Monday, 25 March 2019

#MeatMatters

I love red meat. I really love it. In an ideal world, I'd eat plates full of it every day. I don’t, of course, for reasons too numerous to list. That said, three key ones do spring to mind:

  • Balanced diet: Beef and lamb may be naturally rich in protein, but they can’t compete with oily fish when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids. So yeah, I also eat fish.
  • Environmental impact: While the extent to which livestock farming contributes to human produced greenhouse gas emissions may be disputed, my gut feels that it’s probably best to serve smaller portions of meat, augmented with pulses - something that also makes financial sense.
  • Meat sweats: Had them once. Didn’t like them.

Nevertheless, even if I take the above into consideration, my initial point stands: I love red meat. It perks me up - literally.

Lamb, for example, is a natural source of niacin, pantothenic acid and Vitamins B6 and B12, all of which help reduce tiredness and fatigue, and goodness knows I have fatigue aplenty.

With this in mind, I was well chuffed when BritMums offered to buy me dinner on the proviso that I shared the recipe with y’all.

So here we go… Lamb chops a l’orange

Ingredients
6 lamb chops
200 g chantenay (or baby) carrots
1 bulb of garlic
3 oranges
15g fresh thyme

Method
1) Score the meat fat and season the chops with salt and pepper. Balance the chops on their fatty edges (imagine a rack of toast, but meaty) in a shallow pan on a medium-high heat and leave to go crispy (probably about 5 mins).

2) Top, tail & peel carrots and bung them in the pan, along with the unpeeled garlic cloves. Keep moving the veg around so it cooks evenly

3) Turn the chops on their sides and fry till golden (on both sides, obvs).

4) Bung in the zest from one orange, along with thyme, and stir for half a minute or so.

5) Remove the chops and set them to rest. Squeeze the juice from all three oranges into the pan and reduce until sticky. Bung the lamb & its resting juices back in the pan for a couple of minutes, and rattle it all around the pan.

6) Serve with roast potatoes. Oh, I forgot to mention them, didn’t I? Oops! You might want to start over then. Except with the spuds this time. Sorry!

So … what did it taste like?

In a word, nice - although if you use a vegetable peeler for zesting, do be aware that you're going to end up with big strips of orange peel that look like extremely finely sliced carrot. With this in mind, do advise your fellow diners not to eat these bits as fried orange peel isn't for everyone. Yes, that is the voice of experience...


My dinner... Apologies for the terrible photography. And presentation. My wife doesn’t plate up too well, and I'm rubbish at snapping food!


This post is an entry for the #MeatMatters Challenge, sponsored by Simply Beef and Lamb. Learn more about the benefits of eating beef and lamb along with recipes and inspiration here: https://www.simplybeefandlamb.co.uk.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Happy (professional) hunting!

'Job vacancies have opened for professional Crème Egg hunters with an hourly wage starting at £45 an hour.'


This from the same people that reckoned if you could ‘find at least five competitions an hour and, if possible, enter them’, then you could make £20 an hour as a ‘professional competition enterer’.

Where to begin? The idea of taking just over ten minutes to complete an entry form sets the bar so low as to make it a trip hazard. With a work rate like that, you wouldn’t get return on investment even if you paid minimum wage. Given also that third-party entries are generally forbidden, this hypothetical employer would also be disqualified for breaching terms and conditions.

‘The service launches thanks to increased demand for professional “compers”, as it’s revealed many can quit their jobs thanks to competition success.’

Who exactly are these 'many' people - and who is revealing them? Yes, there are people without conventional salaried employment who devote a lot of time to comping, and who may even be really successful, but you can’t pay the mortgage with nut butter and Nutribullets. Lottery winners might quit their jobs. Compers, not so much.

Around this time last year, the same company suggested it was possible to earn upwards of £45ph plus expenses as a professional McDonald’s Monopoly player. It’s a sorry sign of the times that even fictional jobs are losing their perks.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Prize Unboxing January/February 2019

January didn't make for exciting viewing, so this month's upload is an unboxing rollover - but don't get too excited! As ever, I'm outgunned by the little one, and in case you're wondering - it's a cough sweet in my mouth :D

Thanks also to Laura for being my biscuit tag-buddy and Davina for tote-tagging!



