Sunday 27 February 2011

Tag- you're it! Some Facebook tips

Recently several people have asked me questions about tagging on Facebook. I'm not as up to speed with Facebook as I am with Twitter, but I reckon I've got the hang of tagging - so tag along with me and I'll explain it.....

There are actually two things  known as tagging on Facebook. I'll call them tagging in an update and tagging a photo.

If you tag somebody in an update, you write a message on your own  wall  that can also be seen on the wall of the person or business you have tagged.  Why would you want to do this? Well, you might want to send a message to a friend without visiting their wall, or you might want to send the same message to several people at once, but if you are a comper the most likely reason will be  that the promoter has asked you to write something on  your  wall,  in order to enter a competition. Imagine you are  entering a competition run by Bloggs's Biscuits and they ask  you to write "I love Bloggs's Biscuits" on your wall. If you just write it like that, only your friends will see it, and Bloggs's won't know you have  entered, so you need to TAG them. To do  this, type an @ symbol and then  start typing Bloggs's Biscuits immediately, without a space. A drop down menu  will appear and you can select Bloggs's  Biscuits from it and when you have finished typing, the @ symbol will no longer  show  up but  the words Bloggs's  Biscuits will be highlighted.

If you have tagged  somebody in an update, the message appears on both your wall and theirs. And anyone who clicks on the highlighted word will be taken to the tagged  person's page.

Tagging a photo. This was originally intended  so that groups  of friends could tell each other who was in a photo, which is why you are sometimes asked to "Click on a person's face" when there are no faces in the   photo. When a  photo is used for a competition it is just an easy way for the promoter to collect entries while sometimes showing you some of their products. Before you can tag a photo,  you will need to "Like" the promoter's page. Once you have Liked the page, you should see the words  "Tag this photo" in the list under the lower left hand corner of the photo. (Unless,of course, Facebook is playing up, as  it was when I was writing this!). When you have clicked  on "tag this photo" you will see the "Click on a person's face" message I mentioned earlier, but unless the promoter has asked you to tag a specific part of the photo you can click anywhere. Click on the photo and choose your own name from the drop down menu that appears, and then click on "finished tagging" to make sure your tag is saved.There you are, done!

The snag is that a photo can only be tagged 50 times.  Any more than that and you will get a message saying the photo is full. Sometimes a promoter will run a quickie competition for a small prize and close it as soon as the 50 tags are reached;sometimes they have photos of several items and ask you to tag your favourite;  sometimes they will keep on adding more photos each time one is filled up, and sometimes once the photo is full they will say that you can enter by commenting on the photo instead. And sometimes they simply don't know about the 50 tag limit and are surprised when they start getting stroppy messages!

Sometimes when you tag a photo you are asked to tag several friends too  but in fact it is often possible to tag friends and enter  on their behalf  anyway. Do be careful when doing this though, in  case the competition only allows one entry per person. It would be a great pity if they entered too,  maybe on a different photo where you hadn't seen it, and you ended up disqualifying them instead of doing the good turn you had intended.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Keep the kids amused - and they could win a prize!

For most  parents, this is half term week- and  as  usual the weather is wet and miserable. I've spent most of today out searching for new competitions to put in Grape Vine, and  every shop and supermarket is full of grumpy children who really REALLY don't want to spend their school holidays shopping and harassed  parents and grandparents who have resorted to bribing the kids  with sweets (and will regret it later when the sugar rush and e-numbers start to take effect).

Why not try to channel some of this energy into creativity - and at the same time put your child in the running to win a lovely prize? Artful Adventures are offering your child the chance to win an art set worth around £100 consisting of:

•Wooden easel (choice of colour pink or blue)

• Mister Maker bumper craft box
• Play Dog Magic Ice Cream Playset
• Rainbow Aquadraw

To enter, you will need  to print off the paint by numbers sheet and then get your child to colour it using any technique they like - painting, crayons, collage,  glitter - the more  creative the better! Then upload  an image of the finished result to a blog post or a photo sharing site, making sure you include the age of the artist  a link to Fly Thomas Cook's free online printable games  and  a link to Artful Adventures' competition page. Finally, pop  back to the original page and  leave a message saying you have entered - The instructions don't say you need to leave a link to your entry but I'm sure it would be helpful.

The competition closes on March 6th and you will all be very pleased to learn that the winner is going to be judged rather than being chosen by public vote.

Friday 18 February 2011

My life in cookbooks

As most of you know, I am a keen cook as  well as a comper, and have sometimes combined my hobbies to win some wonderful prizes in recipe and food related  competitions, including a cookery holiday to Italy, a gourmet tour of India and a new kitchen.

