Monday 30 May 2011

Win an iPad with Citroen

I have received the following press release which I thought some of you would be interested in.  Please let me know if you enter - I'd love to see your entries!


Citroën owners are invited to get creative with their cameras for an online competition organised by the Citroën Retail Group, Citroën’s largest dealer group. .

 Citroën recently unveiled a number of dynamic and exciting new models such as the DS3 and C4 and are about to launch the DS4, the most beautiful car of the year, as awarded at the 26th Festival Automobile International.

To underline their heritage of ‘creative technologie’ the group has launched a fun Facebook competition where owners can post photos of their own Citroën to win the latest iPad2. The newly launched, must-have gadget is slimmer and faster and now includes video and Photobooth.

The Citroën Retail Group sells over 25,000 cars every year through its network of 12 dealers throughout the UK. Buying a car is an emotive purchase according to the Group’s Sales Director, Jon Williams.

“Playing such an important role in our day to day lives it’s no wonder that our cars seem to take on their own persona. Many people give their car or van a name for fun and it’s this individuality and creativeness that we would like people to capture in owners’ photographs,” he said

“Every car has a story to tell and the more creative the picture, the better the chances of winning.

“Our new Facebook page has created a Citroën community where owners can share, chat and keep up to date with the latest news and offers.”

Citroën owners everywhere have already started to take up on the fun challenge, posting pictures of their ‘sexy Saxos and ‘burly Berlingos’.

The gallery of entrants also shows vintage and new models photographed in a variety of locations including the seaside, a mountain top and even one on the moon!

To enter the competition, Facebook users should ‘like’ the Citroën Retail Group page, which will allow owners to upload a photograph of their beloved car or van. Pictures can be submitted until the end of June and the winner will be notified by 5th July 2011.

Sunday 29 May 2011

What's in your fridge (when you're a comper)?

Thank you to the lovely MibsXX  for the "What's in your fridge?" tag.  I'm going to try to look at the contents of my fridge from a comping point of view.

On the top shelf you can see  Flora (bought for the Kinect instant win) and Clover (bought for the lovely "win a Smeg fridge" comp). There is also a "naked" lemon, that has had the rind removed. There's usually a naked citrus fruit of some kind in my fridge as I tend to use the rind and juice in different dishes. I'll probably use the rest of the lemon tonight.

Moving down, there is a selection of soft fruit - I've not found any competitions on packs of British fruit yet but at this time of year, stickers often appear on packs in Waitrose and the Co-op, so keep a look out for them. If you can bear to buy imported fruit when English strawberries are in season, look out in Morrisons and Tesco which  both have competitions on packs of South African fruit.

Lurking behind all the lovely fruit and veg on the next shelf down (that long green bag contains asparagus that was only picked from the garden a  few minutes ago) you will see a fine selection of dressings and sauces. These were part of a lovely hamper prize from Country Living magazine. The rest of the hamper consisted of ducks, game and guinea fowl, now alas just a delicious  memory.

And on the bottom shelf, hiding behind a half used bottle of wine (however did that happen? Leftover wine in this house?) is a bottle of Big Tom tomato juice, bought for their True Blood competition. There's also a jug of home made chicken stock - nothing to do with comping but it's going to make tonight's pommes boulangeres taste extra special.

As well as life's essentials (garlic, ginger and tomato purée) the door shelves are almost always crammed with sauces, mustards  and salad  dressings. Most of the ones you can see here were bought for competitions that closed ages ago- I really must check the use-by dates on them!

I'd like to tag
Mellow Mummy  - because every mother likes to nosey around her daughter's fridge
Mummy Barrow  - because she's only been blogging for a month and she needs to be dragged screaming and kicking into the world of tagging
Confessions of a Compaholic - because now I've been told I need to lose a lot of weight I'd like to follow her amazing example so I NEED to know what's in her fridge
Given to Distracting Others  - to see if all the lovely foodie products she reviews really do get eaten or are just pushed to the back of the fridge
Super-Lucky  - to compare notes on comping goodies in our fridges

Saturday 28 May 2011

Strange goings on.......

