Thursday 28 June 2012

A chance to win an InterRail pass.

To celebrate the publication of the novel  InterRail by Alessandro Gallenzi and the 40th anniversary of InterRail Pass, Alma Books are giving away two InterRail passes, each with a copy of the novel. Each pass gives you 5 travelling days during a 10 day period throughout Europe. Entry is by telling them where you would go if you were to win. Full details of how to enter can be found on the Alma Books website

Tuesday 26 June 2012

How to enter Rafflecopter competitions

If you've ever entered competitions on blogs, you will have noticed that some of them have a box, or "widget" with several ways to enter listed and the words "A Rafflecopter giveaway" in tiny print at the very bottom.

Rafflecopter is a tool that bloggers can use to securely collect your details - no more worrying about being asked to give your email address in a comment on a blog - and keep track of entries, and then to a completely fair and random draw at the end of the competition. And if you are thinking "this doesn't apply to me, I never enter/run competitions on blogs", well, a Facebook version has recently been developed too. And we all know how difficult it can be for promoters to contact winners on Facebook!

So, whether you like it or not, Rafflecopter is here to stay. And here are some vital tips for entering competitions that use it and making sure your name is in the hat. Why did I emphasise that? Well my own personal experience, and that of many other bloggers,  is that around 1 in 4 entries don't follow the instructions. The blogger can see EXACTLY what you have done - commented, tweeted, liked or followed - so if you haven't done it, either by carelessly not reading the instructions or by deliberately ignoring them and simply clicking the "Enter" button, your entry won't go into the draw.

Let's have a look at the steps you need to enter. You might want to have a Rafflecopter giveaway open in another tab or window so you can see what I'm talking about for each one. Some you can try are
Competition Grape Vine Closing 30 June
Ninja Killer Cat Closing 27 July
The Curry Guy Closing 10 July
Fuss Free Flavours - a whole host of competitions with different closing dates

If you have never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway before, or if their cookie on your computer has expired or been deleted, you will first of all have to log in to the app using either your Facebook ID or your name and email address. TIP I advise always using your name and email address. If you use the Facebook option and win, the blogger will only be able to contact you by sending a Facebook message which will go into your "Other" folder, where it can easily be missed.

Now you can start entering. There may be several ways to enter: you will only see the mandatory one(s) to start with, and by completing those you unlock the others. Go through the tasks one by one, completing those you wish to do by clicking on "Do it" and then following the instructions that will open up. Once you have done each one, click the green "Enter" button in that section and your entry is saved. If you open one and decide you can't  or don't want to do the task, click "cancel" instead and move on to the next.

Here are the most common tasks and some tips about them:

  • Leave a blog post comment The widget will tell you what the topic of your comment should be. If you are asked, for instance, to give your favourite way of eating corned beef, it is no use saying "Lovely prize, I hope I win" because that isn't a way of eating corned beef! You would be amazed to see how many people get this wrong, or fail to leave a comment at all. Although you won't be judged on the quality of your comment, it will be checked to see that it is there, and says what you were asked to say.
  • Follow somebody on Twitter in this part of the widget you will see a Twitter username. If the type is in black and the little bird in blue, you are not following them. Click on the name and it will turn grey - now you ARE following them. If it is already greyed out, you are already following. Once it is grey, put your Twitter username in the box  -  but DO make sure you spell it correctly! somebody missed out on a prize in one of my competitions because the Twitter name they had given didn't exist - and click "Enter".
  • Like somebody on Facebook  once again you can tell whether you already do like them or not because the Like button will be blue if you don't, grey if you do, and slicking on a blue button will Like it for you and turn it grey. You only need to give your Facebook name if you are using a different name - for instance, on Facebook I use my personal name, Jane Willis, but often on blogs I use my Grape Vine ID, in which case I would type my name into the box.
  • Like a post  on Facebook another blue button to click - this one puts a link to the blog post with the competition in it onto your Facebook activity section for your friends to see.
  • Tweet about the competition in this section of the widget, there is a tiny Tweet button. The blogger will have prepared a ready-written tweet for you, and clicking this button opens up a pop up window with it in - you just need to click on Tweet in the pop up to send it. However you MUST then go to the tweet you have just sent and copy the URL of it from the address bar into the box on the widget. If you are unsure how to do this, see my post on How to Give the URL of a Tweet
  • Share using share buttons these are usually not in the widget itself, but below the blog post or in one of the side columns - the blogger
Sometimes you will  see other tasks too, like commenting on other posts or just leaving your email address. The blogger will have given instructions  on how to enter  these - simply do as they tell you.

