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SAVE MONEY AND THE PLANET Looking to crunch your bills? Energy assessor and mum of two Charlotte shares top tips and easy steps to help you make your home more eco-friendly and less expensive. Click here to start saving the planet and see savings in your home.

Hello from Mumsnet HQ...

Where preparations for next month's publication of Toddlers: The Mumsnet Guide continue apace (venue for launch do: check; Greggs' sausage rolls for said do: check; Gina Ford invite: check). The guide's packed with your witty advice but now we need brilliant captions for some of the illustrations to print on the publicity posters. There are bundles of Bloomsbury books for the MNers who come up with the best ones. Full details of how to enter here.

Still on toddlers, have you completed our survey yet? It closes on Friday 15 Jan, so hurry, hurry, hurry. Your bribe incentive is the chance to win a huge stack of Bloomsbury books and other lovely stuff.

Book Club is back: next Tuesday evening is our January discussion and you can vote now for February's choice (on a romantic theme, natch). And for the very last time (honest), any takers for cut-price MN Xmas cards?

Now for this week's parenting news ...

Autism screening closer: A prenatal screening test for autism looks (eventually) possible with the publication of research that links high levels of the male hormone testosterone in the wombs of pregnant women to autistic traits in their children. The study, which was prompted by the fact that autism is four times more common in boys than girls, followed the development of 235 children whose mothers had an amniocentesis during pregnancy. Any future antenatal screening programme would involve measuring testosterone levels in amniotic fluid following amniocentesis (Guardian 12.01.09).

Blow for private schools: Grammar-school pupils outperformed private-school pupils at A-level by a record margin last summer, piling more pressure on beleaguered fee-paying schools. With more parents now questioning whether they can afford private education, new figures show the average grammar-school pupil attained 73 more A-level points than those educated privately. It was also another record year for exam results, with 65.3% of pupils awarded five good GCSE grades – up from 63.3% last year, and the biggest year-on-year jump for almost 20 years – and girls have once again outperformed boys (Times 15.01.09).

Other stories in brief

The risk of epidurals and spinal anaesthetics in labour may be being overstated, according to research from Bath's Royal United Hospital that found the risk of harm was one in 23,000 – ten times less than the usual estimates (BBC Online 12.01.09); parents who take long career breaks to look after their children are to be rewarded with £500 in training grants to coax them back into work (Guardian 10.01.09); Britain’s first 'breast-cancer-gene-free' baby has been hailed as a medical breakthrough after growing from an embryo that was screened to ensure it didn’t contain the faulty BRCA1 gene, which would have given her between a 50 and 85% risk of developing breast cancer in later life (Guardian 10.01.09); a teetotal, non-smoking couple with a stable 11-year marriage have been rejected as potential adopters by Leeds City Council on the grounds that the husband, who has a BMI of 42, is too fat (Guardian 13.01.09).

GLUE EAR SURVEY If you have a child aged 18 months to ten years old, please complete this short survey and you'll be in with a chance of winning vouchers worth £250 for Boden, SpaceNK or The White Company.

Hot threads

Call me Ishmael - have you named you DC after a book, film or TV character?
Breeding will out - does your dog match your look and lifestyle?
Good guess, good guess - how accurate are your predictions about a baby's sex?
Older and wiser - what wisdom has age brought you (and have you turned into your mother yet)?
National treasures - who would you nominate as improving the life and soul of the UK?

Competitions

Magnificent prizes, as ever, in this week's competitions:

Find out how you can enter.

Quote of the week

PurePurple on her daughter trying to make sense of the world around her: "As a toddler, she fell over in the garden and shouted, 'Call Claims Direct!'"

WORK-LIFE BALANCE In a society where women and men are under constant pressure to juggle their commitments as partners, parents and workers, Julia Hobsbawn's The See-Saw offers life-changing tips and case studies to inspire and reassure you that you can get your work-life balance on track.

Looking for somewhere (warm) to take the kids? Mumsnetters recommend:

Carmenere's recipe of the week: Okeydokeygirl's Quick Noodle Soup
This recipe cleverly uses packets of cheap noodles (the type usually found in student digs) to make a light and healthy dinner. Perfect for cash-strapped January dieters – and the kids will like it, too.


That's your lot, we're off to finish I Capture the Castle before Tues.
Love,
Mumsnet Towers

SMOKING IN PREGNANCY: We've got a quick question for you about smoking in pregnancy. Click here to tell us what you think (one question only – we promise!).

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