First of all, let me apologise for the recent lack of posts. In mid-May, I went on holiday to the South of France with my family for a week. We had a lovely holiday - lots of sun and sand
and my granddaughter experienced the joy of making sandcastles for the first time
but unfortunately I was taken ill with breathing difficulties on the flight home, and had to be taken to hospital where I was diagnosed with a chest infection and diabetes, so I've not really been feeling well enough to concentrate on blogging this week.

However I am gradually recovering from the chest infection  and beginning to learn how to cope with the diabetes -  no more entries to the Magnum competition for me! So I'm back.... now on with the blog.

And why is today's blog called "Strange goings on...."? Well, after  asking you what your best and worst prizes have been, I thought this time I would ask what your strangest comping experience has been.  Maybe a competition that had a strange task, like the World Worm Charming Championships  or one that won you a strange prize, or took you into a strange situation - like the compeer who measured the length of The Mall with a ruler, or the one who took a shirt apart to count how many stitches were in it.

It's a toss-up for my strangest ever prize. It could have been the pair of remote controlled vibrating knickers that I won in one of the very first web competitions I ever entered. Goodness only knows why I entered! But Internet comping was new and exciting to me and  I was so thrilled to see a competition to enter that it didn't really matter what the prize was. It was rather alarming to see the pack flashed with a sticker saying "Now! Washable!" - the idea of non-washable knickers is even more disturbing than the idea of vibrating ones. I still have them - they have been  a valuable ice breaker at many talks I have done about comping.
The other was an afternoon spent making pizzas in the window of a takeaway. Lots of passers by stopped to stare, especially when the staff were attempting to teach me the trick of spinning the dough on your hand. By the end  of the day I was covered from head to toe in flour and tomato sauce, but they let me keep all the pizzas I had made, and gave me the same number of professionally made ones, plus  vouchers to go back for as  many again. My daughters, who were then teenagers, had spent the afternoon cringing with shame in the back of the shop, but they and their friends made short work of all the pizzas.

So, have you been involved  in any strange competitions, or won any strange prizes? I'd love to read your comments.

And finally, here's a young lady whose reaction to a win was pretty strange.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

What was your BEST ever prize?

Last week I shared my worst ever prize with you  and enjoyed reading all your comments about your worst ever prizes. Now I'm going to ask you what your BEST ever prize  was.

I've been interviewed several times for TV, radio and magazines and have always been  asked "What is the best prize you have ever won?" and I've never yet been able to come up with a firm answer. I love winning holidays - but which is the best one I've won? The  trip round the world? The gourmet tour of India? Whale watching in the San Ignacio lagoon? Three wonderful holidays, three  out of many wonderful holidays that I have won, but all so very different that it is impossible to compare them.

But if I had enough money, I might have taken those same holidays without having won them. Some of my best prizes have been things that I simply wouldn't, possibly even COULDN'T,  have done if it wasn't for comping, from spending an  afternoon making pizzas  in the window of a pizza  parlour to flying in to Silverstone by helicopter to watch the British Grand Prix, and from spending an evening butchering a pig to spending one dashing round London eating a four course meal in four different restaurants.

One of my favourite such prizes came  from  a local newspaper - the prize was two tickets to see La Boheme in the grounds  of a stately home. The letter telling me I had won said "No need to bring a picnic  - we will provide one". That was a huge understatement - they provided a beautiful Fortnum and Masons Hamper, with masses  of beautiful food,wine, juice, water and champagne  and of course all the china,  cutlery and glass we needed. They had set aside a large space for us, nearer to the stage than the rest of the audience, so we  were sure people were  whispering "Who are they? They must be VERY important!" And  somehow they had even arranged glorious weather for the event- not easy in our unpredictable climate! A very memorable evening and definitely one of my best prizes  ever.

So over to you - what was YOUR best, or most memorable prize? I'm looking forward to reading your comments.   