Don't forget it isn't necessary to do every single step. Each step counts as one entry (sometimes more - the blogger may give you more entries for tasks they feel are more important to them).  Obviously the more tasks you complete, the more times you go into the hat but at the end of the day, it is one single entry that wins - and even if you have only entered once, that one entry could be the winning one!

Monday 25 June 2012

A new comp for you from Quack Quack Moo!

Why a rhyming subject? Because with a new grandchild in the family, any news of a competition for baby goodies is poetry to my ears! And Quack Quack Moo are giving you the chance to win a toddler bundle worth £90 containing
1x Bed Protector
1x Seat Protector
1x Hooded Blanket
1x Lap Bib
1x Naughty Spot
1x Sticker Book
1x Warn & Reward Cards
and a newborn bundle  also worth £90 containing  
1x Babygrow
1x Long Sleeve Vest
1x Short Sleeve Vest
1x Sleeveless Vest
1x Hooded Blanket
2x Dribble Bibs
2x Shoulder Chucks
To enter either or both competitions, head over to their website  and enter using the Rafflecopter widget. And if Rafflecopter confuses you, look out for tomorrow's blog post which will be a simple guide to entering Rafflecopter giveaways.
The Quack Quack Moo competitions both close on June 30th,  but some of the entry options give you extra goes if you enter each day, so pop over there and enter now!

Friday 22 June 2012

What's your funniest ever win?

Since I still can't get on line properly, I thought I would let YOU write this blog post, so please join in!

I'd like as many people as possible to join in and tell me - what is the funniest prize you have ever won? It could be something that made you laugh, like a trip to a comedy show or a really funny book or DVD, a serious prize that went hilariously wrong, or something that made other people laugh at the thought you had even entered for it.

Some of mine are

A spa day where the mud massage bath went wrong and sprayed the whole room with mud
A pair of electric vibrating knickers with packaging saying"New! Now washable!"
A holiday to Malta that went so disastrously wrong we had to laugh or we'd have cried
Tickets to a stand up comedy night which we went to straight after a rather boozy prize party at which we won a Duracell rabbit who became the star of the comedy show audience

I'm sure your comments will remind me of a lot more funny prizes I've had over the years.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Absent Without Leave

I'm really sorry I'm not around and not able to post at the moment. No, I've not had to ash away to see to my Mum at the moment, I'm just without internet access (and TV and phone!)

I'll be back as soon as everything is repaired.


Wednesday 20 June 2012

Win with the Travel and Leisure magazine

The Travel and Leisure magazine would like to invite you to enter their competitions. The competitions they run change regularly and can be found on their competitions page

The current ones are:

WIN a pair of weekend festival tickets for the Deer Shed Festival  closing 08 July

WIN one of five Azores: The World Underwater DVDs closing 24 June

WIN four tickets for the Barton Gate Steam Charity Rally worth up to £20 closing 10 July

and don't forget you also have a chance to win tickets for the Barton Gate Rally here on the Grape Vine blog - check out the competition here  

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Another fun competition from Hey U Guys

How do you fancy winning a box set of 10 "Creature Features" - a selection of 10 great B-movies. To enter, pop over to  and invent your own title for a B-movie.  Their suggestion is "Attack of the Hormonal Girlfriend" but I'm sure you will have a great time thinking of more. "Revenge of the Facebook Scammer" perhaps, or "It came from out of Twitter"?

Your entry needs to be in by June 25th. Have fun dreaming up ideas!

