Saturday 25 February 2012

Abel and Cole veg boxes

As many of you who chat with me on Twitter probably already know, I recently won a Twitter competition run by Abel and Cole, with a prize of a 3 months supply of weekly veg boxes. It wasn't just a retweet competition, you had to tweet them a healthy eating tip. I do like it when promoters run a competition like that - paring my answer down to 140 characters reminds me of the "good old days" of tiebreaker competitions.  Twenty years ago, I used to aim to write at least 10 tiebreakers a week - but I digress.....

My husband is a keen gardener, and for most of the year growns almost all our veg, herbs  and salad, but he is so impressed with our veg boxes that he has written about them over on his blog. We'd both love it if youwere to pop over there and take a look!

Thursday 23 February 2012

Win whisky every week with Jura

Jura Launches “Whisky Pursuit” to Win a Free Bottle Every Week for a Year

 Jura has launched a second version of its Pub Quiz aimed at testing the knowledge of its community of ‘honorary Diurachs.

Called “Whisky Pursuit”, the quiz will pose a different question every week, each one themed around one of six categories, in honour of the much-loved board game! Every week for six months, Jura will be giving away one bottle of Jura Superstition to a different lucky recipient for correctly answering the Question of the Week which will be posted on

The person or people who have given most correct answers at the end of the 6 months will be entered into a prize draw for a limited edition bottle of Isle of Jura 1976, worth around £500, of which there only 500 in the world.

The quiz will cover all sorts of weird and wonderful facts and trivia concerning both Jura and whisky more generally. From the Writers’ Retreat to the history of the island, the quiz is designed to be a true test of trivial knowledge! To take part, contestants will need to register at

 Distillery manager Willie Cochrane said:

“More than 5,000 contestants took part in our first online pub quiz, so we thought we’d bring it back with a twist! Anyone who grew up playing the old board game will hopefully feel a bit nostalgic playing our special Jura version. We’ve come up with lots of trivia about our whisky and the island, so hats off to anyone who answers every question correctly. They will be worthy winners of our special Jura 1976!”

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Get paid £250 just for being a comper!

A journalist is looking for compers to interview for a national newspaper - and she has promised that unlike some recent articles, it will be a sympathetic article showing people in a positive light. If you think you might be able to help, there is a £250 fee for the person she uses. Here is the information

FEE: £250 SUPER COMPERS ... I'm looking for case studies of people have who turning entering competitions into a second job or even a full-time job for a piece for a national newspaper. I'm looking for men and women who have won thousands of pounds worth of prizes. Please get in touch if you can help. My email address is

Please contact her directly if you would like to be considered. I know she would like to write the feature as soon as possible so I don't want to introduce any delays by havng to relay messages to her.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Your chance to win a £50 Experience Day

Don't you just love getting out and doing something completely different? Not just wandering round shops or strolling through the countryside, but doing something that is a real treat - maybe learning a new skill, being pampered or getting your adrenalin flowing? Well, the people at Experience Days have got dozens of great ideas for you to try. Pampering days, gourmet treats, driving experiences, days out, weekend breaks - they have something for everybody, and with prices ranging from under £20 to over £500 there's something to suit any budget too.

My husband loves to see places from the air - do you remember how much he loved the seaplane trip when I won a holiday in Vancouver? So I would love to treat him to a helicopter flight over the Lake District - one of our favourite parts of Britain.

Experience Days have a £50 gift voucher to give away to one lucky visitor to this blog. There are lots of things you could do with the voucher - how about a chocolate making workshop?
Or if you are feeling more adventurous, a 4 x 4 driving session? I've been to a session on this very track, and it is great fun, especially if you like getting muddy!

