Wednesday 31 August 2011

Get your Vampire name - and win a t-shirt

Tesco Books have a great giveaway at the moment which they think will be a real hit with parents with children who are Horrid Henry fans.

To celebrate the publication of Horrid Henry's latest adventure, Horrid Henry and the Zombie Vampire, they have a special competition: you can win 1 of 10 LIMITED EDITION Horrid Henry and the Zombie Vampire kids t-shirts (aged 7-8 years). Simply answer the below question:

What would your vampire name be and why?

Enter at:
While you are there, why not try the Vampire Name generator and see what it suggests for you? It might help you with your entry.  I had a go with it and this is the result: 

Get your own vampire names from The Vampire Name Generator!The Great Archives determine that I have gone by the identity: Giselle Shakespeare
Known in some parts of the world as: Cerridwen of The Steely Moon
The Great Archives Record: A child of the Moon Goddess - Cold, determined, but of the light in the night.
Get your own vampire names from The Vampire Name Generator!

Monday 22 August 2011

Do Captcha Codes Make You Cross?

Nowadays, in an attempt to prevent spammers, many websites use a verification system known as Captcha. In fact if you comment on this blog, you may be asked to type two distorted words into a box. This system is designed to prevent forms being filled in  automatically, by computer, and so is very popular with competition promoters who want to try to prevent thousands of entries coming in from people who have never even visited the site, but have paid an entering service to enter on their behalf.

Unfortunately, computer programmes to get around the Captcha syatem are now available, so they no longer provide as much protection as they used to for the site owners. but for the time being they are still the most popular anti-spam measure a comper will encounter.

However they are sometimes almost impossible to read, and can be very frustrating for compers. So here are a few tips that might save you some precious comping time.

First of all, you probably know that if you can't read the words, you can ask for new ones by clicking on the circular arrows at the side of the code box. But do you know that you can also ask to have the visual words replaced by audio ones, by clicking on the loudspeaker symbol? But beware, the sounds are distorted and if the site is one that plays background music, it can become such a jumble that you can't tell what is being said.

Moving on to the written words, there are often a mixture of lower case and capital letters. But Captcha (and I'm only talking specifically about the genuine Captcha codes that show the brand name at the side) are not case sensitive, so you don't need to worry about switching between upper and lower cases, just type the whole thing in whatever case you were using at the time.

Next, Captcha doesn't read symbols or punctuation, so words that include apostrophes, colons, brackets or weird mathematical symbols can just have them left out - simply type just the letters and ignore the rest.

But here is the BIG SECRET - Captcha actually only reads ONE of the two words. But it is a specific one, and here are some tips for working out which one it is looking for. You DO  need to type something for the other word, but it can be absolutely anything. The quickest thing to do is just type one letter. How do you identify which word to type? Here are  the clues to look for:

  • The word will only use keyboard letters- no symbols, no punctuation and no foreign characters. If you find a word written all in Greek or a mathematical equation, just type any old letter.
  • The word will be the right way up - so you no longer need to stand on your head to type one of the words: if a word is upside down, ignore it and type whatever you fancy in its place.
  • The word will be in Captcha's normal font. If you are a regular comper, you will already be able to recognise when a very different font or typeface is being used. Italics, fancy script and anything else out-of-the-ordinary is a clue that this is the word to ignore.
  • The word  will have a special clue showing which it is. Captcha does the same trick to every "correct" word, but it changes the trick every now and then. They may have a slight shadow on the letters, or a negative background, or have some other little trick played on them. At the time I am writing this, all the correct words have a wavy line running through them.

Getting used to spotting the correct word and just typing one letter for the other one can save you a lot of time - give it a go and let me know how you get on!

Thursday 18 August 2011

CLOSED Win Whiskas treats for your cat and t-shirts for you!

I'm sure every cat owner has sometimes wished they were a cat! Maybe not many go to the lengths of my mother, who once wrote to Jim'll Fix It asking him to fix it for her to have a long, furry tail (he never replied). But wouldn't it be lovely to laze around all day, be pampered on demand and have meals served up whenever you want them? The nearest I ever get to that is a day at a spa.

I used to have two lovely cats - sadly they were old men and are no longer around.

As you can see, they always got the best seats and attention on demand!

The people at Whiskas have been thinking about what would happen if people were to live their lives more like cats, and have come up with some tips, ideas and even videos to help  us.  You can read their manifesto on Facebook  and see some videos on YouTube

Here is what Claire, from Life, Ninja Killer Cat and Everything Else has to say:

Even if you don't like cats you can't have failed to see relaxed they are, though some would say lazy. Cats merely save their energy for the important things in life be it sleeping or eating. It is something perhaps we could all do, live a little more like cats. This might even help bring balance to our lives.

This is part of a mans adventures of living like a cat for a week

This is a quote from a lady I know on twitter

"Trying not to nod off as the cat is sleeping on my desk & giving me ideas about a nicer way to spend the pm. "

I asked her if I could use her quote and she said yes!

"Of course!Happy to oblige-especially as said cat has succeeded in making me incredibly lethargic".