Monday 18 June 2012

Win a family ticket to a steam rally

Barton Gate Steam Charity Rally is being held on 21st and 22nd July at Needwood Rise Farm, Barton Gate, Barton Under Needwood, Staffs, DE13 8AP. All proceeds from this great family day out will be going to the Midlands Air Ambulance. Admission is £5 for adults and £1 for under 16s.

There is free parking with lots to see and do including both large and miniature steam, craft marquee, parades of vintage vehicles including motorbikes, tractors, cars, commercial and military vehicles. They have lots of new attractions this year. The Nuneaton Dog Training Display are there all weekend giving your dog the chance to try out the agility course. Woodys Wings will be taking along their rescue parrots and owls. On Sunday only watch the fantastic falconry display. There will be a demonstration of chain saw sculpture. They have live musicians and dancers; marvel at the magician. Try your skill on a waterball. On the Saturday only you can meet a meerkat with Oreo and the animal friends There are catering facilities and a fully licensed bar. There is something for the whole family. You can even make a whole weekend of it; go along and camp with them for only £25 which includes admission tickets for the family and a two night stay in your tent or caravan.

They have given us a prize to offer you of a ticket for four people, which can be adults or children. Enter by using the Rafflecopter widget below. Entries close on June 30th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday 17 June 2012

I got hacked - don't let it happen to you!

If you are a Grape Vine reader, or have been in the past,  you may have had a couple of dodgy looking emails from me last night. And indeed they were dodgy - if you clicked on the links in them, you will have been taken to a site advertising diet pills and may have had a virus warning when you visited the site.

The emails were not sent by me personally - my Yahoo email account, the one I keep exclusively for Grape Vine use - had been hacked, and they were sent from the hackers, not from me.

Why do people do this? Just so that they can use your account to send their advertising emails to everyone in the hacked person's  address book. They think the people who receive them will believe it is a genuine recommendation from somebody they know, making them more likely to buy the product. But also if you use your email account for Internet banking or correspondence of a highly personal nature, there may be hackers out there trying to get into it for more sinister reasons.

How do they do it? In the case of hacking an email account, simply by finding the user's password. If you have a Linked In account, you may have been affected by the recent mass-hacking, in which even quite complex passwords were found by the hackers. They have all kinds of sophisticated software to help them, but there ARE things you can do to help to prevent it.

So here, in the spirit of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, are some tips to help you to make sure your account isn't hacked.

  • Don't click on any links or attachments unless you are 100% certain of where it is going to take you, even if you trust the person it came from. If you were one of the people who did click on the links in the emails my account sent out, keep an eye on your own account and if you find people have received any emails you are not aware of having sent, change your password immediately.
  • Give all your emails a subject line, and encourage your friends to do the same. The hackers very often send emails with no subject, so you will know that anything you receive with no subject should be treated with caution.
  • If you send somebody else a link or an attachment, say a few words about what it is and why you are sending it. Hacked emails often include just the link, or use language that is not typical of the person who it appears to come from.
  • Choose a strong password. The more unusual it is, the harder it is for hackers to guess. Yesterday I was actually planning to write a post about choosing a strong password - today! And yet I am ashamed to say my own password was the name of a family pet. I'll say more about choosing passwords further down the page.
  • Try to avoid typing in your password, by using something that will fill it in for you, like autocomplete or Roboform. It is possible for hackers to use a cookie from a website to place a "keystroke logger" on your computer, which will report back to them the keys you press when typing in your password. The less often you have to type it, the less chance you have of them getting hold of it.
  • Don't let your email address appear on any websites.  There are programmes out there designed to search websites, forums  and blogs, just looking for email addresses, because if they don't know your email address they don't have any starting point for hacking your account. Unfortunately as my Grape Vine address is the way potential new readers contact me, I can't avoid putting mine out there, but most of you can avoid it. Only put your email address  into the correct field of a form, where it is asked for, and never anywhere else.  For instance, if you are commenting on a blog, make sure your email address isn't in the comment box, and never give your full email address on a Facebook wall. If you really can't avoid giving it, write the word AT or [at] instead of the @ symbol. A human being will still be able to understand that it is your email address and be able to contact you. A computer won't.
  • Keep your address book as small as possible so that if you ARE hacked, as few people as possible will get the emails. As soon as I've finished writing this, I'm going to remove as many people as possible, and the old Google update mailing list, from my address book. (I'm afraid the old trick of starting your address book with a fake email address doesn't work - hackers don't work their way through one by one!)
Now on to picking a strong password.  Don't use an easily recognised word, like the name of a family pet (my big mistake). Most sites will ask you for a word between 8 and 10 characters long, and a combination of letters and numbers is safer than one of all letters. For the numbers, avoid things like your date of birth or door number - a hacker with a little information about you would find that helpful.

