Thursday 31 March 2011

A sponsorship plea!

Today's post is going to be very different from my usual ones - instead of helping you to win stuff, I am asking you for money! And maybe if I have ever helped you to win a competition or to understand how to enter one, you might feel able to give something back.

My younger daughter, Fiona Willis-Nunez, lives in France with her husband Juan. Fiona has always loved running and for years she has dreamed of running a marathon. After many months of training (she even went out for a run on her wedding day!) her dream is about to come true. On April 10th she is going to run the Paris marathon.

Fiona has always been a very caring young woman and given a lot of her time to helping various charities, and now is no exception. She is hoping to raise £1,000 in sponsorship, to be donated to Oxfam. If anyone reading this can spare a few pounds, she would really, really appreciate it if you could make a donation through her Just Giving page.

Thank you very much to anyone who feels they can make a donation - I am very, very proud of her achievement, especially as I can't even run for a bus with any degree of dignity!

Tuesday 29 March 2011

A delicious day out

As many of you know, I love cooking and devising my own recipes, so a few weeks ago I was delighted to see a round up of recipe competitions on the Superlucky blog. One of these was being run by the Casillero Del Diablo supper club. I submitted my recipe for Roast Rack of Lamb with Tomato and  Raisin Relish, SoufflĂ© Potato Patties and  French Bean Vinaigrette

I was delighted to receive  an email telling me I was a winner, and even more delighted when Di from SuperLucky told me that she had also won.

The prize was a visit to the Waitrose  Cookery School in London, to take part in a Chilean wine tasting then prepare and cook a meal to eat accompanied by a selection of the wines. There were 6 winners with their partners, all staying at a central London hotel. We were whisked to  the cookery school by car and welcomed with a glass of wine - Chilean, of course.

The afternoon started with a very interesting talk on Chilean wines, accompanied  by numerous samples. Then it was time to don chef's whites and start cooking. Di and I posed in out whites:

The Waitrose cookery school is a lovely place, very bright and spacious and designed to make cooking as  easy and efficient as possible. As well as being very well equipped with the very best of everything, they have a team of elves who swoop down on your dirty dishes and whisk them away. I could do with some elves like that in my own kitchen!

Each course was demonstrated in a theatre just off the kitchen, then  cooked and devoured by us before we move don to the next course. The menu was Monkfish and Tiger Prawn  salad with a warm tomato and fennel vinaigrette, steak and chips with roast vegetables and BĂ©arnaise sauce and chocolate fondant with white chocolate and Grand Marnier sorbet.

The menu was very well thought out and suitable for all levels of experience, and the system of cooking one course at a time meant we worked at a relaxed pace without having to juggle to get everything ready at once. It also gave us plenty opportunity to mix with the other people there as we moved around  between kitchen, demo theatre and dinner table. The wines were very well chosen to match the food, and we were encouraged to try two different wines with each course, something we'd never think of doing at home, to see which worked best with each dish.

To sum up, great food, great wine and great people added up to a great day out. You can see how much my husband enjoyed it.....

Thursday 24 March 2011

A prize every time with innocent

innocent drinks have a  promotion on their website at the moment which offers a prize every time.  There is a top prize of £1,000 , 4 prizes of a deluxe breakfast hamper, 5 prizes of  6 month's supply of juice, 500 prizes of a carafe of juice and everyone else will win a £1 off  voucher - which means you get a carafe  of juice for less than half price. The promotion will continue until all the prizes have been won.

To enter, go to  and register, then shake the tree to see what you have won.  You can only enter once, so make sure your printer is connected and switched on or you might miss out on your coupon, if that's what you win (I did).

Disclaimer: I  have not been paid for this post,but I was asked by the PR company to help publicise the competition, and they are sending me some vouchers  for the juice. And right now I need all the vitamin C I can get!

Tuesday 22 March 2011

A bloggy marvellous way to win!