So where  does my inspiration come from? I love shopping for food,watching cookery programmes on TV, wandering round farmers' markets at home or abroad and collecting recipes. I have hundreds and hundreds of recipe books, as well as piles of  cookery magazines and several folders and photo albums stuffed with recipes cut out of magazines and newspapers or scribbled down on scraps of paper. One of my favourite recipes, Jamaican brown stew chicken, is scribbled down on the back of the till receipt from the restaurant where it was served to me. It wouldn't seem right to make a fair copy of it now!

I can't list all my books - it would take weeks and you'd get bored (you probably already are) and when it comes to the classics and the celebrity chefs, you've probably got them yourself or you aren't interested. So apart from possible one mention of  Delia before she became famous, you're not going to see Jamie or Gordon, Nigella or Gary or even the unmatchable Elizabeth David mentioned here. Instead, I am going to use selected books  from my collection to illustrate an autobiography.

When I left home for University, I literally didn't even know how to warm up a tin of beans. And since I was going into fully catered accommodation, my parents saw no need to teach me. However one of the many crises of the 1970s (was it the oil crisis? the miners' strike?) meant that the college decided to save fuel by closing the kitchens at weekends, and my options  were to  either find a boyfriend who could afford to take me out for every meal, live on crisps all weekend,  or learn to cook.

So off I went to the bookshop but was horrified at the price of all the recipe books. I couldn't buy them on "tick" so I had to find some alternative I could pay for gradually. Help was at hand in the form of Cordon Bleu Monthly, which had just started to be published in 18 monthly parts.

So in the space of  a few weeks I went from being totally unable to cook to producing sophisticated (for the time) Cordon Bleu dishes and eating meals  far better than those served up by the college. Forty years on, those magazines are still in regular use and have pride of place in my bookshelf. 

After University I married  Mark (see my link to Marksvegplot on the right for more about our love of food) who was at that time an officer in the Brigade of Gurkhas. We went to join his regiment in Brunei and I immediately became interested in the local food, influenced  by Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Singapore. There was only one bookshop in the town where we lived, but from there I got two books which have had a huge influence on my cooking over the years. "Art of Indonesian Cooking - the ABCs" is still one I use on an almost weekly basis; it contains many of our all time family favourites.

From Brunei we  moved to Hong Kong, where we  were to live on and off for several years, until Mark left the Army. I have dozens of Chinese recipe books, but my favourites are a collection of small bilingual (right up to this point I've been thinking "Must not type bisexual, must not type bisexual...." because that's what I jokingly call them)  which contain the sort of everyday recipes eaten in Chinese homes and the more  "ordinary" restaurants visited by local people rather than tourists. Some of the recipes are ones  I use over and over again - others, such as one that needs 10 pairs of duck's web, 3 oz fish maw, several xanthoxylum seeds,a  piece of old orange peel and  some lard, are kept just for entertainment value. The translation is quaint in  places too: it was a relief to get to the end of one rather unpleasant sounding recipe and read "discard  all ingredients".

By now it was time to start thinking about starting a  family and then buying our first home  - naturally that meant we had less to spend on food  and I had to start collecting books of a different kind. Ones  about budget cookery! You can see from the condition of them that they have become much loved favourites - in fact these  books now live in a basket in my kitchen so I can grab them for quick reference. And there's a little glimpse of St Delia, with her  book "Frugal Food" which was first published long before she became a TV celebrity,  and  was reprinted in a bigger, glossier format a  year or two ago.

Now moving on to the present day. Naturally I have bought recipe  books from all the places I have lived and  visited, but my knowledge of food around the world has been enhanced by the beautiful books in the Culinaria series. These books are  far too good to cook from!

Food from  the early to mid 20th century is a particular interest of mine and I have an extensive collection of  both old and new recipe books from and about the period, from promotional leaflets to facsimile books. My favourite is called "Economical Cookery", published in 1937. It starts with a suggested menu for every meal of the year, with Sunday's menus being costed out. How eating has changed! For instance today's menu should be

BREAKFAST      Prunes, coddled eggs
LUNCH                Celery soup, Skate with black butter, Sauté potatoes, Honey Cap Puddings
EVENING MEAL Welsh rarebit, Coffee rice mould.

Sunday's roast beef would have been a 4lb piece of topside at a total cost of 3/- (15p).

I'm going  to finish with a couple of real gems from my collection. The first is one that Mark brought home when he went to Papua  New Guinea on Army business. Kaikai Aniani is a fascinating book about food of the area, past and present, showing how  all sorts of  things  such as crocodiles, turtles, snakes and even  people  are (or were) prepared and eaten, and including such tempting treats as Sago Grub Satay and Flying Fox and Prune Casserole.

