lots of mail for the London Competitors Club of which I am Membership Secretary.  It is renewals time and renewals are flooding in thick and fast.

    When my husband got home he said, "Have you done anything today?"
    "Oh," I replied, "Just the usual....."

    Wednesday 16 November 2011

    CLOSED Win the DSA car and bike books - and you could win a car!

    Every year, the DSA runs two tiebreaker competitions, one in their range of books for  car drivers and one in the books for motorcyclists. The prize in the car books is a car - a Peugeot 107 or similar car - and the prize  in the bike books is £1,000 worth of bike clothing. You have plenty time to think of your tiebreakers - the competitions don't close until the end of 2012!

    Together, the two books would set you back £27.98 but I am giving you the chance to win them BOTH. Just go to the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions.

    Oh, and make sure you DO follow the instructions! Last time I used Rafflecopter for a competition, some of you thought you would take short cuts by filling in the pop-up forms but not actually doing the actions. Well, if you do that, it might look as if you have entered - but when it comes to drawing the winner, your entries show  up as not being valid (this is the same with all rafflecopter competitions, whichever blog you enter them on).

    UK entrants only, please, and the competition  will close at midnight on Monday 28th November. Note that as comments are moderated, you may not see yours appear immediately. I might be asleep, or out looking for new competitions  for Grape Vine..... or something..... but unless your comment is inappropriate it will appear eventually.

    Thank you all for entering this competition which is now CLOSED. The winner is 

    Option: Follow @janesgrapevine on Twitter

  • Extra Info: @clarateddy

  • Well done!

    Monday 14 November 2011

    My VIP trip to Masterchef Live

    This time last year, I was delighted to win a pair of tickets to the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham. While I was at the show, I popped my details on an entry card and posted it in a box by the entrance, for a competition to win tickets to Masterchef Live in London this year. There must have been tens of thousands of entries,  so I was delighted to get a phone call earlier this year to say I was the winner.

    The prize consisted of VIP tickets for four people on two days, front row  tickets for all four of us to two of the Chefs Theatre performances, a night in a hotel and £500 of spending money.  The show ran from 11-13 November and we took the prize trip on the 11th and 12th.

    On arriving at the show, we  made our way to the VIP lounge, a room set aside just for people with VIP  tickets, where we were given shopping bags and show guides and £20 each of tokens to use in the restaurant area. The lounge was a comfortable, spacious place where we could safely leave coats and shopping, relax with a cup of tea and a snack - or even a glass of champagne - and  enjoy talks  and demonstrations specially laid on for VIP visitors. There were even  a few VIP only competitions! It would have been quite possible to spend all our time at the show in  there, but we were anxious to get out and see what the  show had to offer.

    Tim Anderson cooks against Phil Vickery, hosted by John Torode and Greg Wallace
    Masterchef Live doesn't have as many "big business" exhibitors as the Good Food Show,  the emphasis is much more on the demonstrations which took place at several places in the hall, and on the restaurant area where small dishes  typical of the menus of a dozen top London restaurants were on sale. The upstairs gallery was host to scores of stalls from small producers and I was delighted to meet up with friends from Twitter such as Kate from Gower Cottage brownies, the lovely boys from Daas beer  and former Masterchef finalist Tim Kinnaird.

    Also upstairs was a  large hall hosting the Wine Show  - tasting glasses  and highly tasteful glass holders to hang around our necks  were also included in our VIP bags.

    Masterchef winner 2011, Tim  Anderson

    One of the joys of  having a two day  ticket was that on the first day we didn't need to do  any shopping.We could look around the stalls (and of course enter the competitions) without having to juggle bags and boxes. As we left at the end of the first day, we were given  VIP goody bags crammed with samples, recipe books and packs of  biscuits.
    me with Marcus Bean, last year's winner of Iron Chef UK, and  Michael Caines
    The second day was  a repeat of the first, with more shopping bags, show guides, goody bags and meal tokens, but this time with an added treat - the PR lady looking after us had managed to arrange for us to have our lunch in the Green Room where all the celebrity chefs went to chill out between performances. There we were lucky enough to meet Michael Caines, this year's Masterchef winner Tim Anderson  and Plenty's own Superstar, Juan Sheet!

    My life is complete, I've been hugged  by Juan Sheet!

    Sunday 13 November 2011

    Some lovely wins for Grape Vine readers!