If you are looking for competitions with small prizes and a good chance of winning, rather than huge prizes with a much lower chance, then blogs are the places to look. There are thousands  of blogs around now, often running competitions with prizes related to the theme of the blog. If you're not familiar with blogs and  don't have one of  your own,  it can look a little daunting. There are often several steps to complete and a comment to be made. This means it can take a little longer  to enter a comp on a blog rather than on a "normal" website,  which puts some people off. Hence instead of hundreds or thousands, entries in competitions  on blogs often have just a  few  dozen entries.

So how do you get started? You will find  it very helpful to have a Google ID and a Twitter account. You can set up  a Google ID at or the first time you make a comment on certain blogs.  For information on how to set up a Twitter account, see the Grape Vine website Next, you need to find some competitions on blogs!

Every Friday, SuperluckyDi posts a  blog comp roundup and  Mellow Mummy posts "Prizes for Parents" which mostly features blog competitions. There is also a  list of them on Loquax, updated regularly. Once you have found a  blog whose subject matter interests  you, so it is likely to run competitions you'd like to win, have  a look to see if they have a list of favourite or recommended  blogs. They might also run competitions that interest you. And if there is a link to follow the blogger on Twitter, use it because they will almost certainly tweet about any new  competitions they run.

Once you have  a  Google ID, you will  be able to follow most blogs using Google Friend Connect,  and then you can pop over to to see a  summary of all the new  posts in the blogs you follow,to  see what you are interested in reading in more detail. That means you never need to miss  a new competition, or any other article of interest, even if you don't have time to read every blog every day.

Now to entering the actual competitions, and the first rule is "There are no rules". Bloggers are for the most part individuals, not big companies, so  don't expect to find slick organisations with neat lists of terms and  conditions. They are friendly' chatty places and the running of the competitions can be a lot more casual than you are used to. Each blogger will have their own rules and  way to enter, so you really MUST read the instructions  carefully every time. Sometimes you will be asked to follow them with Google, sometimes to comment on an item on the sponsor's website, sometimes to tweet about the competition.

There will often  be a list of tasks. Work through the tasks one at a time  and  make sure you do any that the blogger says you MUST do. If they say you MUST follow them, and you can get an extra entry for tweeting about the competition, it's  not use just posting a comment to say you have tweeted. If you don't follow them, your entry won't count.

You will almost certainly need to leave at least one comment (if you can't see a comments box,click on  the word  "comments" at the top or bottom of the post) , and unless they have an entry form with a separate space for your email address, you will also need to give them a way to contact you if you win. Please, please PLEASE don't give your email address in its normal form. There are dozens of "robots" constantly searching blogs for email addresses  to send spam emails to, and  I'm sure you already get far more spam than you want. Instead, leave your Google or Twitter ID, or write your email address  out replacing the @ with the word AT  - eg instead of write  fred AT If you leave your Google ID, your Google account must be a  public one or the blogger won't be able to contact you if you win.

Sometimes you will see that there are  several tasks to perform,each giving you an extra entry,  and the blogger asks  you to leave  a  separate comment for each one.  If they do that, it means they are going to number the comments in order to do a random draw, so don't decide to save time by putting everything into one  comment.  If you do that, you'll only get a single entry in the draw.

Blog competitions can be great fun to enter, especially for people who are still mourning the lack of tiebreaker competitions around now,  and you may well make some new friends along the way. Enjoy the journey! And remember, it's fine, in fact it's GOOD, to interact with the blogger. Bloggers do what they do for love  rather than for money, mostly, and even blogs run by bigger businesses are written by a real, friendly person rather than being put together as part of a web page.  Although they can seldom offer big prizes, they can do a lot to make comping a real pleasure!

Friday 18 March 2011

Confused by Twitter terms? Don't be!

This morning I was talking to a fellow comper who had never used Twitter. He said it was far too complicated. I replied, "It's no more complicated than sending a postcard - when you know what you're doing." So,  to help him - and you - to find it less complicated, here is  an explanation of some of the terms you will  find on Twitter.