The second is called "The Erotic Baker" - a collection of recipes with rather naughty names, designed to be dished up in suggestive ways. This book always reminds me of a rather stuffy army dinner party we  went to just after I bought the book.  You know  those moments when the whole room goes quiet and all  that can be heard is one voice? Well that happened to me just as I was telling the woman next to me about the book. My voice  rang out across the silent room,  ".... and of course Penis Pie." The General had to call for another gin and tonic.....

Tuesday 15 February 2011

New TV quiz show seeks contestants

Calling All Quizzers!!

Passionate quizzers needed for pilot for brand new Channel Four quiz show. If you love a challenge and think you're King or Queen of Quizzes, we'd love to hear from you!

Contact hayley on

Sunday 13 February 2011

superlucky - a comper's blog: How to Run an Online Voting Competition

superlucky - a comper's blog: How to Run an Online Voting Competition: "So, you’ve read about what happens When Voting Competitions Go Wrong, and you still want to run one? Here’s some advice to ensure your compe..."

superlucky - a comper's blog: When Voting Competitions Go Wrong

superlucky - a comper's blog: When Voting Competitions Go Wrong: "So you want to run a fun competition, where the public are encouraged to visit your website or Facebook page and vote for their favourite en..."

Longer Tweets - a blessing or a curse?

We're a chatty lot, aren't we? And that means the 140 character restriction on Twitter can be very frustrating. Especially for compers. If  a promoter asks you to retweet their message to enter a comp, and then uses  up most of their 140 characters,  the tweet becomes too long to RT the "old" way, by typing in RT @theusername  and then copying in the message.  But we tend to feel insecure about using the RT button. Even on NewTwitter, it is difficult to be convinced that tweets done this way will show in  the promoter's  @ mentions list.

So those of us who use Tweet Deck  were delighted to see that they now allow tweets of  unlimited length. Now we can do  an old-style copy-and-paste RT for any comp..... can't we?

Unfortunately not. If you write a long tweet using tweet deck,  only the first 129 characters of  it are displayed on other Twitter platforms  and Twitter's own pages. After that it says ... (cont) and then a link to a page where the full tweet is displayed.

Now when you are chatting to friends, they will (we hope) be happy to click on the link to read what you have to say. But if a promoter gets hundreds, or thousands,  of comp entries, then even if entries are being read by a human, they won't have time to bother. With most comps  that isn't a problem, as long as everyone is RTing the same message and you don't have to include a tiebreaker or answer a question.

But what IS a  problem to compers is the fact that many messages that need to be RTd include a hashtag - a word preceded by a # sign - to help the promoter search for entries. There are lots of Twitter  search tools they can use to find specific hashtags, so for instance if they have asked you to RT a message including the hashtag #grapevine they can put that one word into a search and  find every tweet that includes it.

Hashtags are most often used at the end of tweets - and this is a problem with longer  tweets. Because a hashtag appearing after the 129 characters of a longer tweet does not show up in any Twitter search. No, not even Tweet Deck's own search, which displays the full text of longer messages!

The same thing applies to @ mentions- in a longer  message, any @ mention afterthe 129th character won't show  up onthe mentions page of the person it refers to. Although this probably doesn't affect compers much it is  worth bearing in mind when chatting to friends and making lists for #FollowFriday.

So usung Tweet Deck's longer message function  means your comp entries might never be seen! My advice is to either use the old-style RT and edit your tweets to make sure they come to no more than 140 characters,  or, if you trust it, use the RT button.

Thursday 10 February 2011

I won one - you can too!

Personalised cards, gifts and novelty items seem to be springing up everywhere now - technology means we can have our own photos on anything from cards to cushions, pottery to playing cards. And now  on the front cover of our  favourite magazines.

Recently I was lucky enough to win a spoof glossy magazine cover from Blue Friesian through their Facebook page - and if you are quick, you might have a chance to win one too as they are giving away two prizes every day until Valentine's Day.

They have a wide range of covers to choose from - as well as single pages  and complete 8 and 12 page magazines. All are in the style of well known and familar magazines, making it easy to pick one to suit the occasion. I chose the "Hallo" magazine - I think we all know which mag it is a spoof of! - and used photos of a group of very special friends.  Here is the finished cover:

You won't understand  the meaning behind any of the text - it is all based on our private jokes.  And that is one of the exciting things about the covers  - being fully editable, you can say exactly what you want to say! That means they are suitable for all sorts of occasions as you don't need to use any irrelevant text.