    Readers of Grape Vine love to be winners! And each month,  they can notify me of any wins worth £500 or more that they have had, so they can appear on the Winners List on the front cover. At the end  of each year, every entry on the list goes into a draw to win a 6 month extension to their subscription and 100 second class stamps.

    I love to hear of the wins that readers have had, and other readers  say that hearing about big wins and hoping that they, too, can be a "Cover star" spurs them on to try harder with their own comping. Yes, reading about other compers' success really CAN make you a winner.

    So here, to inspire you all, is a list of the big wins sent in by Grape Vine readers in just one month, October 2011.

    £500 – Chicago Town pizza
    VIP meet and greet with The Saturdays
    Olympics trip – Morrisons/Cadburys
    £2,800 – Dickinson’s Real Deal
    weekend in Hull – New! Magazine
    washing machine – Waitrose/Persil
    weekend in London – OK magazine
    £1,000 of toys – Mattesons text comp
    £500 hotel voucher – Hello magazine
    luxury break in St Andrews – OK magazine
    VIP trip to Aegon Masters tennis (£800)
    trip to Lapland –Clas Ohlssen
    £10,000 of gadgets – Currys
    VIP trip to music awards with helicopter tour, lunch at the Ivy, night at the Dorchester and more – web comp
    tickets to Coast anniversary meal and choice of dress – Coast
    TV, Blu-ray player and more – Sci-Fi Now
    year’s fuel (paid as a  cheque) – BP
    Designer mirror (over £1,100) – blog comp
    Holiday to Grenada – Daily Mirror
    Spa  break – Boots/Dove
    £500 rug – Norfolk magazine

    Well done again to anyone who recognises their win here. The Winners List is only open to current Grape Vine subscribers - see here for details of how to subscribe.

    And look out very soon for an account of a recent big win of my own - a VIP trip to Masterchef Live! 

    Thursday 10 November 2011

    What do you REALLY think of Jeremy Clarkson?

    He's the Marmite Man  - you either love him or hate him Or do you?  Everyone has their own views on Jeremy Clarkson, not all of them charitable.

    Experience Mad would like to know just what you DO think of him, and in return for completing their very short survey they are giving you the chance to win a driving experience in a Ferrari 360, Aston Martin DB9 or V8 Vantage, Lamborghini Gallardo and Porsche 911.

    To give your opinion and enter the draw, pop over to The survey closes at the end of November  so that the results will be out in time for the Top Gear Christmas Special.

    Tuesday 8 November 2011

    AN EARLY CHRISTMAS TREAT FOR MUMS AND DADS! WIN Christmas Gifts for your family, your friends and YOU! has put together a fabulous online Christmas Gift Guide complete with ideal Christmas Gift Ideas for all the family, reviews and recommendations, great small gift business features and best of all... Christmas Gift Give Aways with gifts up to £100 each plus exclusive offers and discount codes!

    Supportive Business Mums was founded by Ces Loftus, a designer, brand buzz creator and work from home mum. Ces says : "Christmas Shopping can be stressful as well as time consuming and costly. I have put together a great selection of ideal gift ideas, all from small businesses as opposed to the high street and offering some great discounts and special offers too. We have some awesome prizes up for grabs and all you have to do is visit the online features, click through to the sites you are interested in, then comment on the Christmas Guide Blog to say which products are on your Christmas Wish List! You double your chances of winning by sharing the Gift Guide page on twitter and facebook. An early Christmas treat ready to make your life easier and save you some money!"

    Do you want to win a gorgeous gift for yourself and have gifts for family and friends sorted too?

    Quick, get over to there are so many fabulous gifts including, clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery, bath and beauty products, pamper products, candles and homewares, art, personalised gifts, cards and paper, books, novelties, stocking fillers and toys to be won!

    If you have a small business selling products suitable for Christmas Gifts and would like a free feature on their guide then contact Ces Loftus by email at

    NOW GO and WIN yourself something fabulous! Good Luck Everyone!

    Monday 7 November 2011

    Do you know Britain's luckiest person?

    Do you know Britain's luckiest person? Or maybe you feel YOU deserve that description? A journalist called James Tegerdine is looking for someone who fits that description, or someone who makes a living out of winning competitions, for a story which would be published in newspapers and other publications all over the world.

    If you would be interested in letting him interview you, or know somebody else who might (but please get their permission first!) please get in touch with him at - and tell him that you were sent by Jane Willis of Grape Vine so he knows right away which feature you are talking about.