You could even create your own perfume!
You can have up to two entries using the Rafflecopter widget below. For the first one, read the instructions in the widget that tell you what to write in your comment, then comment and go back to the widget and click on the "Enter" button.
For the second one, you'll need to have a Twitter account. Click the "Tweet about the giveaway" button and you will see a little bird saying Tweet - click on him to automatically generate a tweet. Then you need to find the URL of your tweet. If you are using a Twitter client such as Tweet deck, or are on Old Twitter, all you need to do is to find the tweet in your timeline and click on the time at the bottom. It will open up on a page of it's own; copy the URL from the address bar and paste it into the Rafflecopter box. But if you are using New Twitter, you will  need to take a couple more steps to get the tweet onto its own page. Find your tweet then click "Open" at the side of it. Then click "details" on the bottom right of the tweet. That will take you to the page whose URL you can copy. (I think they've "simplified" Twitter by making everything take three times as long)

I promise, that all takes MUCH less time to do than it took me to explain it, but lots of people have got the URL of the Tweet part wrong in my Winnin Post competition so I thought I'd better include step-by-step instructions because if I can't find your tweet I can't count your entry.

So as not to get confused with any other competition I'm running, this competition will close at midnight on February 28th (or as near to that as Rafflecopter will allow!). UK entries only, please, and the prize will be sent directly to the winner by the promoter.
No bulk, automated or third party entries - hopefully they wouldn't get past the widget anyway!

Note - you should see the widget immediately below here. If you can't see it, try refreshing the page a couple of times  until it appears!

Friday 17 February 2012

The Twitter followers you don't want

Have you noticed that recently more and more "dodgy" people have tried to follow you on Twitter? Often people who use the "F" word in their biography  - not really the sort of person most compers expect to chat to on a regular basis!

Several people have asked me what they can do  about them and other unwanted followers, and whether there is a way to force somebody to unfollow you.

The answer is, there is no good way for a comper to prevent somebody following them. if you are NOT a comper, read on - I've got better news  for you later! So what do you do when one of these "ladies" follows you?


Don't go and look at their Twitter page, don't follow them back and under NO circumstances  click on any links in their message or their bio. They want you to either follow them back so they can send you direct messages advertising the sort of services they wouldn't be allowed to openly advertise on Twitter, or to go to websites which will be pay-to-subscribe sites that contain the sort of material which really isn't very apt, original and amusing and doesn't give away any prizes! In fact Twitter picks up accounts like this and closes them down very quickly - so quickly that if you have your Twitter account set up to send you an email whenever somebody follows you, in the few minutes it takes between them following you and when the email would have gone out, the lady in question has lost her account and the email never gets sent. So if you are at all worried about possibly being followed by such people, you might feel happier only ever checking the emails from Twitter and not actually looking at your followers list online.

What about other people who follow you that you don't want to see? Spammers, people you dislike or people you are simply not interested in. Well, once again, the most sensible thing to do is ignore them. If you are not following them back, they can't send you direct messages, but they would still be able to read your tweets and send you @ messages even if they weren't following you, so it makes no difference to you. And of course if you are getting close to following 2,000 people, you need all the followers you can get so that you will be able to carry on following new people - you can read about Twitter's following limits in "Getting round Twitter's following limit"

You might decide  to block somebody you really dislike - but did you realise that although somebody you have blocked can't follow you or send you @ messages, they can still read and retweet your tweets?

If you protect your tweets, it means that only people who you have approved can follow you and see your tweets. But if you are a comper, you should never do this  because promoters won't know you have entered their competitions, so you will never win  anything!

There is a service available called True Twit which sends your new followers a message asking them to visit a website to prove they are real. If you are not a comper, this could be useful to you, but if you ARE a comper I would caution you against using it. This is because very often, the promoter of a competition will follow you so that you can send them a direct message with your name and address. In fact sometimes the first inkling you get that you have won is when the promoter of a newly-closed competition follows you. But if they get a True Twit validation message, they are very likely to decide that it is all to much trouble, and drop the idea of giving you the prize, redrawing the winner and following them instead. So if you use True Twit, you could miss out on a fair proportion of your potential wins.

It is a better service if you are not a comper, but even then you might have reservations about it. The Premium service, which allows registered users to bypass having to validate themselves to other people, costs a measly little $20.00 a year - many spammers would think this was a small investment for a service that makes them look "authentic" and leads people to trust them!