But you want a password that you won't forget, don't you? If you were to pick a random collection of letters and numbers, it would be VERY safe - so safe that you could well have a "senior moment" and end up locked out of your own account. So here is a suggestion.  Pick a phrase of 6-8 words and base your password  on the first or last letters of those words. Add a number of one, two or three digits that means something to you but can't be easily linked to you by anyone searching for you online.

For instance, on the front cover of Grape Vine there is always the phrase "For those who take their hobby seriously". So I might (but now I've shared it with you, I won't) use the letters ftwtths  and then add a number I could easily remember but isn't ever linked to me online - my Grandmother's door number was 15 so I could have a password that was ftwthhs15  which I would remember but would be just about unguessable, especially to a piece of computer software.  I could change this by putting the digits elsewhere among the letters, or using the last letters of the words, so I have the source of a huge number of new passwords just from that one phrase.

Your phrase could be a line from a favourite song or poem, a quotation from a book or, if you like to write tiebreakers, how about using one of your favourite winning tiebreakers? As long as you will remember it, anything goes!

And if your account DOES get hacked? Change your password straight away, so the hackers can no longer get into your account, then warn anyone who may have received an email from you not to open it. Unfortunately you can't check who messages went to, as they tend not to show up in your sent mail file, so you need to assume they went to everyone you know. Don't let it get you too stressed or upset - one of the things hackers want is to cause you as much trouble as possible. So keep calm and don't let them win!

A final thought - just imagine if the combined genius of the people who work away at creating illegal software, hacking accounts and trying to sell illegal products through them was actually put together to do something good and positive instead - wouldn't the world be a much better place?

Saturday 16 June 2012

A chance to meet me, and a quick competition for a £100 Amazon voucher

If your Amazon wishlist is anything like mine you won't be able to resist entering this!

Accident Advice Helpline have a competition to win a £100 Amazon Voucher on Facebook. Just Like the page and fill in your details Closing date 12th July.

I may be a bit quiet on the blogging front this week - as Grape Vine readers know, the mid month update is due out in a few days and this month it's going to be another MASSIVE one, and on Saturday June 23rd  is the Diamond Jubilee party of the London  Competitors Club - not the Queen's Jubilee, but our club's very own 60th birthday party, which i am involved in preparations for.

It is being held at The Grange Hotel in Holborn and due to a last minute cancellation, there are two tickets available at £35 each, to include dinner, lots of competitions and a chance to meet lots of other compers - including me! In fact I will be at the door welcoming people. The event runs from 5pm to 10pm, with doors openning at 4pm.

If you would like the tickets, please email me on   - time is very short so it is strictly first come, first served!

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Will there really be any prizes?

I'm sure a lot of you remember the competition on New Covent Garden Soup last year, where there was a farm to be won. At the end of the promotion, they announced that there had been no winner and there was a furious outcry from people on their Facebook page, some even accusing them of cheating. Because the people complaining on their page didn't understand the mechanism of the promotion, they didn't understand that although the farm genuinely was there to be won,  it was highly unlikely to be given away. In fact, unfair as it seemed to many, New Covent Garden had done nothing wrong at all.

That is because the promotion  was an instant win. You had to open your pack and check the code inside it to see if it was the winning code. Think back to "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory", where children all over the world were looking for golden tickets hidden in packs. That winning code was like one of those golden tickets, only even more rare because there was just one. Just one winning pack, among over two million promotional packs that were produced.