@  This is the all-important symbol that tells a message where it is going. If you are entering a competition, you MUST make sure  that the promoter's Twitter name, complete with  the @, is included in  the message  somewhere. Some compers tend to miss it out- it is an easy mistake to make if you are copying and pasting the original tweet but if  it isn't there,it's  just like posting a postcard with no address on  it - it simply won't get  there.

RT This means "retweet" - to send somebody else's message on to your followers. You can use the Retweet option or copy and paste the message, but if you  copy and paste it you MUST start it with RT @ then the promoter's  name. This  way, the promoter sees that you have tweeted it but because of the letters RT at the beginning, all your own followers will  see it too. This spreads the word  about the competition, which is why the promoter asks you to enter this way.

#  this is called a hashtag. If you include a word preceded by one  of these in your tweet, anyone who searches for the word and  hashtag can see  all the tweets that include it. Hashtags are often included in competitions because it makes it easy for the promoter to see all the entries. They are  also  used  for discussions  and word games, and on Fridays to help  people suggest to their friends other people they might like to follow, using #ff and #FollowFriday  Hashtasgs can help you to find competitions on Twitter - try searching for #competition or #comp or on a Friday, #FridayFreebie and #FreebieFriday

Timeline this  is the list of messages you will see on your Twitter home page,  with all the messages from people you follow, the @ messages sent  to youand messages that you yourself have sent.

DM stands for Direct Message. You can only send a DM to somebody who is following you, so if a promoter  asks  you to DM your address  details to you when you win a competition, or even to DM your competition entry to them, you might need to send them an ordinary Tweet,  using @, to ask them to follow you.  You will find  your DMs in the "Messages" section of your Twitter  home page.
         Now there is something very odd about DMs.  If either the sender or the recipient deletes the message, it vanishes from BOTH people's Twitter pages. This is why you may sometimes look at your messages to refer to an old one, and then find it isn't there.  If you want to delete a  DM, hover the mouse over it and a little dustbin will appear under it for you to click on - but before you go ahead, think about whether the person at the other end might want to keep it.

Blocking if you don't want to see tweets from a particular person, you can block them by clicking on their name then on the "cog wheel" drop down menu  on the bottom right below their profile, and selecting "Block" from the menu. This  means  they can't follow  you or send you messages, and you can't see any messages they send. But it does  NOT mean they can't see or RT your tweets. Think of it as like being in the same room as them,  but you have your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears.... You can read more about blocking here

Tweeps  this is an  affectionate name for people on  Twitter. Sometimes Tweeple  or  Twits is used instead but most people seem  to have settled for tweeps.

Twitter Jail  occasionally if you have tweeted a lot in a short time, you will suddenly find you are unable to send any more tweets. This  is known  as  "Twitter Jail" and  you will  not be able to tweet again for a while - depending on  your "offence" this may be for anything from an hour to a couple of days.  You will find a  list of the limits, beyond which you will  go to "jail" here.

Lists Twitter allows you to make lists of people and then view a  feed that only shows the tweets from those people. If you have several different interests, this can  be very useful; for instance I love comping, cooking and craft and by making lists of the people I follow in those categories, I can discuss this week's "Masterchef",   see what the latest rubberstamp designs  are and enter a few competitions  - all without getting confused. However you want to organise the people you follow into different groups, list can help you - and if you are getting close to Twitter's follow limit, there is an added bonus. You can add somebody to a list even if you are not following them! That means you can see their tweets and even interact with them; the only difference  is that they can't send you a direct message.
      To add  somebody to a list, click on their name then on the little picture of a list underneath it. And to  look at your lists,click on the tab at the top of your timeline on your Twitter home page. Some of the other Twitter clients such as Tweet Deck, Hoot Suite and Seesmic let you have  a separate column for each list so you can keep an eye on them all at the same time.
    It can be amusing to click on the "Listed" area of your home page to see what lists YOU are on. I've just looked and  lists I am on include "Pant Swingers", "Tiger Tiger Burning Bright" and "Beauty Gurus" (I mustn't get a webcam and shatter the illusion!)

You can read more about Twitter in my various posts about it which are listed  here  but if  there is anything you would like to ask, feel free to comment or to tweet me on @janesgrapevine

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Win an amazing trip round the world!