 Thanks to Claire and her cat Rollie, and the Whiskas team,  I have LOTS of prizes to give away. There are two first prizes of a t-shirt and a selection of cat treats, and 13 runners up prizes of a t-shirt.

To enter, follow me on Twitter  then tweet

I want to win cat goodies from @janesgrapevine and @needaphone at

Then come back here to tell me you have entered, leaving your Twitter name in  the comment.

The competition  will close at midnight on August 31st. UK entries only, one entry per person (although you are welcome to tweet about the comp as often as you like!)  and no bulk, automated or third party entries. Winners will be contacted by direct message on Twitter - so if you don't follow me you won't know you've won as I won't be able to DM you!

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Two lovely new competitions for you to enter

Tesco Books have invited us all to enter their latest competition - it sounds like an absolutely lovely prize and my mind is working overtime on ideas for who I'd like to invite, although of course I'd really like to be allowed to invite all my lovely readers and followers! Here are the details:

To celebrate the release of Angel Adoree’s first book, The Vintage Tea Party - which Domestic Sluttery suggests is ‘the most beautiful book ever’ – we’re hosting a competition to win one of her immersive ‘Vintage Tea Party’ experiences for you and 12 of your friends.

To enter the competition all you need to do is tell us which three guests you would invite to your fantasy tea party. Your guests can be real, fictional or no longer with us – whoever takes your fancy!

You can post your answer on Twitter using the hashtag #tescoteaparty or on our blog in the comments section here:

The winner will be chosen at random on Friday the 26th of August, announced on the Tesco Books blog and Twitter account.

And Life, Ninja Killer Cat and Everything Else is giving you a chance to win a beautiful Hastings Crystal personalised pet bowl for your dog or cat. Do pop over to this  page for a look - even if you don't have a pet of your own to win the prize for, it is well worth dropping in  to see the gorgeous cat Rollie, who helps to write the blog, posing in his Chelsea football shirt.

Monday 15 August 2011

A Whale of a trip.

I am often asked "What is the best prize you have ever won?" Well, I've been a successful comper for over 25 years and have won some wonderful prizes, so it's impossible to name a single favourite, but one of the most memorable came about 15 years ago, from a caption competition on Tetra fish food - a whale watching holiday to the San Ignacio Lagoon in Mexico. The prize was for two people but we paid to take one of   our teenage daughters  along too.

The weather was dreadful when we reached San Diego to board our boat, with the wind so strong the palm trees along the waterfront road were bent almost double. El Nino was  battering the coast, and when we stopped for a quick meal before boarding the ship, the cafĂ© owner reassured us by announcing "You must be mad - you'll all die!"

Our confidence wasn't boosted at all when we saw the boat that was going to be our home for the next week - to us  it looked more like something that would take day trips around the bay.

But we  went on to have a wonderful and very memorable trip. Here is a little report I wrote about it at the time:

Setting out from San Diego on a small boat in a storm wasn’t my idea of fun, but unlike most other passengers at least I didn’t have to resort to carrying a large plastic bag around……

After 24 hours we reached the calm of a group of islands and were glad to go ashore to visit colonies of  elephant seals (although the smell had a few people reaching for the bags again) then sailed on to the main focus of the trip – the San Ignacio Lagoon in Mexico where we spent several days touring the lagoon in small boats, watching the grey whales.

The whales were as curious as we were,  coming right up to the boats and up out of the water to look at us. Getting so close to these gentle giants was a sensational experience, especially when a  baby whale was brought by its mother to see us. The tiny looking baby was probably bigger than my car, which really put things into perspective for me.

But it wasn’t just about the whales – it was about the wonderful variety of wildlife at sea; dolphins, sunfish, pelicans,  albatross and playful seal pups. It was about the “green flash” at dawn and spending a week in cramped conditions with strangers who soon became friends. It was about storms and sunshine and being as different from my routine everyday life as it could possibly be.

 And one day it was about boiled broccoli for breakfast.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Home from my holiday

If you've found it a bit quiet on the blog recently, it's because I have been away on holiday. My husband and I (ooh, how regal that sounds!) rented a very beautiful little cottage in Pembridge, Herefordshire, for a week. I won't say it was peaceful, as it was at the side of a very busy road with lorries thundering past all  day and most of the night, but it was historic,  charming and comfortable and set in a very beautiful area.

Of course, despite being on holiday, I was hard at work all week.

Well, actually I DID find a few new competitions, and my team of Elves worked hard  to find more, so now I have to get on with producing yet another bumper update which should reach subscribers later this week.

If you'd like to know more about our holiday, my husband has written about it, with some of his fantastic photos, on his blog.

Monday 1 August 2011

Justin Bieber DVDs winner!

Thank you to all who entered the competition for the Justin Bieber DVDs. There were 75 entries, of which 6 gave the wrong answer. The winner was drawn from the 69 correct entries and is


Look out for an email from me, Gillian.

If you are looking for more competitions to enter, why not pop over to the Grape Vine website where the August competition to win a 6 month subscription to Grape Vine has just started?