Sunday 8 May 2011

Why did somebody unfollow me on Twitter?

I'm sure it's happened to us  all. One day you notice that you have, say, 500 followers on Twitter. The next day you only have 498. Where did those two go? Have you offended somebody? It can be quite alarming and worrying to see your follower count go down. But don't be depressed by it - there are many valid reasons for somebody unfollowing you. Let's have a look  at them:

You said something that offended  them Yes, people do unfollow for  that reason- but most of the time when their temper has cooled, they'll be back. If they aren't, then  they probably weren't the sort of friend you wanted anyway. We always tend to assume that this is the reason people unfollow us, but unless one day you lose your temper and indulge in a foul mouthed rant, it's much more likely to be for a  different reason such as one of the following ones.

They followed you out of curiousity Maybe they had seen a RT of one  of your messages or a friend had mentioned you or given you a #FollowFriday shout. So they followed you for a while but found they weren't really interested in what you were saying. Fair enough, you can't please everybody!

They only followed you to get you to follow them back This  is probably the most common reason for people unfollowing you. A business looking for new followers may well go through the follower list of some of its fans, on the assumption that their followers will be interested in the same things. They then follow you in the hope that you will follow them back. If you don't return the follow within a few days, they will unfollow you to free up space in their follower count and move on to follow somebody else.

They weren't a real person in the first place spammers set up multiple accounts that use bots to automatically find and follow as many accounts as possible, again in the hope that YOU will follow THEM so that they can send you things be Direct Message that might get their accounts closed if they sent them as a normal tweet, such as links to porn and  gambling sites. If you don't follow back within a certain time, they will unfollow you. And good riddance to them!

I like to think bots all look like this.

Their account has  been suspended or closed  Maybe Twitter has closed their account, or maybe they have decided to leave Twitter or close an account and open a new one.

They are close to Twitter's following limit unless you have 2,000 or more followers, Twitter will only let you follow 2,000 people. When you reach that limit, you have to unfollow  some people in order to free up space to follow more - and you drew the short straw. But if the person has added you to a  Twitter list, they will still  be  able to see your tweets, just not in their main timeline, and may well continue to chat with you and keep in touch just as if they were still following you.

The reason for them following has passed Maybe you have been running a competition - there will always be people who follow you just to enter and then unfollow when it finishes. Similarly if you win a competition,  the business or person running it may follow you just for long enough  for you to send them your address by direct message, and then unfollow you once they have your details. Or maybe they wanted to contact your business  about something, perhaps to send a message of complaint, or  -if you are lucky- praise.  Or perhaps they were enjoying sharing your tweets about a topical event which has passed.

They haven't unfollowed you - or at least not out of choice Twitter is  a capricious little bird and  sometimes likes to give us surprises like unfollowing people on our behalf  without telling us, or telling us that people have unfollowed when they haven't. So if you are surprised to find that a particular person has unfollowed you, send them a polite message asking why. You may find  they are as mystified as you and will re-follow.

If you really want to know who unfollows you and when they do it, there are all sorts of apps  that will tell you. and maybe even send you an email each time it happens. One of the most popular is  but I strongly suggest that you don't use it - worrying about every follower you lose  can lead to worry, depression and paranoia. What a pity to get so stressed about losing followers who were probably spammers or bots in the first place!  Instead of worrying about the followers that you lose, concentrate on interacting with the followers that you keep. That way makes Twitter a far happier, more rewarding experience.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

What was your worst ever prize?

Have you ever won a prize that was a huge disappointment or a total disaster? Maybe something arrived smashed, as recently happened to confessionsofacompaholic or you received tickets for an event that had already happened? Perhaps the prize was worthless or even cost YOU money? Why not add your worst ever prize as  a comment to this post? Next week, you will have a chance to share your BEST ever prize.

As you probably know by now, I love winning holidays and have won over 30 in my 26 years of comping. Sometimes the hotel isn't quite what we would have chosen ourselves, but the treat of having a free holiday means we can always find something to enjoy about it. Well, almost always. A few years ago I won  a trip to Malta where nothing seemed to go right, the hotel included.