In summary, the best thing to do about unwanted followers of any kind is to ignore them. if they like what you are saying, they will keep following. if they don't, they'll go away. Think of Twitter as being like a crowded train, and your followers as the other passengers. You can't get rid of them, but they have as much right to be there as you have, and you're not obliged to interact with them. And eventually they will get off, or you will all reach your destination without troubling each other.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Hand made Thursday - The Crafty Comper

Last year was my year for winning craft goodies. In fact  I hardly had to buy any all year. My wins included:
  • a pack of Christmas Dufex designs
  • a bumper pack of Christmas embellishments
  • a sheet of unmounted stamps
  • a set of flower and leaf punches
  • a tag punch with a set of matching stamps and an inkpad
  • a huge jar of assorted buttons
  • a scrapbooking kit
  • almost 1,000 (yes, a thousand) sheets of 12 x 12 paper and card, in four separate competitions
I don't think I'll  need to buy another sheet of paper! Note that I used the word  "need"..... "want" is another matter completely!

Here are  a few cards I made with some of the loot:

I've already started my crafty wins for 2012, as last week  a CD of really cute designs arrived - very useful with a 2½year old in the family and another grandchild due soon. I've already managed to make a couple of cards from it

If you'd like to be a crafty winner too, keep your eye open for competitions on craft suppliers' websites and Facebook pages, as  well as blogs and of course the monthly craft magazines. My comping and crafting friend Winn Sommor, whose latest puzzle booklet you can win here , tells me she has won lots of lovely craft prizes from writing to the letters pages of her favourite craft magazines too.

Now I need to win a bigger house to store all my crafting stash in!

I'm joining in with Handmade Thursday on White Lily Green's blog with this post.

Inspire Me Beautiful

Tuesday 14 February 2012

A new way to draw a winner on Twitter - and the winner of my birthday competition

Running - and entering - retweet to win competitions on Twitter can be a very hit and miss affair. There doesn't seem to be any 100% reliable way of collecting entries and knowing exactly who has entered, and if you have entered a competition you can never be 100% sure your entry has been received.

People are sometimes left questioning promoters who announce winners - was the draw done fairly? Or did they just choose the last person to enter/the person with the prettiest avatar/their sister? Even a promoter who is determined to do everything by the book can be puzzled by the unpredictability of  Twitter's various functions.

Take for instance the "Seventh Birthday" competition I ran on Twitter a  few days ago. I bookmarked the competition tweet - Twitter tells me that it has been retweeted 95 times. So I should have received 95 entries. I could only see who the last 15 entrants were, and I couldn't find any way to access a list of the other 80.

I  set my account to send an email every time the tweet was retweeted. I only got 33 emails.

I checked my Activity and @mentions regularly to look for entries. I found about 40 entries.

I also included a hashtag and ran  a hashtag search. It gave me just 17 results, including some (but not all) of my own tweets.

However, a new system has been set up that will get round all those problems. It can pick up on every instance of a retweet of any given tweet, and what's more will perform a random draw so there is no danger of an entrant being favoured or losing out because  their name or avatar.  The system is called Twitterdraw and has been set up by Iain Haywood of Competition Hunter

It can draw a random follower from all your followers, a random retweeter of your chosen tweet or a random tweeter of a given hashtag.  And it takes a matter of seconds.

I used Twitterdraw to choose the winner of my competition, and it pulled Vicky Robinson, @xVickyRx  out of the cyberhat. It showed me a link to her profile and I could see that she had indeed retweeted, even though she hadn't showed up in my mentions, hashtag search or emails. So without Twitterdraw, even though she had entered correctly, she wouldn't have been in the draw.

I was delighted with Twitterdraw and would have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone wanting a simple and fair way to choose a random winner on Twitter.

Compers, if ever you feel a Twitter competition has been drawn unfairly, why not suggest Twitterdraw to the promoter?

Monday 13 February 2012

QUICK! Enter by the 14th for a lovely weekend break.

I've just been shopping and spotted "WIN!" stickers on packs of fresh duck in Waitrose - and incidentally grabbed myself a bargain for our Valentine's dinner as they were half price. I'll be slow roasting it and serving it with apple sauce and sage and onion stuffing and a bottle of rosé wine..... but I digress....

There's very little info on the outside of the sticker, but inside it tells you to go to for a chance to win a luxury weekend break or one of three duck hampers.