Be lucky!

Friday, 18 January 2019

The little things in life

Never work with children or animals. I’ve tried both. Which is worse, I couldn’t say: cats by their very nature cannot, do not and will not cooperate; my first-born likewise.

That’s an exaggeration - he did cooperate once, when he was four. Since then, his behaviour has - as they say - explored boundaries. Combined with his extreme control-freakery, he’s not a natural at taking direction, generally only playing ball once you’ve tears in your eyes and are genuinely about to throw in the towel.

Exhibit A: Cooperating child

The net result is that every video comp I try to recruit him for turns into a complete ordeal with my wife asking why I keep putting myself though this. To be honest, I don’t really know. Time after time, I somehow manage to convince myself that if I chuck a kid or two into my video then the judges will love it. Sadly, and much to his frustration, the results don’t bear that out, making him even more reluctant to cooperate next time, meaning that the next video is even more likely to miss the mark. It’s a vicious circle. The cat, at least, is always consistently uncooperative.

There’s also the problem that having put in the effort, he feels the prize should be guaranteed. I get that. Failing to win an entry-form or like-RT comp is a statistical doddle; it’s also emotionally straightforward as there’s little to no investment. When you’ve spent hours on an entry but fail to make the podium, however, it’s disappointing, no matter how old you are. And more effort equals more disappointment.

He’s gutted that he’s not modelling for Gap, so I have to remind him how much he enjoyed doing his photo shoot. Likewise, he was disappointed not to win a heap of books when we spent the best part of a weekend turning a cardboard box into a Noddy car - but he was so proud of his work that he asked to do it again just a few weeks later. The video we made for an Oreo comp was an even greater success, although since that involved eating biscuits, perhaps there’s no surprise there.

There’s no point comping with children if they don’t enjoy the process. Of course, you could always say the same about adults.

If you have any tips for getting children to cooperate, PLEASE let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Going forward: 2019

Last year, my new year’s resolutions were simply to enjoy myself and to start extending this blog onto Instagram. How did that go? Well, my @garywasabi insta feed is proceeding at a rather pedestrian pace, averaging slightly over a post a week, which is less than I hoped for, but given the aforementioned pledge to be kinder to myself, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’ve also gone easy on myself in terms of trying not to overdo it (advents aside) and not worrying about missed deadlines. I stopped seeing my counsellor a few months back but I think she’d be pleased with my progress.

But what about this year then? Well, one of my plans is to have even more fun. To this end, I’ve started playing wishlist bingo with a bunch of other compers. So far this year I’m drawing a complete blank, but I'm hopeful of ticking off most of these things by December. A full house, however, might be wishful thinking!


I’m also planning to minimise time spent in my comfort zone. Instagram has been really good to me, but as it’s slowing down, I really need to diversify. Having updated my bookmarked searches to include everything on the bingo grid, I’m sure to be entering more web-based comps. I’ll also be entering purchase and effort comps where I can - although this will require more organisation on my part - even if that just means writing a shopping list!

Truthfully, I’m unlikely to stop being a fair-weather purchase-comper, but when it comes to promotions with hundreds of prizes, such as last year’s Bonne Maman Madeleine promotion and the Doritos & Pepsi Perfect Match giveaway, I’m sure I can make an exception.

As for those effort comps, I probably should update my photo library for those effort comps, but I fear that might be a step too far!

That’s probably enough to be going on with, but if you think I’ve missed anything, do let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Looking back: 2018

Last year was great in so many ways. Beating my personal best was obviously awesome, as was winning a tote bag advertising an oversized aubergine emoji, but more important was my growth as a comper. For example, I pulled off my first proper tie-break win; I made my first proper forays into purchase-necessary comping; and I made first contact with real-life compers!


Real-life compers?! The very idea! When I first started comping in 2014, I ploughed a lonely furrow. Ploughed it like a headless chicken, perhaps, but absolutely on my tod, if only because I was shy of barging in on other people’s conversations or tagging strangers on social media comps.

Fortunately, compers tend to be a lovely bunch, and my wall-flowering wasn’t tolerated for long. Even so, after years of online banter, I still found it hard to accept that behind the avatars, these people were bona-fide meat-based life-forms. Similarly, the likelihood of ever being unable to hide behind my online persona was sufficiently remote as to be academic.