How would you like to win a trip round the world?  A trip round the world  is a dream prize that almost every comper would love to win. I won one some years ago,  from a competition in Good Housekeeping magazine, and it was an amazing trip, with stops in Hawaii, Auckland, Sydney, Cairns and Bangkok. 

But the trip being offered by iDealy sounds as if it will be even more exciting. The winner will visit a city of their choice in each of France, Italy, Spain, Germany, UK, USA, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, spending 3 nights in each and being able to use 3 iDealy deals in each. The total value of this prize is around £20,000!

There is an iPad 2 for the second prize winner and 10 runners up prizes of  £100 worth of iDealy deals in your nearest city.  To enter the competition, all you need to do is visit iDealy's competition page and sign up for emails about deals in your nearest city. You can increase your chances by sharing with friends, or on Twitter or Facebook. The competition closes on April 15th.

But not content with offering such a wonderful prize, iDealy have a second  competition  just  for bloggers. The prize for this  one is an iPad 2, and you can enter just by mentioning the world trip competition on your blog, and gain extra  entries by putting a badge on your blog. For full details of the competition for bloggers, click here.

I've popped a few photos from prize holidays of my own into this post, to inspire  you. Travel is a wonderful thing - especially when  somebody else is paying!

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Time to give something back?

As compers, we get more than our fair share of good news. We never  know when the next "Congratulations you have won" message will pop up in an email, a letter, a tweet, a text message or a phone call. Yet recently we've all been aware of the terrible bad news that has been affecting people all over the world, and especially in Japan where the earthquake and tsunami have caused such terrible devastation.

If, like me, you have watched the news feeling shocked and  horrified, and thought "I wish there was something I could  do to help", read on! We haven't all got the skills and time needed to be able to go over there and help to search for survivors, or to help people to rebuild their homes and their lives. We can't all afford to make donations as big as we would like  to be able to,  to the charities  set up to support the bereaved and assist the survivors.

But as compers, one thing we can do  is WIN STUFF! So Superlucky Di has had a brilliant idea - how about auctioning unwanted  prizes on Ebay, in aid of the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami fund. You can donate between 10% and 100% of the closing price to the appeal. Di has described how it works, and given a link to the listings so far, on her blog.

Please support Di's brilliant idea, either by offering unwanted prizes of your own or by bidding on the goodies that other people  sell. Think of it as  a way of using some of  your GOOD news to set off a little of  somebody else's BAD news.

The late Joy Thorpe, one of the must successful compers and biggest winners of all time,   firmly believed that one of the reasons for her amazing success was  that she donated, in cash or in kind,the equivalent of 10% of all her winnings to charity. Maybe now is the time to test that theory. Even if it doesn't work  for you, you will still have made a difference to somebody's life.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

My tricky quiz - the answers and results

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter my tricky quiz, and thank you for all the witty comments from those who entered and  those who looked  at the questions and decided it was just TOO tricky. Here are the answers and the result.

1. What is a riata?

a) a bridge
b) a lasso
c) a yogurt dip to serve with curry

This question fooled more of you than any of the others. Maybe it's because so many of you know me well enough  to know I love cooking Indian food, and maybe it's because if you google the word "riata" the very first hit gives you a wrongly spelled recipe, but the yogurt dip is NOT a riata, it is a raita. The correct answer is b) a lasso.
Many thanks to the person who sent me a link to a second definition of the word, which I can't give here for fear of having my Blogger account closed for obscenity......  I'll try to slip it into conversation some time.

2. A house faces north-south. If a rooster lays an egg on the roof, which way will it roll?

Someone gave me a very convincing explanation of why it would roll south rather than north,and several people said "down".  And I'm sure that IF a rooster laid an egg, it would roll down. But roosters  are boys, they don't lay eggs.

3. If there are 8 apples and you take away 2, how many do you have?

You have the two that you took away.

4. What is the capital of Belarus?

A double trick - you could have answers B or Minsk - I  accepted either and in some cases both.

