Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How to Enter Giveaways - "Alternative Shopping"

Comment, Follow, Tweet, Subscribe, Vote, Repeat.  Giveaway Lingo .
Giveaways are fun alternative shopping and a great way to try new things for free!

I have been entering them for a couple of years now ever since my daughter told me about them.
I well remember how  optimistically I threw myself into them at first, spending hours on the computer entering as many as I could find.  After one month I was on the verge of quitting!  I hadn't won a thing and thought I had just wasted a lot of my time.  And right then was when I won my first one, I was so excited!  The ironic thing is that I never did receive that first prize.   But it kept me going and I went on to win lots so I am thankful for it anyway. 

   I wanted to post some of the tips I have learned that may be helpful to others who are interested in this  "shopping" method.   I am by no means an expert and don't claim to be but I am willing to share my little bits of knowledge so take it as a kindly gesture.   Here is my humble advice:

1)  Set up an email address just for the giveaways.  As you will be typing this address a LOT make it something simple and not too long.   Gmail works well for leaving comments on some blogs.

2) Set up a Twitter account, again  just for  giveaways.  It's free and easy.
When I find blogs that do a lot of giveaways I always follow that blogger on twitter.  It is almost always at least one entry on the giveaway forms.

3)  Tweeting for giveaway forms.  It took me awhile to learn how to get the  URL from twitter to enter into the forms that don't do it automatically.  I love the new forms where you just click on the words of the tweet and then it tells you that it is confirmed and you just click the submit button.

 For all the older forms this is how you do it.  The box on the form will say something like "Post Tweet" or "Share this Giveaway" click on it to open the box.  Inside will be a blue Tweet button.  When you click the Tweet button, a separate box pops up with the pre-written message.   You click on the blue tweet button and then move your mouse towards the top of the box.  In blue will be a little  line that says "view it on Twitter" that pops up after you have sent the tweet and is only there for a few seconds before the box goes away.  So if you are ready for it you can click on it and it will bring you to the direct link to your tweet.  You can then highlight the link by holding down your mouse button across the URL that appears at the top of the screen.  You then hit the shortcut keys on your computer for copy (on a PC it is the control and letter C buttons).  Close that window and go back to the entry form and in the space for the tweet entry hit the paste buttons (control and the letter V) and then click the submit button.  Occasionally it happens that it disappears too fast for you to hit the View it on twitter line so this is what you do to find it.   Open a new window for Twitter.  Find your tweet which will be somewhere near the top since you just sent it.  You then click on your name above the tweet and when the tweet shows up, click on the word "details" under your tweet and that will get you the direct link.  Follow the previous directions of highlighting and copying and pasting to put it in the entry form.

Twitter has a limit on how many people you can follow depending on how many followers you have so I select these carefully.   Following the bloggers is a good choice.  Following the company that is offering the prize/ product is something I only do if there are a lot of giveaways I am entering from them.  If you have hit your limit they won't allow you to follow any new ones until you have gone into your account and unfollowed some others. 

4)  Tweeting for comment type entries.  You can use the above method for the sweepstake type giveaways where you enter by leaving comments instead of using a form.   For those there will be a list of instructions at the bottom of the blog post about how you can enter.  Usually it is something like leave a comment answering this question and it will give you the question which you answer in the comment section below the post.  Most of the time it will also tell you that you can get another entry by tweeting about the giveaway.   Look either at the very top or the very bottom of the post and you will find the blue bird logo for Twitter. I also recently found one where you had to click on the green "Share" button at the side of the post to find twitters logo so you may have to hunt for it.
  Click on the logo and the tweet box pops up for you to send the pre-written message.  You leave a second comment with the link for your tweet using the above method of copy and paste.   As a side note for these types of entries be sure to read the instructions carefully as sometime they will require you to add something to the tweet message  such as "# sweepstakes entry."

5)  Tweeting for Extra Entries - Most forms will tell you that you can come back  tomorrow and tweet again to get more entries.  I usually take advantage of this.  My method is open a window for Twitter, sign in and then click on "Tweets" under my name.  This will take me to my home page where I see just the tweets that I have sent.  I systematically go down my list and tweet again on each form.  The tweets you sent yesterday will have a link to click on that will bring you back to the blog.  I believe most of them switch to the "next day" after midnight.   