The first prize is a two night break in Suffolk, at  either The Salthouse Harbour Hotel in Ipswich or The Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds. Both look lovely! Dinner on one night is included, and the winner and three runners up will also get a hamper of  duck products.

But hurry! The competition closes on February 14th.

Sunday 12 February 2012

"Birthday" cake!

This was sent to me by @MrsBun2002  Virtual Cake Decorator eCard

Thank you very much - calorie free and sugar free too! It's made my day.

Happy Seventh Birthday to Grape Vine

Today it is exactly seven years since I took over Grape Vine from John Lock, who had been producing it for twelve years and felt it was time to retire. Since then I have helped hundreds of readers to win thousands of prizes, and every single one reported to me feels as good as winning it myself.

Also today, I tweeted my 50,000th tweet, and on Wednesday it will be three years since I joined Twitter.

Taking those experieces together, what a lot I've  learned in a relatively short time! And hopefully I've passed  on a lot of the things I have learned to some of you.

To celebrate, I am running a quickie competition on Twitter. The prize is a bundle of goodies comprising

a signed Rosemary Schrager's Breakfasts recipe book
a smelly Dalek for your dashboard (go on, you KNOW you want one)
a "Versatile Vegetables" address and birthday book
and most importantly, a 3 month subscription to Grape Vine, or of course an extension to your sub if you are already a subscriber.

All you have to do to enter is retweet the competition tweet which you will find here

The competition closes at 8pm on Monday  13th February and is open to UK residents only

Friday 10 February 2012

The Galloping Gourmet

I originally wrote this back in 2007 after a wonderful prize experience from the Evening Standard. How I miss their Gourmet Challenge competition which vanished when the paper became a free one a while ago. This was the second occasion I had been involved in the final - the previous time had a different format, and was also at one of Giorgio Locatelli's restaurants, but all the finalists had to guess the ingredients in a series of dishes and the person with the most correct (not me) won a holiday to Italy. On the second occasion, the evening out was itself the prize, and one of those wonderful "money can't buy" experiences that our amazing hobby sometimes throws our way.

I am a great fan of the annual Evening Standard Gourmet Challenge quiz – being both a foodie and a comper it combines two of my favourite hobbies – and this year’s quiz was a tough challenge (I have learned that the setters had gone to great lengths to make the answers ungoogleable) so I was delighted to get a LWE telling me that I was one of this year’s 10 winners, who would be taking part in a “Gourmet Gallop”.

The prize was dinner in four of London’s top restaurants – all on the same evening!  The ten winners (partners and guests were not allowed, which meant we all mingled much better than we would have done as couples) met up with our hosts from the Standard at Sketch, alleged to be the most expensive restaurant in Britain. More like a living gallery of modern art than a restaurant, we enjoyed a guided tour of the surreal labyrinth of rooms and staircases – even the loos were works of art – while slurping Pommery champagne and sampling canapés as surreal as the surroundings. A strawberry and black pepper vodka martini is unusual enough – even if it doesn’t have a langoustine floating in it!

When the champagne bottles had been drunk dry, we piled into cars waiting to take us to Scotts, a very traditional British seafood restaurant. Here we had a choice of baked spider crab (my choice – and utterly delicious) or a dozen oysters, three each of four species. The oyster lovers in the party thought they were in heaven!

Back in the cars again, this time to The Greenhouse – a very stylish restaurant tucked away in a quiet Mayfair mews. Here we were treated to a choice of sea bass  or veal – I opted for the veal and enjoyed an exquisitely tender piece of delicious meat served with asparagus and girolles.

Already feeling full, we were driven on to Locanda Locatelli for dessert. Giorgio Locatelli was waiting to greet us, and it felt just as if he was welcoming us into his home. Dessert was served at a long, family style table and I’m sure we were authentically noisy as the wine that had been so generously poured with each course began to take effect.