And for every person who bought the soup and checked their code, there were probably a dozen who didn't even notice the competition on the label, who carelessly tossed the empty pack in the bin, who left the pack of soup in the fridge until after its use by date (apparently this happens to about a quarter of the food we buy, although not in this house!) or who stuck the carton in the freezer, where it may still be lurking. Add to that the packs that will have expired while on supermarket shelves and been destroyed, or ones that got damaged in the packing machinery and never even made it to the shops, and you can see why it wasn't really all that surprising that the farm wasn't claimed.

Instant wins like this are very prolific these days, but there are other types of instant win too, as well as prize draws, so let's have a look at the different types.

A prize draw collects all the entries together until a fixed date or time, and than at that time draws a winner from every single valid entry. All prizes are guaranteed to be given away.

A "Golden Ticket" instant win works like the one described above. You many find a winning message inside a pack, or may have to check a code to see if it has been pre-selected as a winner, but whichever of those it is, the winning packs have already been pre-determined and if the prize isn't claimed, nobody wins.

Nowadays there are more types of instant win which can be fairer on entrants. The first of these is

An instant win based on an algorithm winning packs, or winning codes, are not pre-selected, but you have a code on your pack to check online or by text message. You are told instantly whether you have won or lost because the computer has calculated the odds of a win, based on the number of promotional packs and the number of prizes. So say five million promotional packs have been produced, and there are a hundred prizes. Each time you enter a code, it is like somebody handing you a bag with five million balls in it, a hundred of which are marked "winner".  If you are lucky enough - and you need to be VERY lucky - to pull one of the winning balls out, you get a prize. The odds  are still very long, but it gets rid of the worry that a winning pack may be destroyed unopened or thrown away by an unobservant person not interested in the competition. Again although all the prizes are available, the odds of them all being won is very low.

An instant win based on a winning moment these have randomly pre-selected winning moments, securely chosen by computer. They may be dealt with two ways
  1. the prize will only be given if somebody enters at the exact moment
  2. the prize goes to the first entry on or after the winning moment
The first type is very similar to the algorithm version above, with a clock replacing the virtual "bag of balls" but the second type is much more generous to compers because in most cases all the prizes will be given away.  And you can even increase your odds of winning, by thinking about the product and the times people are likey  to enter. If  the promotion is open all through the night (many aren't - check the details of each promotion) then the hours between 3am and 5am won't get many entries. As the winning moments are random, there may not be one between those hours - but if there IS, your chance of being that lucky first person are greater.  If the product is alcohol, there are unlikely to be many entries before around mid day, if it is on sweets, not many while children are at school and if it is on ice cream, not many on a cold, wet day. Why? Because among the non-comping community,  most entries are made on impulse, when you have the drink, snack or ice cream in one hand and your mobile phone in the other.

But my favourite kind of instant win? Ones where all unclaimed prizes are given away in a draw at the end of the promotion.  These are few and  far between, but they have the advantage of making sure everyone has a chance to win, and if you have tried the instant win and lost, you still have a second bite of the cherry.

I'll always prefer draws to instant wins, just as I will always prefer skill competitions to draws, but wherever there areprizes to be won I want to know that I'm in with the best possible chance, so I always read the rules to try to be certain what type of promotion I am entering. That way I am clear about what my realistic chances of winning are, and won't be taken by surprise when a promoter announces no prize has been awarded. And if you become Instant-Win-Aware, you won't have any nasty surprises either.

Monday 11 June 2012

A competition for photographers who like a wee dram

Jura whisky has just launched a competition to win a very special prize including

  • A week's trip for two to Jura to experience the island's special community spirit.

  • Flights, travel and accommodation paid.

  • A photography workshop on the island with internationally acclaimed photographer David Nightingale.

  • State of the art Olympus PEN (E-PL3) camera.

  • In fact there eare 3 prizes, one for the UK, one for the USA and one for the rest of the world, but I know most of the compers reading this will be UK based.