6)  Leaving Comments    Most giveaways have an entry to leave a comment.  For some you must do it first in order to unlock the other entries.  It is good to leave complete sentences with at least 8 words, otherwise some apps may delete it as spam.   A lot of times you must check a box underneath the comment to confirm that you are Not a spammer in order for it to show up on the post.
  Also unless you want to see them uncheck the boxes that say let me see follow up comments.    Don't leave your email address in the message part of your comment.   This just invites a lot of nasty spam.  I never enter  giveaways that ask you do that but thankfully they are few.
To leave a comment you usually have to enter your name and email in the boxes above your comment, your name will show up but your email will not be made public.  Only the blogger can see that information.

7)  Subscribe to the Blog -  The best way to make sure that you will see the email that the blogger will send you if you win is to subscribe to their blog.  This also is on most of the forms and will get you more entries for the giveaway.   Sometimes the giveaway forms will have a box at the top just for entering your email so they can contact you if you win.  Either way if they don't have that information how are they going to be able to let you know if you won?   Subscribing  is also a good way to find out about future giveaways that they are hosting as you look through your emails from them.  Sometime they will also include "Bonus codes" in those emails which are a word or phrase that you can enter in the giveaway form and it is only shown to subscribers.   There are a couple of different forms used for subscribing.  One is Feed Burner where a little box pops up and you enter a code (random letters and numbers) to verify that you are a real person.  There are other ones depending on what app the blogger is using.  Almost all of them require that you confirm the subscription for it to count as an entry.  This is an email that will be sent to the address you gave and you open it and click on the confirm line in the message. It will usually then open another window telling you that you have confirmed and are now officially subscribed.   Don't forget to do this part.

8)  Voting -   Some of the entries on the forms are for voting for the blog.   Picket Fence is an easy one to do.  It will either say click here and when you do a new window opens that says you have just voted for (the name of the blog).   If there is not a link for you to click on to vote for them on Picket fence in the form you can search down the side of the blog for the Picket Fence logo, which says "We're on the Fence" clicking on that will take you to the same page saying you have voted for them.  For the older forms you may have to copy and paste the link from the picket fence page to put in the form.    For the newer forms you just close that window and the form will tell that the entry is confirmed and you click the submit button.    The other voting type entry is  Top Mommy Blogger where again you just click on the link and it automatically places a vote for that blog. You can vote once a day so this an easy way to get more entries.   When I go back to the blog to send another tweet the next day I check to see if I can vote again too. 

9)  Pinterest  -  Following a blogger on Pinterest is another way to get entries.  They usually require that you follow all of their boards.    To do this you click the red "Follow" button in the upper right hand corner of their Pinterest  home page.   You then either enter your name as seen on Pinterest in the giveaway form or they will ask you for the URL of your Pinterest page.  To get the URL click on your name in the upper right hand corner, it will bring you to your boards and you will see your name in the URL.  Copy and paste that link in the giveaway form.

Another entry will say "Pin This"  and give you a direct link to what they want pinned or just ask you to pin any picture from the giveaway onto your boards.    So either click the direct link or use your "Pin It" button to pin something on your page.  I have a board labeled Giveaways for these entries.  After you have pinned the picture a box will pop up and at the bottom in red it says "See It Now"  Click that button to get the direct link to your pin and again highlight, copy and paste it on the giveaway page for verification.   You can follow as many Pinterest boards as you like.

    As a side note following others on Pinterest is a good way to advertise yourself as you can put a link of your own under your name on your home page.  The more people I follow the more that will see my link and hopefully click on it.  Mine is for my Amazon page where I sell lots of children's books under the store name of Grandma's Library.

10)  Facebook -  Visiting someone's Facebook page will get you more entries.  You just click the link that will take you to their page, let it fully load before you close the window.  It used to be that you had to like their page but Facebook has changed the rules for this so now you just visit.  I do sometimes see entries where you also have to leave a comment or like it but usually it is not a requirement.  This is helpful as Facebook will allow you only to like so many pages.

