Month: January 2020

Comping – A Rewarding Hobby: Tips on How to Win Competitions and Contests

Compers take their pastime very seriously, and with some time and effort the rewards can be phenomenal! There are even some who enter competitions for a living and report prize winnings to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

Sherry Sjolander, a committed Australian comper, has penned a top-selling comprehensive how-to guide on entering competitions titled How to Win Competitions, and her advice to those beginning this hobby makes for great reading. One basic premise remains, however, and that is: if you want to win it, you have to be in it!

Where to Find Competitions

Once you start looking, you will see that there are contest opportunities everywhere. Here are just a few places to seek out competitions with prizes on offer:

  • The grocery store – you may be required to purchase a product or even just drop an entry form into a barrel; keep a close eye out for promotional stickers and signs
  • Magazines – those you already purchase or subscribe to will often be offering a number of competitions per issue
  • Television or radio promotions
  • Newspapers – both local commercial papers and community newspapers will regularly offer prizes
  • Email – before automatically deleting junk or promotional email, first browse to see if there is a competition included
  • Websites – a Google search for “competitions” will lead you to a number of websites – some of which are forums for compers where current competitions are shared and other links will take you the many online competitions available at any time.

Competition entering is a hobby that mixes luck, effort, creativity and persistence. While the rules for comping are determined by the terms and conditions of each particular competition, there are some general guidelines and tips that diehard compers swear by.

Some Basic Comping Tips and Hints

  • You have to be in it to win it!
  • Spread your effort around – a single entry in many competitions is better than many entries in one competition.
  • Enter competitions that will probably be less popular – many people avoid the “25 Words or Less” competitions and so these are the ones you should have a go at.
  • Read all the competition terms and conditions carefully and stick to the rules to make sure your entry counts
  • When writing “Words or Less” entries, consider a rhyme, a witty one-liner, a mention of the product or maybe an acrostic poem!
  • Set a budget for stamps and phone entries and try to stick to it.
  • Keep all barcodes and receipts safely if purchase is a condition of entry.
  • If you need to provide answers to a question – double check that they are correct.
  • Make sure your writing is legible and that spelling is correct.
  • Competitions that offer a lot of smaller prizes rather than only one major prize only will offer more chances of winning.
  • Lots of people forget to enter second-chance draws – make sure you submit your entries for these!
  • The more obscure the competition and the less it is promoted – the better for you!
  • Submit “Words or Less” entries towards the end of the competition period so yours is fresh in the judges’ minds.
  • Keep an eye open for entry forms as you do your grocery shopping and purchase products if you can make use of them in your weekly menu or if they are a regular staple item.

Somebody has to win, so why shouldn’t it be you? For the cost outlay of some stamps, phone calls, SMS messages and your time you could be the recipient of some great prizes! Happy comping and good luck!

Cloud Watching: A Hobby That Costs Nothing!

Cloud watching is a hobby that is accessible to all and is absolutely free. Weather cycles can create a beautiful, mesmerizing visual display.

The sky is constantly changing, presenting the observer with endless opportunities to witness the beauty of cloud formations. From sunrise to sunset, the “ultimate art gallery above”, as it was described by American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, puts on an impressive display, including dramatic variations in colour, light and form.

In contrast to many hobbies, which require a great deal of time and money to pursue, cloud watching costs absolutely nothing and can be done at any time of day for any amount of time. Knowing a little about some of the different types of clouds can help cloud watchers get the most out of their hobby.

Basic Cloud Formations

Cirrus clouds are wispy clouds that form high in the atmosphere, usually higher than 20,000 feet. They contain ice crystals and are spread out by high altitude winds. Cirrus clouds can form “streaks” across the sky or more interesting phenomena such as the “Angels on Horseback” effect. The clouds are usually seen when the weather is fair and calm.


Cumulus are the familiar “billowing” clouds that often seem to make interesting shapes in the sky, such as castles or ducks! These clouds have a flat base and may only be 330 feet above the ground. These clouds can grow upward, forming thunderstorm clouds called cumulonimbus. Their height can range from 2 to 5 miles.

Stratus clouds are the sheetlike clouds that cover much of the sky. They can often be grey in colour. Fog is actually stratus clouds at a low level. These clouds bring rain or snow.

Spectacular Cloud Formations

Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds possible. They can form 50 miles above the earth. These clouds can only be seen for a few hours after sunset, and they glow, as they reflect the sunlight from below the horizon.

Mammatus clouds have a “bobbly” appearance and are associated with unstable stormy weather. The shapes of these clouds can vary from long ripples stretching across the sky to more rounded formations.

A “glory” is an optical effect that looks like a small circular rainbow. it is formed when light is scattered back towards its source by a cloud of water droplets, forming coloured rings. They can usually be seen from aircraft windows when passing over areas of cloud.