    Friday 4 November 2011

    Some competitions that just missed Grape Vine

    Printing deadlines being what they are, occasionally a new competition appears after Grape Vine has gone out, yet closes too soon to be included in the update.

    Here are two that did that this month.

    The first was found in Asda, a small tear-off pad  by tins of pre-mixed Southern Comfort. The leaflet directs you to  where you will find the instant win promotion; play the game for a chance to win one of 100 sets of 4 tickets to the Juke Joint party on November 17th. The site says there is also an instant win promotion connected with free voodoo hats given out when you buy a Southern Comfort in participating pubs.  Both close November 14th.

    The second is at Sainsburys. Swipe your Nectar card when buying any of the following:
    - All Coke, Powerade and Glaceau Vitamin Water drinks
    - All Cadbury 120g, 140g and 230g bars
    - All P&G products including Pampers, Head &Shoulders, Gillette and Fairy
    - All Heineken lager
    - Selected fresh fruit and vegetables.
    to be automatically entered into a draw to win one of 1,500 family tickets to the Paralympic Games. You will get one entry for each product you buy, but can only win one prize per Nectar card. This closes 15 November.

    Thursday 3 November 2011

    Hand made Thursday - a wedding card

    This weekend I am going to the wedding of the daughter of two of my oldest friends. We've known Philippa since she was a tiny tot - not right since her birth, as we lived overseas for the first year of her life. But we are practically courtesy Aunt and Uncle to her. So I wanted to make her a really special wedding card. And as almost always when a very special, keepsake card is what I want to produce, the Bookatrix embossing board was called into action.

    This time I cut one of the pages twice, once in card and once in acetate, then cut out the centre of the card one to reveal the acetate windows below and the patterned paper (won in a Twitter competition!) in the layer below. The windows  were finished with peel offs and a stand made from matching patterned paper. The little rosebuds finishing the corners look flat in the photo but in fact are quite deep. They came from a Hot Off The Press kit.

    I neede to make sure it didn't get damaged in the post so I made a matching box.

    This post is for the Handmade Thursday linky at White Lily Green

    Inspire Me Beautiful

    Win a lovely treat for Peppa Pig fans

    The latest competition on the Tesco books blog is  for one of 5 Peppa Pig bundles. They include a copy of Peppa Pig Time for a Story, Peppa Pig Pirate Island Sound Book and the Peppa Pig 'International Day' DVD.

    To enter, simply pop over to the blog post here   and  tell them which animal you would like to be, if you could, and why. You can get extra entries by asking your children which animals they would like to be too. The competition closes on Friday 18th November.

    And here is my granddaughter Lara, on a day trip to Peppa Pig world, wearing her favourite hat - a Peppa Pig one of course!

    Tuesday 1 November 2011

    Win six months subscription to Grape Vine

    Do you know that the Grape Vine website has its own monthly competition, with a six months  subscription to be won every month?

    Last month, there  were 383 entries, but 66 of these were disqualified for not following the instructions. So make sure you read carefully and do what it says, not what you THINK it says. The task was set up to trick spammers, not humans, but it's surprising how many humans are caught out too!

    Multiple entrants had their first entry allowed, but subsequent ones were disqualified.

    To enter, just pop over to this page  and fill in the form. This month's  competition closes on November 30th.

    While you are there, why not request a FREE sample copy of Grape  Vine? Anyone who has never  had a copy before can request a free copy  - but hurry! Stocks of the November issue are already limited! 

    Sunday 30 October 2011

    Hawaii Five-0 winner and feedback

    Thank you for all your entries to the Hawaii Five-0 competition. The winner was entry #71 from Phil Holland. You can see the "Rafflecopter" announcement of the winner on the original post

    I loved reading all your entries, and they reminded me of all sorts of programmes I had forgotten about. I can see I'm going to be thumbing through the TV guides to see what's on the channels that specialise in "Golden Oldies".

    My personal favourites were Monty Python's Flying Circus in the early 1970s and Butterflies in the late 70s/early 80s. There, I bet you were all expecting me to anme a cookery show like Delia or the Galloping Gourmet weren't you?

    Now a bit of feedback about the Rafflecopter system. When there is a Rafflecopter entry system - that's the big box on the page with the "I did this" buttons next to the tasks, you MUST use it. The draw is done using the information submitted through this box, and if you just comment on the blog or on Twitter or Facebook without also sending your details through the "I did this" button, you aren't included in the draw.