Then, of course, came my Wimbledon win, and with it (to use the official collective noun), a great big hospitality suite of actual, physical, compers. This blew my mind.

I’ve never found social situations particularly easy, and the risk that I might have to respond to someone in real-time with no opportunity to hole up and craft my response with monk-like focus, made me extremely nervous. Fortunately, my wife was there to rescue me from social awkwardness and over-enthusiasm with the complimentary refreshments, while a brilliant comper I’ve admired for some time took me under her wing, and assured me that over-enthusiasm with the complimentary refreshments was actually my moral duty, and, moreover, next time I should bring Tupperware and pack a little something for the journey home.

A shared win, of course, is a wonderful day out, and it’s impossible not to have a good time. But what about a meet-up in everyday life - and one without free champagne at that?!

Still good, as it happens. A pilot group of four Norwich compers convened towards the end of last year, and to the best of my knowledge, we all survived. Certainly, I did anyway. Better still, plans are afoot for a larger meeting, though whether it’ll be large enough for me to do a little wall-flowering for old times' sake remains to be seen.

So, I’ve grown socially, but what about those purchase-necessary comps? For a number of reasons, I’ve historically steered clear of these, not least because I get most of my groceries delivered and I can’t trust Tony Tesco to pick the right products. I’m also not going to stuff my face with deep-fried calorie-dense junk on the off-chance of winning a keyring.

By the middle of 2018, however, I realised that I was comping myself into a corner. It’s easily done, of course. When your only opportunity to comp is the two minutes before school while the children are wrestling with their shoelaces and/or each other, you reach for the easiest option - in my case, Instagram.

And for a while, it was working. By the middle of the year, I had averaged one Insta win a week - better than the rest of my endeavours combined. But nothing lasts forever. As Instagram became a more fertile source of giveaways, so my fortune declined. Maybe that was due to the rise of the infinite-entry comp, or maybe more comps are being run across platforms. More likely, it’s that seagulls follow the trawler because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.

The fact is, nobody can know for sure, but it’s more useful to do something about it than dwell on it. For this reason, I once more stepped out of my comfort zone, and had a good sniff of the purchase-necessary comps.

What I found here is that not all purchase comps are created equal. For a start, there’s a major difference between a comp that wants a unique code and one that wants a batch code and one that wants a barcode. Last year, my Anchor Butter barcode scored a lunch-bag on the second attempt, while my Dairylea Dunkers’ barcode got more play than Daniel Sturridge - and definitely won more. Likewise, the batch code on the Pepsi Max bottle I found while attending a mindfulness course back in July has probably had a greater impact on my long-term mental health than the course itself.


As for the unique codes … well, there’s the rub. It’s one thing to buy an alternative brand of loo roll when the competition packs are on special, but it’s quite another to sink a jerrycan of Powerthirst in the hope of scoring anything beyond Type 2 diabetes. But each to his own line in the sand. Personally, I’d love to win an Xbox from Lucozade, but since I can't bring myself to cough up more than fourpence a bottle, the eggs in my basket are strictly wombled.

As you will no doubt have surmised then, when it comes to unique code comps, my career track record is brief: two plushies. These were given away by Plenty in a promotion that its marketing agency promised would “really inject some fun and excitement into the Household Towel category, not only by adding value with every pack, but also through recruiting younger families into the category and ultimately driving incremental volume”.

So, I might not have won big, but when it comes to fun and excitement in the Household Towel category, you really can’t put a price on those memories.

How did you get out of your comfort zone last year? Does your local comping group ever meet up and if so, what do you get up to? Do you enter purchase-necessary comps? Let me know in the comments below!


Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Prize Unboxing December 2018

December's unboxing is a day late, but given all the seasonal distractions, I hope you'll forgive me!

The video excludes the £30 John Lewis voucher I won from Velux, as this was emailed to me, but it does include the heartwarming moment where - well, I won't spoil it, but Rebecca Beesley, you are an absolute poppet!

Finally, I've no idea why the last section filmed itself in mirror format, but you'll work it out!

Have a lucky new year!