You never know when or where you may witness a spectacular or dramatic cloud formation. It is easy to miss the beauty that surrounds us every day, so why not spend a few minutes in the simple pastime of cloudwatching, and enjoy the “ultimate art gallery above”?

Winter Driving Tips for Ex-Californians: Plan Ahead With Checklist and Watch Road Conditions

The slippery roads and icy conditions that begin to appear in November require a different mind-set. No longer can one hop in the car with shorts and flip-flops and take a trip on a whim.

Winter Driving Checklist

Here’s a simple list of what former Californians need to do stay safe in winter:

  1. Plan ahead. Consider delaying the trip until the weather improves. Use the Internet or television to check travel conditions before leaving. Don’t venture into areas that are unfamiliar, particularly roads in open fields where horizontally driven snowfall can cut visibility to zero.
  2. Carry such items as an ice scaper, snow brush, extra window-wash solution (the kind that won’t freeze in minus-40-degrees-Celcius weather), sand to add traction, a shovel, first-aid kit, blanket, dry clothes, matches, fire extinguisher and non-perishable snack foods.
  3. Keep your gas tank full at least half full. One doesn’t want to run out of fuel if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
  4. Every November, switch to snow tires. Make sure to change all four tires to those with extra traction for winter conditions, such as icy roads. Never “mix and match” winter tires with those used during warmer seasons.
  5. Switch off the California mentality of “get in and go.” Drivers should slow down and leave a two-second interval between them and the car in front of them. Watch out for bridges, where black ice is more likely to form and the chance of losing control of your car increases.
  6. Check the tires’ air pressure at least once a month. Air pressure decreases as the mercury drops.
  7. When driving, listen to the radio for weather updates. Drivers need to leave themselves extra driving time to get to their destinations.
  8. If a driver is taking a longer trip, he should let a friend or family member know where he’s going and his estimated time of arrival.
  9. Keep an eye out for vehicles with flashing lights that remove ice and snow from roads. Never pass around or in between such vehicles.
  10. Drivers need to have a mechanic check out their cars or trucks before winter sets in. Get the needed repairs done in advance.

Cell Phones and Road Conditions

Another essential thing to have in winter is a working cell phone to call for help during emergencies. A word of caution, however: Many states and Canadian provinces ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.

The main thing is don’t be impulsive. Be prepared and get into the groove of winter driving. And former California drivers should look at the positive side: They likely don’t have to worry about earthquakes knocking down freeway overpasses.

Holiday Hobby Ideas: Holiday Projects That Will Keep Little Hands Busy

It’s the time of year where spirits soar, there’s planning to be done, and little ones have so much energy that it’s hard to keep them preoccupied while other preparations are underway. Not only that, but budget concerns can definitely put a crimp in what activities are available. Here’s a few ideas on how to curb the cost and keep kids occupied for hours with a fun project that they can be proud of.

Build a Backyard Feeder for Wildlife

Wintertime can be a scarce time for mother nature’s children as well. A simple woodworking project can provide a bird or squirrel feeding platform to get them through the tough days while providing a fun activity for children of all ages. With proper supervision older children can use a hobby saw to cut out the necessary pieces, while children of any age can assemble and then paint the finished pieces.

Prefab birdhouses and feeders are also available at most hobby stores for parents wanting to bypass having to cut out patterns for the kids. There are precut wooden shapes available that are perfect for painting. Precut ornament shapes can also be found for fun painting and decorating projects. After completion hang them on the tree or over windows.

Another fun project is building toad houses. These creative little amphibian homes can be made out of just about anything and requires only glue and paint to complete. Use left over odds and ends like buttons or sea shells to add a special decorative touch and it’s ready for use. Save money on any of these projects by salvaging wood from old projects to create new ones.

Mining for Gems

Yes, it’s true, gem mining can be accomplished at the kitchen table with just a bucket of gem gravel, a bowl of water, and a small strainer. This is a treasure hunt that will have them sifting eagerly in search of hidden gems that can be used for jewelry projects. Gem dirt is available for purchase at many gem & mineral mines, and some will even offer to ship it straight to the customer. Choose from “rainbow” buckets that contain a variety of gemstones or keep it natural for a more authentic experience.


Have a lot of old seashells lying around in drawers or boxes? Round them up and put them to use in a seashell project. Build a wind chime or use them to decorate other items. Spruce up an old jewelry box or plain wooden box by gluing the shells to it in creative designs. Drill holes in them and use colorful ribbon to create unique holiday ornaments to hang on the tree.

Inspire Children to Help Others

During tough economic times, other families are feeling the punch as well. Why not design a hobby that helps others? Ask the kids to help create a “Make Someone’s Day” gift basket by having each child select a DVD, book, or toy that is still in good condition. Make plans to donate it to a local charity or give it to someone else who might also enjoy it. It’s the little things in life that can make the bright spot in someone’s day.