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University of Leeds Fairtrade Christmas Fair 2017
Merry Christmas Gif

Are you tired of the turkey, stuffing and sprouts that constitute the classic Christmas dinner? Have you run out of boxed sets to while away the inevitable Christmas afternoon slump? Is the obligatory Snowball not hitting the spot? Fed up of people asking questions? Don’t worry, I have 5 ways to help you give this Christmas a kick up the backside and make it one to remember for all the right reasons… But before that the team at MEETinLEEDS would like to wish you a…

Merry-Christmas-MiL

The Christmas Dinner

Now don’t get me wrong: I love turkey. Couple it with pigs in blankets, a good stuffing and a dash of cranberry and you are on to a winner. Sprouts though, for me, can do one…

However, after watching “The Sopranos”, and by turn the river of delicious food that passed before me on screen, I decided that a Sopranos Style Christmas Dinner was in order. You can buy the cookbook, which would make an excellent Christmas present (but if you can’t wait there are some links to the recipes below).

The centrepiece is Carmela’s Lasagne: a behemoth of a pasta dish and not one for the faint of heart, but absolutely delicious. The sides are Melanzane Parmigiana (a baked aubergine dish), tomato salad and something green (I did grilled asparagus. Mmmm). It is quite a bit of preparation but most of it can be done beforehand, leaving you to enjoy the spoils with a nice Chianti or Barolo for the full wise-guy effect. The biggest worry is the gargantuan amount you will stuff your face with, but that’s what Christmas is for, right?

Honourable Mention: If you have your heart set on the traditional bird, why not give it a French twist and do a turkey-au-vin (this version is delicious)? Pair it with tartiflette, a French Alpine potato gratin made with the pungent yet mouthwatering reblochon cheese (this recipe isn’t half bad, but I prefer the thinly sliced potatoes in the traditional gratin style). A few sautéed greens and braised red cabbage for the Christmas vibe and you will not be disappointed.

The Drink of Choice

Snowballs are lovely. Well, once a year anyway. But if twisting the crusty cap off the Advocaat has made you a bit queasy and itching for something new, then try a Pisco Sour.

A cocktail of South American origin (though Peruvians and Chileans disagree as whose national drink it is, I prefer the Peruvian style: sshhh) combining Pisco, a kind of brandy, with lime juice, sugar syrup, egg white and Angostura bitters. After trying a few, this recipe is the one I found to be the most simple and delicious:

pisco-sour-881010_640Ingredients (Per serving)

  • 50ml Pisco
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 drops of Angustura bitters

For the Sour Mix

  • 30ml lime juice
  • 20ml sugar syrup

Method

  • Put all the ingredients (excluding the Angostura bitters) in a blender with 3 or 4 ice cubes and blend until smooth
  • Carefully hold the froth back with the lid of the blender and pour the liquid into a chilled glass; you will still end up with a drink with a good head of foam. To serve, add 3 drops of bitters.

A Pisco Sour is very similar to a Snowball in the use of egg and a derivation of brandy, but the fresh lime gives it a really refreshing zang as opposed to the claggy, sweet Snowball.

hot-chocolateOnce you have perfected your technique you can even get involved in Pisco Sour Day on 6th February 2016!

Honourable Mention: What better way to end the day than with a Salted Caramel Rum Hot Chocolate. I know, and it is as good as it sounds.

The Boxed Set

We all know that Christmas telly is a bit of a mixed bag, but now we live in the age of the boxed set, and with online streaming platforms hosting tonnes of content there is no need to slog through the Queens Speech and “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

The king of the boxed sets has to be “The Wire”: if you haven’t seen it I am genuinely jealous. If only I could delete it from memory and watch it fresh again. I will not give away any spoilers (I hate reading the synopsis on the back of DVD’s) so you can enjoy every surprise…

Set in Baltimore, Maryland, it is about, well, everything. From the opening scene, when “Snot Boogie” gets killed for stealing the pot from a crap game, I was hooked, as were a growing legion of fans.

It is the perfect binge watch, a tapestry of perfect character development, Shakespearean tragedy, social and political commentary, farce, comedy (“The Bunk” in the bathroom: watch and you will know), bad guys, good guys, good bad guys, gangsters, dirty cops, lying journalists, serial killers: everything.

It is no-holds-barred gritty, some of the dialogue will have you reaching for the remote for the rewind-and-subtitle option (the Baltimore accent is a tough nut to crack), and the pacing can appear snail-like at points, but the tension is ratcheted up in each episode to some satisfactory (and some heart breaking) denouements in the numerous stories that are woven together.

Watch it. Now. I will happily pop around with the popcorn and watch it with you.

Honourable Mentions: “The Sopranos” is a close second when it comes to boxed sets. It’s like the best gangster film you have seen but 72 hours long. And that is a good thing.

“F is for Family”, the new animated comedy from American comedian Bill Burr is out in time for Christmas. Expect dark humour, bad language and a politically incorrect view of the world. All of the good stuff…

The Music

If the world hears another Band Aid feeding the world in yet another guise it will surely be sucked into a black hole of sanctimony.

There are some greats in the canon of Christmas songs (looking at you Jona Lewie, Bing Crosby and David Bowie) but if you want a break from the straining of Wizzard and Slade I can suggest “A Christmas Album” by Bright Eyes.

It may not be to everyone’s tastes: Bright Eyes (Conor Oberst) has a quaking, sneering voice that is like marmite (it took a while to grow on me) but his renditions of the Christmas classics “Blue Christmas” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” are right up there with the best.

All of the proceeds from albums bought on the Saddle Creek Label website go to the Nebraska Aids Project, so you can enjoy the music in the knowledge you are supporting a good cause.