    The task is to submit  a photo that represents community spirit, along with a description of why it does so, in up to 50 words  on the Jura website .  The competition closes on August 3rd, and each week the entry with the most public votes (oh dear!) will win a camera and a bottle of Jura, with one voter each week winning a bottle of Jura. Fortunately the overall winner will NOT be chosen by voting but judged by the promoters.

    If you enter, make sure you are free between the dates of 29 Apr and 05 May 2013, because that's when the prize trip takes place

    Sunday 10 June 2012

    Some tips on THAT Coral competition!

    If you are on  Facebook, you can't have missed the current competition being run by Coral. The task is "simply" to pass  a football to your friends, for a chance to instantly win mini footballs, England shirts, stadium tours and the grand prize of a 50" TV.  But oh, what a lot of questions it has thrown up! So I'm going to try to answer some of them.

    You can join in at using the "Pass it on" button at the top. When you share the competition on Facebook and Twitter, your friends can see it and click on your link, and if you see a post   that somebody else has made to Facebook or Twitter, you can click on it and accept the ball from them. This gives the person clicking on the link one entry into the competition. If it is a losing entry, a "Sorry you did not win" box pops up. Close this box and a second box pops up, asking you if you want to pass the ball back to them. Doing this returns  the ball to them which gives them chance to enter again, and counts as a pass towards moving up through the prize levels. You can only return a ball to each person once.

    Until you have received 4 passes, you can win  a mini football.
    Between 4 and 7 passes, a mini football or a football shirt
    Between 7 and 10 passes, you could also win a stadium tour
    over 10 passes and you could win the TV
    You can win each type of prize once, and the comp continues until 5th July. The full terms and conditions are at

    So, say Mary has played the game and posted it on her timeline. Fred sees it, clicks on her link, doesn't win and passes it back to her. So they have both entered once, and Mary has one pass towards moving up the prize scale.
    Now, Fred needs to share the competition because the only way Mary can pass the ball back to him, giving them both another entry, is to find where he shared it on his own timeline and click on that. They each get another entry, and now Fred too has a pass to add to his total.
    Mary is under no obligation to return the ball to Fred, but if she does so it gets them each another go so it's worth doing. I'm trying to keep track of who has passed to me by going to their timelines straight away after I've received a pass. Unfortunately not everyone has shared the competition, so in some cases I haven't been able to return it.

    By now, Fred and Mary have passed the ball to each other and can't do it again, so they each need to find new people to play with. They can do this by going to the timelines of all their friends and seeing if they have played yet.  If they have, they can click on their post to enter and return their pass as above. If they haven't played yet, they can go back to the app and share their own entry again, using the box at the top to tag friends who they think might like to join in.

    You can share the game on your timeline as often as you like, and it's a good idea to do it at different times of day so that people will spot it when they drop in , but don't do it every few minutes or your friends will get fed up with you!

    If you really want to have lots and lots of entries, you can search on Twitter for people to play against.  Use the hashtag #CoralPassItOn and you will see all the tweets from people who have used the Twitter share button. You can click on the links of people who are complete strangers to you, but remember they won't be able to find you and pass the ball back to you unless your Facebook profile is completely public, so you may only get one play rather then the two you would with a friend.

    When you win, you will  receive a confirmation email - this won't necessarily arrive straight away. One of mine took 24 hours to arrive. But you must respond to it within 72 hours and you will need to include a scan of one of the following
    • the photo page of your passport
    • your birth certificate (note- if you have changed your name since birth, by marriage or for any other reason, you will also need to include a copy of your marriage license)
    • a photo driving license
    • your identity card, if you have one
    While this security seems strict, it is necessary because Coral are a gambling company and could get into serious trouble if it was proved that somebody under age had won one of their competitiosn. But it has a bonus to protect us compers - anyone trying to cheat by having multiple Facebook accounts and passing the ball between them may appear to win, but won't be able to claim their prize, as a fake account will have no documentation to match the name on it.

    Nice one, Coral! I wonder if it is a direction more promoters will take before awarding prizes?