5. How many months of the year have 28 days?

Some of you didn't spot the fact that I didn't say "exactly" 28 days. In fact all of the months have 28 days, but some have more besides.

6. How many of each kind of animal did Moses take into the Ark?

A lot of you were caught out by this. I had some lovely explanations about how  it is  popularly believed that two of each kind of animal went into the ark,  but that was actually only the inedible ones and there were seven of each edible one. And I'm sure that's so - but it was Noah who had the ark, not Moses. So Moses took NO animals into the ark.

7. Where do Chinese Gooseberries come from?

I managed to trick myself with this question. The idea was that some of you would  know it is another name for the Kiwi  fruit and be tricked into saying New  Zealand, which is where they were first established as a commercial crop, even though the vines originally came from China. So my intention was that the answer I would accept was China.  But my husband pointed out to me that I had not asked where they ORIGINALLY came from so I had to accept New Zealand and  all the other countries where they are grown commercially and even  in domestic gardens. So I accepted every answer for this one- even TESCO!!!

8. Every commercial aircraft carries a flight recorder. What colour is it?

The "Black Box" flight recorder is orange or red. I also accepted bright yellow

9. What food is banned from public transport in many parts of Asia?

The Durian. Most people hate the smell of it (I rather like it).

10. A 3 month subscription to The Competition Grape Vine costs £13.50. How much does a 12 month subscription cost?


There  were 73 entries of which 17 were correct. Of the correct entries, the winner, chosen at random, is  melspur  who has been contacted for her address. I'm sorry there couldn't be prizes for all of you - thank you for entering and for  giving me some great laughs with your comments.

Sunday 6 March 2011

Don't get yourself disqualified!

Some compers seem to work very hard to get themselves disqualified. Don't be one of them!  However much effort you put into your comping, if your entries don't get into the draw or the judging, you can't possibly win. Sometimes you can disqualify yourself without realising it - just have a look through these pitfalls and make sure you aren't falling into any of  the traps.


Always  make sure your entries are STAMPED and not franked- in order to stop entries from mass-entry services, many promoters are  including a term in the rules to say entries must be individually stamped. Use the correct postage, bearing in mind that anything thicker than 5mm needs a large letter stamp even if it is in a tiny envelope, and  don't re-use soaked off  unfranked stamps.  And never, EVER, write "Freepost" on an envelope and send it without a stamp, unless  the address really IS a Freepost one. If the Post Office decides there is a surcharge to pay, the promoter will simply refuse the letter, and nowadays it may just be destroyed rather than returned to you, so you will  never know about  it.

If you are tempted to get round "one entry per person" or "one entry per  household" rules  by entering with several names at the same address, don't forget that almost all comp entries  are now logged onto a computer, which can easily check to see if the same postcode or address has already been used. Tip: one promoter  told me that if they have allowed one entry per person, they will start to carefully scrutinise entries to see if they are genuine if they get them from  more than 4-6 people at the same address.


Make sure you text EXACTLY what they ask for - no more and no less. Don't send your address if they don't ask for it- the computer that reads your message will simply not understand it and may not count your entry.  Check how often you are allowed to enter, because if you enter more times than allowed, you will still pay for your text but your entry won't count.


Make sure your email address is correctly spelled and doesn't have a spam trap in it.  Several times, the potential winner of the GrapeVine monthly comp has lost out on their prize  because they gave an email address that didn't work, so I was unable to contact them.

Remember that the information you give on the form  isn't the only information the promoter can see. If they are at all suspicious about your entry, they can check how you got to the web page, for instance if you followed a link from another site they can see which site it was, and they can check the IP address of your computer, the software you viewed the web page with  and even the town you come from. So if you live in Bristol and send in entries in the names of friends  and family living in Aberdeen or Maidstone, they'll know you did it and  if there is a "no third party entries" rule...... well. the promoter has a "delete" button and knows  how  to use it!


The Golden rule for Retweet competitions is


Don't RT another comper's entry - it won't show up in the  promoter's "Your  tweets retweeted" column - so you won't have entered the competition.