The first part of our dessert was a rice spoon filled with tiramisu. Next came a small dish full of fresh berries topped with a Catalan Cream, then a plate with a tiny, elegant chocolate doughnut and an equally tiny scoop of coffee ice cream. Then coffee and dessert wines were served and we sat back, replete – or so we thought! Moments later, Giorgio appeared with a huge platter of Sicilian pastries,  and before we had finished helping ourselves, he was back with a whole cassata. But the best was yet to come – two enormous platters heaped high with scoops of ice cream of every flavour imaginable. Simple, stunningly presented and of course the most Italian dessert imaginable. Somehow we all found room for at least one helping.

The whole evening had been well planned, smoothly executed and a joy to participate in. At each restaurant we were warmly welcomed and made to feel extra special, and the food and drink were both generous and delicious.

And as we left Locanda Locatelli there was one more surprise for us – each of the restaurants had made up a goodie bag for every winner, as had the Evening Standard, so we had five smart carrier bags to take away, containing goodies such as signed recipe books, sweets, biscuits, cheeses, olive oil and, rather bizarrely, an eye mask. I fear that may have been intended to put over one’s eyes when standing on the scales next morning!

Wednesday 8 February 2012

The Strada Loving Challenge

Strada are celebrating Valentine's day by giving you a chance to win a 3 night break at the 4* Hotel Savoia & Jolanda in Venice for 2 - courtesy of Citalia

To enter, go to the app on their Facebook page  and complete the weekly challenges  - everyone who completes at least two of the challenges and scores at least 10 points by the closing date of 26 Feb will go into the draw.

There are several tasks each week and you can choose which to do. Each has a points rating beside it and you need to make sure the ones you choose add up to at least 5 points. You may choose to upload a photo, answer a question  or tweet a message.

It's lovely to see a competition that involves something more interesting than simply giving your name and email address, isn't it?

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Top tips for savvy compers

This weekend it will be seven years since  I took over Grape Vine from John Lock, when he retired. Grape Vine's motto is "news, views, tips and clues" so I decided to celebrate the anniversary with a bumper collection of tips.

Over the last few weeks, I have been tweeting a daily tip, with the hashtag #compingtip : you can find them all by searching Twitter for that hashtag, but to make life easier I have brought them all together for you here. While many of them relate specifically to Twitter, most can be applied to all of your comping, however you prefer to do it.

Good luck - and here's to the next seven years!


Always check the rules and instructions. Don't rely on another comper as they may have been in a rush and not checked themselves

Don’t tweet the same thing several times – you could go to Twitter jail or be filtered out of search

Make sure the person running the comp gets an @ mention in your tweet or they won’t know you’ve entered

Check your @ messages and DMs at least once a day to see if there are any winning messages

Follow the person running the comp – it’s good manners and means they can DM you if you win

Check the closing date – it’s no use entering a comp that has already closed

If there’s a link to the rules, follow it. Otherwise look at the promoter’s timeline for info about the comp

Follow as many other compers as you can – if they spot a new comp you’ll be one of the first to know

Don’t let your timeline be all retweets as you may get filtered out of search. Chat a bit as well!

Don’t copy another comper’s entry if there’s a slogan or opinion question – you need to  give your own answer.

Check that the promoter is in the UK or says the comp is open to the UK or you  won’t get your prize

It’s fine to use the retweet button nowadays, in fact if the promoter collects entries by email it’s the ONLY way to enter.

If there’s a hashtag, make sure you include it and  spell it correctly

When a tweet says “enter by 4pm”, it’s no use entering at 8pm!

Say thank you when you get a prize. It’s good manners and lets the person know it’s arrived safely.

Don’t retweet other compers’ entries. It’s  annoying to them and means the promoter probably won’t see your entry.

Have a picture on your profile, not just a Twitter egg. It really does make a difference to how much you’ll win.

Make lists – one for your comping friends, and lists for comps that run regularly on certain days

Look out for scams and hackers – you CAN’T see “who viewed your profile”.

If a promoter tweets about a comp, then doesn’t tweet again for 6 months, the comp isn’t going to happen.

Don’t cheat! Promoters can easily spot  people tweeting from multiple accounts.

Tell non-comping friends and family to select “Hide retweets from this person” on your Twitter page.

If a winner is being picked at a certain number of followers, check their current number to make sure you’re not too late.

Not every comp on Twitter is a retweet comp – make sure you’re doing the right thing.