    I've had two wins so far, a football and a shirt, so I think my understanding of how the game works must be pretty close to the mark! So here's a summary of my tips
    • share frequently without overdoing it
    • tag people when sharing if you really want that person to return your pass
    • remember to close the "Sorry" box if you've entered from somebody's link, so you can return their ball
    • use Twitter to find more people to play with
    • if you get passes from complete strangers, don't be alarmed - they've used Twitter to find YOU!
    • you don't have to have a certain number of passes to win - it is completely random. But you do need at least 10 to have a chance of winning the TV.
    Good luck and have fun!

    Saturday 9 June 2012

    Win a 3 month Love Film subscription

    Here's a new competition from Hey U Guys - this time you can win a 3 month subscription to Love Film, which gives you 4 rentals  and 4 hours of online streaming every month. And let's face it, if you aren't a sports fan, there's going to be precious little to watch on television over the next few months!

    To enter, pop over to their website and tell them the name of a film with a weather related title, for instance Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I'm sure you can think of lots more (I wonder if they will allow Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?)

    The competition closes on June 15th.

    Wednesday 6 June 2012

    Did you enter the competition for the Batman movies last week?

    On Friday, I posted about some new competitions for you to enter - one of which was with Hey U Guys and Music Room, for a boxed set of Batman movies.

    However the promoter has just contacted me and said that there has been a technical hitch and they have had to re-run the competition. If you have already entered, your entry may not have been counted, so you will need to enter again. The competition will now close on June 13th, and you can enter (or re-enter) here

    Tuesday 5 June 2012

    Win with the chocolate log blog

    At present there is a lovely competition on the Chocolate Log Blog giving you a chance to win a gorgeous box of chocolates or one of three tasting boxes. The competition closes on June 17th and you enter using the Rafflecopter widget on the page.

    I will soon be writing a post about entering competitions with Rafflecopter - it's a great way for bloggers to run competitions, as they can collect your contact details securely and do the draw completely randomly, but here are a couple of tips if it is new to you.

    • If you are new to Rafflecopter, you can sign in with your name and email address or your Facebook ID. I advise always using the name and email address method, as then if you win the blogger can email you directly. If you give your Facebook details, and you are not friends with them on Facebook, a winning message will go into your "other" messages folder. You don't get notifications of messages there. so might miss out on a win.
    • If you enter by tweeting, but don't know how to give the URL when asked to, you will find instructions for this on my "How to give the URL of a tweet" post.
    • Don't just say that you have commented, tweeted, liked or followed without actually doing it - Rafflecopter KNOWS what you have done and  your entry doesn't count if you tell porkies!
    If you have any more questions about entering via Rafflecopter - or using it to run competitions of your own, let me know here or through Twitter and I'll do my best to incorporate the answers into the post I am writing.

    Sunday 3 June 2012

    Decluttering your Facebook feed

    If you are a comper who uses Facebook, you probably have dozens - maybe hundreds - of comping friends and Like hundreds of pages. And it can be overwhelming, can't it? I found I had over 3,000 pages liked, and my news feed moved so fast I couldn't keep up with it. In fact I was almost ready to give up entering competitions on Facebook, unless I unliked a whole lot of pages.

    But until the latest changes to Facebook there wasn't a quick way to unlike lots of pages at once. The good news is that now there is. The changes to Facebook have been generally pretty unpopular with most of us, but this one is very helpful.

    To start unliking pages, go to your profile page and click on the "Likes" box, at the top right under your cover photo. You will find a section called "Favourites" at the top, with the pages you like at the bottom.  Click on "Edit"  beside the favourites, then scroll down to below the different sections, just above your list of pages, and click on where it says "Other pages you like" and a pop up box will appear - you can simply click "Unlike" next to all the pages you no longer want to follow,scrolling through the list until (if you follow as many as I did) you start to feel RSI coming on and need a rest! When you have finished, click on "finished editing" to save your hard work.