The prize was a long weekend in Malta for 4 adults, with half board included. We took one of my daughters  and her boyfriend (now husband, despite that weekend!) and decided that we would hire a car so we could see something of the island. A wise decision because it was only a week before the trip that we were told  airport transfers in Malta were NOT included and we'd have had to spend an hour on a bus to get to the resort.

Anyway, we arrived safely and went to settle in to the hotel. Our rooms  were  at opposite ends of the hotel but both rooms had enchanting views of derelict building sites. There was a hospitality tray in the room, which had ONE teabag, ONE sachet each of instant coffee and sugar and ONE little pot of UHT milk with a stern notice above it saying this was intended to last us the whole of our stay but further supplies could be purchased (at a ridiculous price) from reception.

We had arranged to meet up with the others by the rooftop pool but when we got there, they were looking at it in horror. It was surrounded with scaffolding. Children were playing in the pool, with their parents dozing beside on  sunloungers, but there were gaps in the scaffolding right by the pool and a child could have easily fallen through it to the ground, seven storeys below.

It was neither attractive nor relaxing so we decided to visit the indoor pool. But as we opened the door, a large muscle-bound attendant barred our way. "Pool closed. 4pm" he grunted. "But it's only 2pm, there are two hours yet," we protested. "To late. You no time to swim between now  and 4pm." he insisted, pushing us out and locking the door.

So we  had a wander around the town instead of our longed-for swim. While we were out, we spotted several nice looking restaurants and thought what a pity it was that we were on half board, so with a good breakfast in the  morning we wouldn't need a big lunch, and in the evening we would be having dinner in the hotel.

However when we went down to dinner that evening, the smell of school dinners hit us! The menu outside the dining room showed that there was no choice of menu - dinner was cottage pie and boiled cabbage. It smelled disgusting, so we headed off into town and had a lovely dinner at one of the places we had spotted earlier. Then back to the hotel, where we were kept awake with music from the rooftop disco until 4am.

Next morning at breakfast time, things were no better. Despite there being a stall across the road selling masses of oranges for next to nothing, the orange juice dispensers in the dining room contained very dilute orange squash. The tables were stained and dirty, and the sugar in the bowls on each table was set into a solid mass. The meagre cooked breakfast was livened up by a bowl of tinned fruit salad and some stale white sliced bread. Not really a gourmet experience - but never mind, we were  going out to explore the island in our hire car!

Or were we? When we  got to the car, it had TWO flat tyres. And of course there was only one spare tyre. We called the car hire company - but it was closed on Sundays. So the men had to set to and tackle the puncture themselves, searching for a garage that was open and could help. Meanwhile, Emma and I sat and waited in the hotel lobby and found  an entertaining way to pass the time - counting the cockroaches that scurried across the floor every few minutes.

Eventually the car was fixed and we had our outing, which went very well apart from when we were bowling along a well made up road and it suddenly stopped. The satnav wanted us to carry on, but ahead of us there was nothing but a rough field. Not wanting to risk losing any more tyres, we had to retrace our path for about 10 miles.

When we got back to the hotel, a wedding was taking place. It was taking place in the lift lobby. We decided to wait politely rather than walking through the middle of the ceremony, but a maid with a trolley of towels pushed past us and  headed to the lifts, right through the wedding party. The bride and groom, under their archway of dusty plastic flowers, looked aghast.

Later that evening we saw the wedding party in the bar. There was a line of chairs up each wall, facing on to a narrow  strip of frayed, greasy carpet. There was a smell of stale beer and  cigarettes. There was no music, no dancing, everyone looked glum. I often wonder if that couple are still  married,  or if such a miserable experience on what should have been the happiest day of their lives spoiled everything for them.

Next morning we decided to go for a swim before heading out for another day out. Now there was a notice on the door of the indoor pool. "Pool closed until October". It was June.