11)   Low Entry Giveaways -    These are some of the best ones to enter because you have a bigger chance of winning!     You can Google that phrase and find websites that will list them out for you.  I often check them and enter all the ones I am interested in winning.    And I want to say Thank you for those that help me find these often hidden giveaways.

12) Finding Giveaways -  Other than the sites that tell you about the low entry giveaways you can do your  own searches for them.   Use the search button on sites like Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook to find giveaways.  Also once you have subscribed to a bunch of blogs you will find other giveaways in your emails.  I  like a site called Online Sweepstakes - the web's premier sweepstakes. This site lists the giveaways in numerous ways - by type of prize, new ones, expiring ones etc.  After you have selected a category you will see at the top left hand of the page a box that says "Display All"  if you click on this a pop down box will appear where you can select "blogs only".  I personally like to enter giveaways on blogs. 

13)  Giveaway Forms -    The old one that I keep referring to is called RaffleCopter and for that one you do a lot of copying and pasting.  Some of the newer ones are  Promo Simple ,Giveaway Tools and WooBox.  To use these a box will pop up that asks you to allow the app to run and you click the "Allow" button.  They don't download anything to your computer so I am fine with using these forms.  Besides the newer ones are So Much easier to use that I love the time that they save me. Sometimes the forms do not show up on the page.  At the bottom of the post look for  "Entry Form"  or  "Rafflecopter" and click on that to find it.

14)   Winning Giveaways -   Most giveaways run from 2-4 weeks.  After they have ended a winner is randomly selected  (by the app being used)  and if it is you, the blogger will send you an email letting you know.  You usually have a set time to respond to the email or another winner will be selected.  Obviously you don't want to miss these emails so check your account daily.   I also always look in my spam folder just in case and try to keep that folder empty so that it is easier to check.  If you follow a lot of blogs then you will get a lot of emails.   I find that an easy way  to check to see if I have won is to use the search button.   I search for these three words one at a  time.  "Congrat"  some use this abbreviated form and others spell it out but this will find it for you.  "Winner" and "Won".  Usually those words appear in the title of the email letting you know you have won and often have a person's name instead of the blog name as the sender.   Open this up and after you do a little dance at your computer respond.  They will ask for your address so the prize can be sent to you.   And sometimes for your phone number and also if you have a choose of color etc in the prize which one you would like.  I always make sure to thank them and to share my enthusiasm at winning the prize.    I keep a  notebook of all winnings and check them off as I receive them and write them to let them know that they have arrived.  Once in awhile a prize will not show up so I write them letting them know and they are very nice in helping me so remember to be courteous and patient.  The prizes usually are coming from the company and not from them and so it out of their hands how much time it will take.  It is always better to be kind in these correspondences.   

15)   Giveway  Hops and  Linky's -  Giveaway hops are when a bunch of bloggers get together and all have a different prize.  At the bottom of each of these posts you will find the links to the other giveaways in the hop. Usually these have a theme name and there is one that is the grand prize giveaway.  These are a fun way to find lots of giveaways in one spot.  Giveaway linky's are when a blog offers to let anyone list their giveaway on their page.  Some of them do this on a certain day every week.  You can do a search on google for "giveaway linky" to find these. 

I hope this has been helpful and if you have a question or something to add,  please leave me a comment.   Have fun!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tropical Tornado

My latest creation.  I haven't painted in over a year!  I had fun with this one.
collage and acrylic.  the bottom right reminds me of our betta Blue in his bowl.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Iced Tea Recipe using Decaf with a hint of Orange spice.

Summer weather is here and that means making gallons of ice tea!   Every spring I have to do a trial and error method to remember how we like it... to save me from that next year here is my recipe.