    Also if you say that you have commented, followed or tweeted but don't actually DO it - Rafflecopter knows! The person runing the comp sees a list of everyone who has entered and what they have actually done, so I'm afraid those of you who tried to save time by just clicking the "I did this" button and not actually doing the task weren't included in the draw either. Neither were those who had simply seen somebody else's entry tweet on Twitter and  copied it or Rt'd it - they didn't come to the blog and tell Rafflecopter that had entered, so they weren't in the draw.

    Rafflecopter is very easy to use, if you simply click on each step in turn and follow the instructions there, and as it makes it so much easier for people running blog competitions  to do them safely and securely, being able to communicate with entrants and winners without them having to risk exposing personal details like email addresses publicly on the web, we're going to be seeing a lot more of them.

    I'll be running more comps using it in the future, to help compers get to grips with it. And do please feel free to ask me any questions you have about the system, whether you are a comper who wants to enter a competition run this way or a blogger who would like to run one. I'll do my very best to answer!

    Tuesday 25 October 2011

    Getting hold of those elusive till receipts.

    Have you ever seen a competition entry form - or even just heard of the form but not got hold of it - and thought , "I would love to enter that but I can't get hold of the till receipt I need."? Maybe you are house bound, or live somewhere the shop running the competition has no branches? Or simply haven't time to visit a range of different shops?

    Well, now there is a solution to your problem. Jenni Bower-Tebbs, a Grape Vine reader who has been running a popular entry form supply service for many years, is starting up a qualifier buying service.

    The way it works is that you send her a stamped, addressed envelope plus enough unused, loose postage stamps to cover the price of the product plus a little extra to cover her  petrol costs when she goes shopping.  She will buy you the product and use your SAE send you the till receipt and an entry form - two entry forms if she has enough, so you have one for your records. She then keeps the product itself as her payment for the service.

    To start with and see what the response is, she is offering to get the products for the Morrisons/Heinz "Win your grocery shopping for life" competition.

    The prize is £10,000 in Morrisons vouchers and a whopping £65,000 in cash, and the task is simply to fill in your details on the entry form and enclose a Morrisons till receipt for any Heinz, HP or Lea & Perrins product.

    Jenni will supply the till receipt for the price of 3 x 1st class stamps, plus of course your SAE. She will take requests for other Morrisons receipts and if the service proves popular, will extend to other supermarkets and stores.

    As Jenni has no computer or email account, I can't give you an email address to contact her, and I didn't want to post her home address publicly on the blog. I know all you compers are lovely people, but sadly blogs can be read by some very UNlovely people too! So if you would like to take up the offer, please email me at with the subject TR SERVICE and I will tell you where to send your SAE and stamps.

    If you are a Grape Vine reader, there is no need to email me, you will find Jenni's address in the "IN - TO - WIN" advert on the back page of every copy of Grape Vine.

    IN - TO - WIN is Jenni's entry form service - she can supply single or monthly packs of entry forms. A  single pack costs £5, 3 months £12, 6 months £20 and 12 months £35, with cheques payable to Mrs J Bower-Tebbs. Again, email me for her address if you would like to give it a try!

    Monday 24 October 2011

    Win....... EVERYTHING!

    I Want One of Those, affectionately known by many as IWOOT, is a website that sells an amazing array of unusual and quirky gifts and accessories, ranging from a talking meerkat to a wine chilling fridge. Toys, gifts, games consoles, experience days - they have a gift for every taste and every budget.

    In fact they have so many gifts to choose from it can be hard to make up your mind. So how about simply having one of everything? Yes, every item they sell, that's over 2,350 products. To buy them would cost you more than £85,000 but they are giving you the chance to WIN one of everything they sell. That's all one prize, a whole lorry load of goodies including enough experience days to keep you busy every weekend for a year, games consoles, an iPad, fancy dress costumes and even some Christmas Pudding bin bags!

    All you need to do to enter is text AWESOME to 84383. No name and address, no email address, just the one word. It really couldn't be much easier! Each text costs £1 plus your normal message rate, but if you enter twice you can make a third entry completely free!

    For full details of the competition, including a l-o-n-g list of prizes and, for non-texters, a postal entry route, visit

    The competition closes on December 10th - so keep your mobile switched on that week, because if they can't contact the winner by 1pm on the 14th, they will have to draw a new winner. You'd really kick yourself if you missed out on a prize like that!

    And please, if one of you wins, can I have your Christmas Pudding bin bags? I'm sure you will have plenty other goodies left to enjoy!