Interact with the promoters – most of them have a real person handling the Twitter account and they’ll enjoy a chat.

Try to make some free time on Fridays as there are so many one day only comps then – it can be hard to keep up!

Hashtag searches can sometimes help you to find comps. Try #competition #giveaway #bookgiveaway and #comp

It sometimes helps to enter right at the end of a comp, as older tweets can be lost from Twitter search.

Don’t have  a protected Twitter account – nobody will ever know you’ve entered their comps.

If a promoter is based in Ireland, check which part. The Republic has different laws so you probably can’t enter their comps.

Treat over-generous comps with caution. Somebody with 250 followers can’t afford to give as big a prize as one with 25,000.

Don’t tweet more than 100 times an hour or you’ll end up in Twitter jail.

An obvious “comping” email address can count against you. Avoid  the words “comp” and “win” in it.

Don’t claim you’ve done something (liked, followed, commented, subscribed) if you’ve not – you’ll be disqualified.

Monday 6 February 2012

The Chorley Comping Day is coming

Formidable Friends are holding a Comping Day on Saturday 24th March 2012 at St Joseph's Parish Hall, Chorley.

Tickets are £25 and include a buffet and unlimited teas/coffees and soft drinks.

If you would like to attend, please send a cheque made out to Formidable Friends for the sum of £25 and send it together with a Large 2nd class Stamp, self addressed C5 envelope to

Mrs Anne Marie Martin,
14 Rawlyn Road
BL1 5RQ.

Please include your name and contact details and the details of any one else you are applying for. All info will be sent out about 3 weeks before the event

Friday 3 February 2012

Protected Twitter accounts are no use for compers!

Last week a fellow comper, let's call him @fred,  told me that he'd entered literally thousands of competitions on Twitter and never had a single win. I offered to have a look at his Twitter feed to see if I could see any obvious mistakes.

So off I went to his Twitter page and all I could see was:

@fred's Tweets are protected.
Only confirmed followers have access to @fred's Tweets and complete profile. You need to send a request before you can start following this account.

I couldn't see any of his tweets - and neither could any of the promoters whose competitions he had been entering. So he had entered those thousands of competitions and hadn't stood a chance of winning anything.

When I told him that, he unprotected his tweets and I could then see that he  had tweeted me several messages - questions, comments and even messages of congratulations when I won things, and I had never seen any of them.

This is because if your tweets are protected, ONLY people you have authorised to can see any of  them at all. You can be following other people, you can retweet their tweets, you can send them messages and they will never be aware that you have done it!

Twitter doesn't really make this clear, so you might think that having a protected account stops stalkers and potential spammers from seeing your tweets while still letting you talk to people you follow even if they don't follow you, but unfortunately it doesn't work that way. So if you are a comper and have your tweets protected, you will never win anything.

To check whether you have protected tweets, go to your Twitter page and click on the arrowhead next to your name on the top  right, then select Settings. On the Account tab, scroll down to Tweet Privacy  and make sure the box next to "Protect my tweets" is unchecked. If it is checked, click the box to clear it then click on Save at the bottom.

That's what @fred did - and just five days later he had his first Twitter win.

There is a handy guide to who can see what when you send a tweet which you can see  at Meg Pickard 's Flickr page.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Two lovely Valentines' Day competitions for you

There are some lovely Valentines Day competitions around this year - here are two with brilliant prizes  from some favourite restaurants.

Bella Italia   is running a competition to win a Pamper Spa Day for 2 courtesy of Red Letter Days
Participants will be able to select a 'love card' design from a gallery and write their 'love message' there to post it on the wall of their chosen dearest.
All love notes sent will be then added to their gallery and entered into the competition to win a Pamper Spa Day for 2 people courtesy of Red Letter Days.
Enter on their Facebook page

Café Rouge  Their competition  is to win a romantic break at a luxury Chateau in France
To enter, you need to eat at Café Rouge and enter the details from your till receipt on their Facebook page then answer the question  - you can find the answer by following the link they provide to the Chateau's website.

Both competitions close on February 29th, so you have plenty time to pop into Café Rouge for your romantic dinner.