Some more points to remember:
  • check the original details of the competition to see what the task is. It may not be a retweet competition at all. You might be asked to answer a question, visit a website or  blog to enter there,  or even complete and tweet a tiebreaker,  and if you simply copy and paste someone else's tweet your entry won't be counted.
  • Make sure the promoter's @ name is included in the tweet. Every day I see dozens  of attempted comp entries that won't be seen by the promoter because without their Twitter ID in the message, the message won't  appear in  their Twitter  feed.
  • Check that  the competition is actually open to you. If you look at the  promoter's own Twitter page, their location will probably be shown. If it is outside the UK, send them a  quick tweet to ask if UK entries are welcome. Several people have been told they have won things, then had the prize withdrawn when the promoter found  that they were in the UK. In general, assume  any competition is only open in the country where the promoter is based, unless they say otherwise.
  • Look at the closing date and check that the competition is still open. The best way to do this, if no closing date is given, is to find the competition tweet in the promoter's timeline and  scroll forward to the current time, checking to see whether any winners have been announced. And if they say the draw will be held at a certain number of followers, look how many they have at the time you enter - hyou may be too late.
Overall, however  you enter a  competition, check to make sure you have done everything  asked of you, made a clear and valid entry and got it in before the closing date. And  then......   cross your fingers!

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Competition: Win the Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus

It seems like FAR too  long since I've run a competition, so I'm going to give away a copy of  the Oxford  Dictionary and Thesaurus AND a 3 month subscription to The Competition Grape Vine (as usual, if you already subscribe, your subscription will be extended by 3 months). The dictionary is worth £30 and the subscription £13.50 making a total prize value  of £43.50.

Before  we go any further, let me throw a few facts and figures at you. As you probably know, I have a monthly competition over at  to win a  6 month subscription to Grape  Vine.  In  January, there were 513 entries  but only 404 went into the draw. In February, there were 462 entries and only 360 went into the draw. A handful of the entries that don't go into the draw are duplicate entries- only one entry per person is allowed, and if somebody enters more than once  I keep their first entry and disallow  any others.  Unless, of course, you  are  the person who occasionally takes the mickey by  entering 20 times in  one day - I'm afraid you don't go into the draw at all!

All the other people who don't make it into the draw have simply got the task wrong. When you enter a  competition, however simple the task always make  sure you read it and re-read it - you just MIGHT have misread it or misunderstood it. Or it could be  a trick question. So here  is a little quiz to see how good you are at spotting, and answering, trick questions. Some of these  questions are straightforward, some are not what they seem.

Give your answers as a comment to this  post, including a way of contacting you, either an email address or a  Twitter  ID. Entries with no means of contact will NOT be counted.   Both to make sure you don't copy one another's answers and to keep your email address safe, your entries will  NOT appear on the blog.  I will  save them all  do a draw from among those with the most correct answers.  The competition will  close at 6pm on Tuesday March 8th, and  because
a) I'll be spending that evening eating pancakes and
b) it will take me a while to go through your entries.
the winner will be contacted on or before Friday March 11th. One entry per person and please spread the word through Twitter, Facebook and any comping groups  or forums you belong to. But please, PLEASE don't post the answers anywhere! That would defeat the whole point of the game.

Got all that? Right, here are  the  questions.

1. What is a riata?
     a) a bridge
     b) a lasso
     c) a yogurt dip to serve with curry
2.  A house faces north-south. If a rooster lays an egg on the roof, which way will it roll?
3. If there are 8 apples  and you take away 2, how many do you have?
4. What is the capital of Belarus?
5. How many months  of the year have 28 days?
6. How many of each kind of animal did  Moses take into the Ark?
7. Where do Chinese Gooseberries come from?
8. Every commercial aircraft carries a flight recorder. What colour is  it?
9. What food is banned from public transport in many parts of Asia?
10. A 3 month subscription to The Competition Grape Vine costs £13.50. How much does a 12 month subscription cost?

Good luck - I'm looking forward to seeing your answers.