    How do you decide which pages to unlike? Well, it's easy enough to like them again later on, so you can afford to be pretty ruthless. Ones you interact with regularly, you will probably recognise the names of, so keep them. If it seems completely unfamiliar, you probably liked it once and never went back, so you might as well unlike it, at least for now. You may see pages connected to things you are no longer interested in - for instance, now both my daughters are married I unliked all the pages connected with wedding accessories and venues, and now I no longer eat sweets or chocolate I unliked a rather  embarrassing number of pages selling those!

    I managed to get the number of pages I like down to around a third of what it had been. But I noticed there were still lots of pages I visit regularly but seldom read their posts when they appear in my own news feed. So rather than unliking them, I waited until a post from one of them appeared in my news feed. Then hovered the mouse pointer over the name of the business to get the pop up box with their details in it, and then over the "Liked" button in the bottom right of the box. That brings up a drop down menu, with the line "show in news feed" ticked. Click on that to untick it and you won't see posts from them but can still visit their page, chat to them, enter their competitions and tag their photos.

    If some of your friends are a bit too talkative, yet you don't want to unfriend them and hurt their feelings, you can do the same with them, except that this time instead of a "Liked" button, the menu will appear under the "Friends" button. 

    On the other hand, there may be some friends and pages that you really don't want to miss a single post from. Once again, if you follow lots of people and pages, their messages can get lost in the background noise, so why not add them to a list? Use the drop down menus as above, but this time instead of hiding them from your news feed, select the "add to list" option. Facebook provides you with some ready-made lists, such as family and work colleagues, or gives you the option to create lists of your own. You will find your lists under "More" then "Interests" on the lower left of your news feed, and by clicking on one of them you can keep up to date with everything on  it.

    My own spring clean has  streamlined my Facebook feed and made it much easier to keep up do date - I hope you will find that it does the same for you.

    Saturday 2 June 2012

    MORE new competitions!

    Today I have more new competitions for you!

    First of all, a chance to win a special Jubilee themed Healthy Back Bag
    It's worth £49 and fits in well with the current fashion for all things patriotic. Simply enter your details at by the closing date of June 30th.

    Now an opportunity for anyone who lives in the North West of England. I'll let the promoter tell you all about it

    Enter the North West's biggest photo competition!
    Win a £1,000 family holiday or £500 ballooning experience.
    Upload your best picture to our website at
    We're celebrating the North West Year of Health and Wellbeing, part of an NHS North West initiative to help us all live well and feel better!
    Show us what 'Wellbeing' means to you.
    Entry is open to residents in the North West of England.
    Closes 30th September 2012.

    Although this year the competition is only for those living in the North West, if it is a success they may be able to open it up to more of us next time. I don't live in the North West now, although that's where I'm from, and as many of you know I've been up to Golborne (that's just outside Wigan, for those of you who don't know it) to look after my Mum, so here is a photo of her garden

    You can see more photos from her overgrown but still beautiful garden on my husband's blog over at Mark's Veg Plot

    Friday 1 June 2012

    some new competitions for you

    First of all, you'll need to be quick with this one as it closes on the 4th of June. Hey U Guys, in association with Music Room,  have a boxed set of the complete Batman movies - six films - to be won. To enter, visit their website  and tell them Which comic book superhero or villain you would be and why in no more than 100 words.  I'd love to hear who you would be - I'd rather like to be Wonder Woman but I really don't have the waist for it!

    Here's another creative competition, closing on June 5th.  Thanks to Economy Car Hire, The Movie Blog is giving away two £25 Amazon vouchers. The task this time, again in no more than 100 words,  is to tell them What's your favourite car chase and why. Fill in the entry form here. My own favourite is from the original version if "The Italian Job" - in fact I'm humming "This is the self preservation society....." as I write this.

    After all that thinking, you might need to rest your brain for a while, so here is a competition that is much easier to enter. Best Mobile Contracts are giving away an iPhone 4S. The entry form is on their home page  and you can get extra entries for liking and sharing on Facebook and following and tweeting on Twitter, so depending on whether you already like/follow them you can enter up to 5 times. This competition closes on June 30th.

    Finally, the new monthly competition is live on the Grape Vine website. The prize, as usual, is a 6 months subscription to my monthly magazine and the very popular mid-month update. This too closes on June 30th.