The magazines are very easy to create, but if you DO have any problems, help is at hand and everything possible is done to make the experience of  creating your magazine a pleasure.

If you aren't lucky enough to win one, the prices are very reasonable, especially if you have a printer good enough to produce a high quality image, because then you can purchase a download-only version. But the printed version is of superb quality and reaches you very quickly, packaged so well that even our postie couldn't bend it! And if you want more than one copy - for instance as a wedding souvenir for the guests, or a treat for a child's  party  or a junior football team - the rates for multiple copies are extremely good value.

I'd just like to finish by saying this is NOT a sponsored post! I was so delighted  with the friendly, helpful and efficient service,  the range of titles available and the quality of the finished product that I really had to share it with you all - especially as there is still a chance to win one for yourself.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Single and Hungry?

ITV1’s hit show, Dinner Date is looking for more single people!

 Are you single?
Do you love good food?

Then Dinner Date, the show where you could find true love through the love of food, would like to hear from you!

They are looking for single men and women over the age of 25 who enjoy good food, good company and would love to take a chance on a blind date. You don’t have to be Jamie Oliver in the kitchen to take part!

If you would like to find out more please email:

Or call 020 7184 6742

You never know it might be love at first bite!

Follow Dinner Date on Twitter. Click here: @itvdinnerdate

Thursday 3 February 2011

What the #ff is this all about?

Every Friday I get asked the same question several times: "Why  am I  seeing all these Tweets with just names and #ff or #FollowFriday in them?"

Experienced Twitter users have probably been  seeing #ff  for so long that they forget how puzzling it can be to newcomers.

#ff and #FollowFriday are terms used throughout Twitter  - not just among the comping community. One person may want to suggest to their followers other people that they recommend they follow.It has become a tradition on Twitter  that this is mostly done on a Friday, so the hashtag #FollowFriday is used to show that the names listed in the tweet are people worth following. But as a tweet can only be 140 characters long, this is often shortened to #ff. If you are new to Twitter  and not following many people yet, it can be a great way of finding more people with similar interests.

You can do a hashtag search for #ff or #FollowFriday but you will see many thousands of  tweets. It's much better to look at the Tweets of people you already follow and seewho they suggest to you. Click on the names of the people listed, and if you like what you see, hit the follow button!

If you are  a  comper, the most likely names you will see being recommended  are other  compers and businesses who run frequent comps. So all well worth following - as long as you're not too close to the dreaded 2,000 limit!

Something fishy in the comping world?

Over the past few days, some of the compers on Twitter have drifted right off the subject of comping and been talking about strange ways of cooking. In particular, the idea that it is possible to cook a fish in a dishwasher.

Kay, over at Brink of Bedlam  has decided to give this a go, and  to make it more of a challenge, has decided to look for sponsors  and raise some funds for the RNLI, who  save so many lives each year.
The salmon in the photo were spotted on my prize trip to Canada last year - so this post DOES have  a comping theme after all!

Do, please have a look at Kay's blog, where she will tell you all about her plans and give you a  few laughs along the way. And please, PLEASE if you can spare a few pounds, sponsor her on her Just Giving page  Lots  of compers  like to give something to charity from time to time as a  way of saying thank you for their wins  - or maybe you  could make a donation to see if  the concept of "Comping Karma" works for YOU!

And as an added  incentive, I've promised Kay that if she cooks her fish, I will blog about my extensive  recipe book collection, with books ranging from the historic to the hysterical and the exotic to the erotic!

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Win gorgeous jewellery for your wedding!

Bridal Designs  have a lovely competition for anyone who is  getting married this year.  They have teamed up with 9 wedding photographers  from all over the country to  offer a prize of £100 worth of jewellery for your wedding. The competition is open to anyone who books wedding photography with one of them, between 14th  February and 14th July (that's the date you make the booking - the wedding can be on any date)

Participating photographers are  Sean and Chris , South Tyneside (Covers North East area) Adele,Yorkshire (Covers Yorkshire and Nationwide) Katie , Newcastle (Covers North of England and Scottish Borders) Nikki , North Kent (Covers Kent and neighbouring counties, London) Matt, North Devon (Covers North Devon, South West) Greg, Dorset (Covers Dorset and Nationwide) Michael, West Devon (Covers Devon, Midlands and Nationwide) Eliza, London (Covers London and Nationwide Carolyn, Warwickshire (covers Warwickshire and Nationwide)

Although regions are given, many of  them will  travel to other areas or even overseas. For more information about the competition and the full terms and conditions,  see the Bridal Designs blog