Fill a 4 quart pan 2/3's  full of cold water and put on the stove to heat.
Remove the paper and tags from 7 tea bags and put them in the pot.
(6 decaf tea and 1 orange spice black tea like Stash or Constant Comment)
Place a lid on the pan and when it starts to come to a boil turn off the heat
Let it sit covered for about 15 minutes.
Fill a 1/2 measuring cup with sugar but not all the way, leave about an inch on the top. (We don't like it too sweet)
With a big spoon move the tea bags to one side and pour the sugar in so it doesn't hit the bags.
Scoop out the bags into the measuring cup.   Hold the spoon on the bags to pour off the tea but don't squeeze them,  it won't be bitter that way.
Throw out the tea bags or put them in the composting bucket.
Stir the tea to dissolve the sugar.
Pour most of it into a gallon size container, swish the remaining tea around the pan to get all the sugar.
  Then fill the same pan with cold water and add to the container until it is full.
Refrigerate.  I like making the tea at night so it's nice and cold in the morning.

Since we drink this all day I like using the decaf tea bags so we don't get too much caffeine. The orange spice tea gives it a great flavor.

I keep this and a big pitcher of lemonade (Aldi's frozen is good) in the fridge all summer.
It's perfect for a quick drink coming in from the garden.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Gardening Bug!

This last winter a good friend and I got together and decided to try growing everything for our gardens from seeds.  Neither of us have had much luck with this in the past, the poor things got leggy and never even made it out of the house.   The key I learned from past attempts is first that with all the work, water and effort that goes into gardening . BUY GOOD  SEEDS.

So we picked  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds  which is a beautiful catalog with great selection and good prices.     There are dozens of pages of just tomatoes alone.... red, pink, yellow, purple, striped....!It was work just narrowing those done to just 7 varieties.

We shared all  the seeds which made it very economical and also fun.   We have become garden friends in that we know we can call each other and talk away about our thoughts on gardening.  Thus saving all the others in our lives who eyes just glaze over after awhile when we get into too many details. lol It is our new favorite subject.

We have learned a lot by going to "you-tube university" and watching video's on the right way to grow the seeds, what you need etc.  I especially like "The Rusted Gardener", his video's are informative, short and stick to the point of the title ( the fact that his name is the same as my son is great too!)   My dear husband built me a double light holder for the seedlings based on one of his video's.  

We are off to a good start.  Here are some of my seed babies happily growing under the lights.

In case you are interested (if not skip this list, it's okay)  this is what I'm growing this year:
Tomatoes - had to pick one of each of the colors!
Basil - to make caprese salads
Marigolds - for protecting the tomatoes from bugs
Turnips-  the thing I sneak into all my soups and stews when the boys aren't looking
Beets - the leaves and root fried in bacon is a new fav.
Strawberry Popcorn - cute little red ears of corn that would make great gifts
Broccoli - my boys actually like this veggie.  Don't ask me how I did it. =]
Carrots - little finger ones that I'm going to tuck in here and there
Cucumbers - to make cucumber and mint sandwiches.  Already have a mint patch.
Squash - Iran and Buttercup -sure I'll will be sharing lots of these.
Ground Cherries - a vine that gives you cherries this year and grow in husks
Beans - Hutterite - you can dry these and they make very creamy soups
Cilantro - love it in any Mexican dish
Snap Peas - for dipping in hummus
Swiss Chard - 5 colors! - planning on putting this out front - so pretty.
Lettuce - for all the BLT's I live on in the summer time
Cabbage -red - for pretty coleslaw to go with anything BBQ'd.
SunFlowers - giant ones for the cucumbers to grow on and for the seeds.

I usually buy flowers but realized I can grow those from seeds too so:
Zinnia's - love these flowers and last year they bloomed all summer
Browallia - pretty blue flowers for the window box and planters
Hollyhock - all different colors - biennials - so won't bloom until next year

That ought to keep me busy this summer and happily playing in the dirt.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Making 80 Freezer Burrito's with a Friend.

A friend and I got together today and made 80 freezer burrito's ( 40 for each of us).  We had a lot of fun and they came out great!   We want to do it again so here's what we did.