Despite all the setbacks, we had a lovely break and saw some beautiful places. And by avoiding eating in the hotel, we had some delicious meals.  But something inside me has held me back from ever again entering a competition with a trip to Malta as a prize.

Sunday 1 May 2011

The Green Chain: raising funds for charity

The Green Chain has been set up by PriceMinister to help to raise funds for three charities, Surfers Against Sewage, Trees For Cities and Young People's Trust for the Environment. For every blogger who completes their survey they will donate £10 to one of the charities, with a further £1 each for tweeting about the initiative and liking their Facebook page.

Here are my answers to the survey.

- Turning the heating down by just one degree in your house saves 240kg of CO2 a year. It would take eight trees to soak up this amount of CO2! Are you currently doing anything to make your home eco-friendly?

Whenever a light bulb blows or an appliance grinds to a halt, we replace them with the most energy and/or water efficient we can find. There's very little more we can do to save energy as we have always been conscious of saving it, to keep fuel bills down, so turning the heating down and using appliances efficiently is already second nature to us. One recent change we have made is to switch things off rather than leaving them on standby - we'd had no idea that they were still using energy until recent publicity of the fact.

- Rainforests once covered 14% of the earth's land surface, now they only cover 2%. How are you reducing your use of paper?

Because I'm a paper crafter in my spare time, this is a very difficult one for me to answer but I  try to use my papers as economically as possible. I have a die cutting machine that helps me to use even the tiniest left over scraps, which I can cut into shapes to use on future projects.

To make up for my crafting extravagances I seldom buy newspapers and only print out emails if it is absolutely necessary.

- At PriceMinister we believe that trading second hand items online is a great way to extend the life span of products. Have you ever thought of buying or selling second hand items on or off line?

Although I have bought and sold through online auction  sites, a couple of bad experiences have put me off so now instead of buying and selling, I swap items through Freecycle.

- One of the biggest environmental challenges we face is Freshwater Shortages. Are you taking measures to reduce your water consumption?

We have a water butt, although at the moment the dry weather means it is completely empty at a time when it should be full up. Water  from preparing fruit, veg and salad is always put on the garden, our appliances are as water efficient as possible and only ever used for full loads, our main loo has a half-flush button and we always shower rather than bathe.

- How do you choose the produce that goes into your shopping basket? (any favorite products?)

Much of our veg and almost all our herbs are home grown - they have food YARDS rather then miles.

We seldom buy packaged or convenience foods, preferring to make things from scratch, and that helps  to keep the amount of packaging waste we generate to a minimum. We try to support our local small shops and when in the supermarket we look out for free range items where possible, especially eggs (they taste SO much nicer) but it can be difficult - when you're tired and busy and payday seems a long way away, the lure of the "3 for £10" chicken display can be irresistible! In the  same vein, we try to buy UK sourced fruit and veg in season rather than imported ones, but some essentials such as lemons don't grow here and we  don't beat ourselves up over the occasional punnet of out-of-season raspberries.

- What is your favourite green space near home? (a photo would be great!)

Right across the road from us is a tiny piece of open space, a very welcome site in a town which is eating up the countryside at an alarming rate. Last week, somebody tipped rubbish on it and I was very impressed that the local council cleared it up within a couple of days and circulated a letter to all homes in the area reminding them that the space must be kept clear.

- Which charity would you like to support and why?

I would like to support the Young People's Trust for the Environment. My granddaughter is almost two years old and I hope her generation will grow up to be much more aware of how important it is to look after what we have. I was brought up at a time of conspicuous consumption, when we thought natural resources would last forever and were there for the taking. If our young people grow up with the opposite view, there is still time to put things right.

- Please give us the url of a fellow blogger (or bloggers) you would like us to contact to raise an extra £10.
I'd like to tag my daughter at Mellow Mummy to see what differences are between the generations. And I'd also like to tag the handsome Rollie at Life, Ninja Killer Cat and  Everything Else to see how a cat feels about all this!