The Knowledge: Keeping it real

It's Friday – and our experts are here to tell you how to get the most out of your weekend. Jayne Dawson talks to them

Visit it

Aladdin, currently being performed at West Yorkshire Playhouse until January 15, is a panto with a difference.

The hero is a bit of a worry because he's not really what you'd call, well, brave, or handsome, or even that clever. And the princess is just a little spoilt. But there is a baddie, and a mum who takes in washing, and a king who'll do anything for his daughter. Plus, there's a genie and a lorry load of lamps.

Following the success of last year's Cinderella and their previous tales of The Snow Queen and Beauty and the Beast, writers Mike Kenny and Director Gail McIntyre have created the perfect antidote to panto for children aged four and above. For more information email, visit or call 0113 213 7700 .

Listen to it

A Christmas Cornucopia

Annie Lennox

Eurythmics frontwoman Annie Lennox offers up her own interpretation of Christmas tunes on this 12-track album. It should come as no surprise, given the quality of Eurythmics material, that Lennox has put a lot of hard graft into making this album. From opening number Angels From The Realms Of Glory, which includes a slow-building string section and a triumphant horn, to the Spanish guitar-influenced track The First Noel, this album offers a great take on traditional Christmas tunes.

Aled's Christmas Gift

Aled Jones

The Walking In The Air singer releases this 14-track album but unfortunately his trademark track isn't on the LP. However, with a mix of classical pop and easy listening this will appeal to fans of Russell Watson and Daniel O'Donnell alike. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the arrangement of the songs and as such this plays a focal point on the album. For example, the plucking of a harp on Away In A Manger and the acapella section of In The Bleak Midwinter add a touch of quality to proceedings. This is an album which doesn't offer up any surprises but nevertheless is of a good quality.

Christmas Time

The Great British Barbershop Boys

Aiming to reignite the interest in the 1940s barbershop genre with this collection of Christmas hits is newly signed foursome The Great British Barbershop Boys. The group gained attention when they represented the UK at the International Barbershop Convention in Philadelphia. The 16 tracks on their debut includes It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, Deck The Halls, Silent Night and Jingle Bells. The result is a twee but inoffensive collection. It's advisable to take regular breaks between the songs as like the most sugary Christmas treats, a little is satisfying, too many and you end up feeling worse for the wear.

Nest building

Paprika is the colour of the moment. Its hot, spicy tones are perfect for warming up your home this winter. But be careful – just a pinch will be enough to heat things up!

Whether you have a paprika themed feature wall – perhaps an exposed brick area would be enough, a textile accent – something with burned orange in its fabric, or you could get creative with paint and spruce up older furniture to create a stand alone piece.

Going all out orange is probably too much for most people, so look for ways of adding it gradually.

For example, the new Wainwright sofa range from Barker and Stonehouse is an easy way of introducing paprika into your colour palette. It comes in natural minky-coloured fabric and leather, but has shades of burned orange in the patterned and striped cushion fabrics.

Visit for more ideas.

Get fit

Each week, trainer Richard Hill, of Iveridge Health Club in Rothwell, Leeds, is recommending one lifestyle change to help you become healthier without much effort.

"It's always hard at this time of year to stay on track with healthy eating when there are so many treats on offer. No-one is perfect 100per cent of the time and a little indulgence is a good thing.

"Providing you get a little exercise done during the festive period, there is no need to worry. Eat a range of healthy meals and enjoy a few treats as it's Christmas.

"But don't forget to also plan in a couple of exercise sessions to limit the damage come January.

"If you're feeling like you need a push, Iveridge is offering a Bootcamp Extreme programme every day at 6.15am for 6 days from January 10. See www.iveridge for details.

Recommended by Richard Hill. For information on Iveridge health club, visit or call 01132 887 666.

Eat it

You know you have to eat them, there is no escape from sprouts at Christmas. But try them this way if you want a change from the traditional method of adding chestnuts. Served this way, your vegetables will add zing to the Christmas meal

Wok-fried Brussels Sprouts with Ginger

Serves 4


3 tbsp sunflower oil

2 shallots or 1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 chilli, finely chopped

600g Brussels sprouts, finely shredded

4cm piece of fresh ginger, cut into very fine strips

4cm piece of crystallised stem ginger, cut into very fine strips

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a wok, add the shallots or onion, plus the garlic and chilli, and fry quickly for about two minutes, without browning. Add the shredded sprouts and the fresh and crystallised ginger. Cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes. Add three tablespoons of water, cover and steam for three minutes. Season to taste and serve.

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