Refried Beans - much cheaper to make your own.   at least 3 nights before rinse, then soak pinto beans in a crock pot with enough water to cover them by 3" and add a little baking soda and let them sit overnight, (don't turn on the crock pot).    I used this recipe : (  and TRIPLED  the amount. 
 **This required 2 crock pots to cook them up the next day.
 I substituted 1 diced onion for the onion powder.   So for a triple recipe you will need:

3 lbs (6 Cups) Dry Pinto Beans - divide soaked and rinsed beans between the crock pots and add
9 cups of Broth ( 2 - 32 0z cartons of chicken broth  ( 1 in each crock) plus 1 cup water each
6 TB  Olive oil ( 3 T each C )      C = crock pot
6 cloves of garlic minced ( 3 each C)
2 tsp cumin  ( 1 tsp each C)
1 onion diced ( 1/2 in each C)
2 tsp  Chili Powder (  1 tsp each C)
2 tsp Salt  ( 1 tsp each C)

cook on low at least 8 -10 hours.  Mash or blend with immersion blender when they are done.
 Store in fridge until needed.

1 - 2 Days  Before -  Cook Chicken or Beef -
 80 burrito's used about 10 lbs of Meat.
Cook chicken (crock pot, pressure cooker ..) until done and then shred.
 It worked to put small batches in my food processor and hit the button 3-4 times quickly to get a nice consistency.
  Add taco seasoning  -2 TB and 1/3 C of water per pound.  Or season with cumin and salt to taste.

 For Beef -  brown cubed steak pieces in fry pan and add seasonings.  My friend bought steak sandwich meat and cooked it up quick in a pressure cooker with a little water. Shredded nicely.

Next chop up in food processor and sauté in frying pan with some olive oil:
 6 small Onions
5 cloves Garlic
1 green Bell Pepper (seeded)

Mix the veggies into your meat mixture to taste. Store in fridge and heat up before assembling.
(You can make this the day of  depending on how you cook it.)

Day of:   Add 4 Cups of Rice to 8 cups of boiling  water and cook until done.
Meanwhile juice 6 Limes. And put 2 big bunches of rinsed Cilantro leaves in food processor.
Stir lime juice and cilantro into rice.  Add salt if you like.

Into a Bowl shred 2 - 9 oz packages of Queso  (Mexican crumbling cheese).
(We also had 30 oz of  Chihauhau cheese which we shredded.   This cheese melts nicely but costs more so next time we may just use all Queso .)

Heat up griddle, spray with olive oil  and lightly brown  8"  Flour Tortilla's.
 We did this in batches of 20.
 Or you could wrap a package of 10 in a damp paper towel and microwave them until warm.
 The heat makes them easier to roll.

Make an assembly line starting with plates of warm Tortilla's, then  bowl of refried beans (rubber spatula made it easy to spread), then cilantro Rice, then Meat and finally Cheese.
 Using a cookie sheet place 2 tortilla's side by side and add each of the ingredients.
 Put the mixture more towards you instead of directly in the middle.
Start rolling and push in the ends as you go.   After you have made about 10 of them wrap them tightly in saran wrap ( or tin foil) and place in labeled Freezer Ziploc bags. 

We ate the first ones we made to see how they tasted and because we were hungry by then =]
It took us about 5 hours to do this today, that included making everything but the  beans and cleaning up afterwards. If we make up the meat ahead of time it will go quicker.
 I definitely want to do this again!
We figured that the best way to save money is to find the chicken and chihauhau cheese on sale and to make our own refried beans.  I'm sure they will be gone quickly.

Shopping List:

3 lbs Dry Pinto beans
2 - 32 oz cartons of Chicken (or veggie) Broth
(We estimated that this was equal to about 9 cans of Refried Beans )
7 Onions
11 cloves Garlic
Chili powder.
10 lbs Meat - chicken or steak (or 5 lbs of each)
Taco seasoning ( see recipe below)
2 big bunches of fresh Cilantro
1 green Bell Pepper
4 cups of Rice
6 Limes
32 oz Queso Cheese
80 - 8" Flour Tortilla's

Taco Seasoning:
Mix together:
4 TB Chili Powder
3  1/2  TB  Paprika
3  TB  Cumin
1   2/3 TB  Onion Powder
1  2/3 TB  Garlic Powder
1 Tb corn starch
Store in jar.  Use 2 TB of seasoning with 1/3 cup of water per pound of meat.