Probably not an album you will want to put on in the middle of the party, but perfect for the more contemplative hours, possibly after stuffing yourself with Lasagne, before grabbing a(nother) Pisco and listening to…

Honourable Mention: “A Motown Christmas” has to be the most upbeat set of tunes going and is a perfect partner to the more reflective Bright Eyes. The Jackson 5, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye and more. What’s not to love.

The Event

nutcracker-577161_640I know that most people (me included) like to stop in around Christmas, but what could be more festive than catching a rendition of the Nutcracker? After all, it is panto season. Oh no it isn’t! Stop that. As we were saying, it is panto season so why not go a little more highbrow and join Clara and her Nutcracker Prince in an enchanting winter wonderland for the ultimate in festive entertainment.

The fantastic Northern Ballet has a number of dates at the Leeds Grand Theatre if you are in Yorkshires finest city, but there is sure to be a showing near you so get out and enjoy yourself!

 

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Staff Montage

The MEETinLEEDS team are all experts in the field of conferences and events, so we thought we would use our expertise to help you prepare for a perfect Christmas. So without further ado, we present our “Christmas Tips from Events Experts”…

Staff-Montage

 

Food

  • brussels-sprouts-22009_640turkey-532962_640Set the table, prepare all the vegetables and trimmings on Christmas Eve: this leaves plenty of time to have bubbles on the morning!
  • Looking for a guilt free alternative to Mince Pies? Try this Baked Apple recipe: it’s yummy!
  • Make sure you don’t overcook or undercook your turkey! Use a
    temperature probe between the thigh and the breast (the thickest part of the turkey) to get the internal temperature to a perfect 74 C. Don’t forget to rest it to distribute the juices.
  • Stuffed yourself with turkey and sprouts and suffering from heartburn? No Rennies to hand? Eat a few Love Hearts – they contain Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Powder) and Calcium Carbonate (Chalk) which will give temporary and much needed relief. Get those Christmas stockings packed with them!
  • Buy your Brussels sprouts still on the stalk. They will keep for longer and cut down on packaging.
  • Or… have Christmas Lunch out: no preparation, cooking or clearing up – even more time for bubbles!

 

Gifts

  • lovehearts-bigAre you doing a secret Santa? Use the Elfster app, it’s especially useful if you don’t live near each other.
  • We love making lists (it’s one of the reasons why we are amazing event managers) and Christmas is the time of year you definitely need to be prepared. Make a: shopping list, present list, social calendar and to do list. The Christmas List app – Gift List –  is a great way to keep track on your progress using your mobile device.
  • Framed photographs make excellent gifts. Get a favourite picture enlarged (make sure it is high resolution) at your local photgraph printer (or order online) and get it framed! You can pick up bargain frames at a charity shop, simply get your print sized appropriately.

 

Decorations

  • dog-983023_1280Use tinfoil as wrapping paper – whoever receives a gift from you can use it for their turkey!
  • Check your fairy lights before you put them on the tree. Make sure you have LED lights – they will save you money on electric bills.
  • Make “pretend Santa snow footprints” to surprise the kids. Simply use a shake and vacuum product over a cardboard cut out of a shoe to create the trail – you will also be ready and prepared for the big clean up!
  • Put on a video of a log fire while you open your presents for that traditional effect.
  • Do you have allergies? Take an antihistamine before you unbox your Christmas Tree – it will have collected a lot of dust since last year!
  • CD’s are so 90’s man, so string them up and use them as fancy baubles.
  • Train your dog to play fetch with wrapping paper – you will have a clean-up helper on Christmas Day!
Storm Jameson Court-Venue, Exterior in the Snow

Storm-Jameson-Court-in-the-snow

MEETinLEEDS are celebrating Christmas with a fantastic competition to win two bedrooms for a one night stay in Leeds City Centre!

This Competition is Now Closed!

Need to do some last minute Christmas shopping? Need somewhere to stay for the work Christmas Party? Or do you just need a break in one of the country’s finest citiesYou need to join our free to enter competition to win a festive break!

We are offering two bedrooms at our state-of-the-art Storm Jameson Court campus accommodation, just minutes from the centre of Leeds, to one lucky winner. The winner will have the choice of taking the rooms on one night between the 1st or 18th of December 2014.

If you are in a quandary over what date to choose, have a look at the fantastic events that are taking place in Leeds between 1st or 18th of December:

  • Sinfonia – Tuesday 2nd December 2014 at the Leeds College of Music
  • Alfie Boe – Friday 5th December 2014 at the First Direct Arena
  • The Human League – Monday 8th December 2014 7pm at the O2 Academy Leeds
  • Status Quo – Wednesday 10th December 2014 at the First Direct Arena
  • Diversity – Friday 12th December 2014 at the First Direct Arena
  • The Boy Who Cried Wolf – Sunday 14th December 2014 at the Lawrence Batley Theatre

There is also the German Christmas Market; over 40 traditional wooden chalet stalls decorated with festive greenery and twinkling colourful lights, along with the Alp Chalet Bavarian eatery providing a warm and cosy place to sit and enjoy authentic German food and drink, all taking place at Millennium Square!

For a full list of events take a look at the website of our friends at the Leeds List here.

To enter the competition all you need to do is subscribe to our blog and you could be in with a chance to win the fantastic prize, worth almost £100!

You have to be in it to win it – SUBSCRIBE NOW!

 

The competition will close at midnight on 26/11/2014 and the winner will be drawn at random on 27/11/2014 and contacted by email.  Click here for full terms and conditions of the competition.