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FANCY TEST-DRIVING A NEW FORD? We're looking for five families to test-drive a brand new Ford car for three weeks over Christmas – and for other families to test-drive Fords in 2010. Everyone who signs up here will be entered into a prize draw to win one of ten £50 John Lewis vouchers. If you're selected for the Christmas test-drive, you will receive £100 John Lewis vouchers, plus of course the use of a brand new Ford with all mod cons. Click here to find out more.

Hello from MNHQ...

Where we've been updating our toy reviews in time for the annual shopping frenzy. Have a browse, add any must-buys you think we've missed and don't forget to check out our Discount Partners and Shopping Page before you shell out elsewhere.

Do hope you're already marching briskly through Mrs Tim of the Regiment, our December Book of the Month. Please muster for parade (our discussion) on Monday 7 Dec: we've got three sets of all six of the Bloomsbury Group classics on our shortlist, complete with matching bookmarks and cards, to give away on the night.

We'd also love to hear what you think of our Mumsnet Guides. Everyone keeps telling us they're brilliantly funny but they're not exactly flying off the shelves. Would you buy one? Would you recommend it? If not why not? Please tell...

Now for this week's parenting news...

Birth choice promise 'not met': Improvements are being made to the maternity services in England but the target of giving women proper choice over where to give birth by the end of the year probably won't be met, according to the head of the Royal College of Midwives Cathy Warwick. She said that despite a Labour manifesto promise that, by the end of 2009, all women would have a choice over where and how they have their baby, only about 50% currently get this choice. Services were also struggling to cope with the spiralling birth rate, which has jumped by 20% since 2001. (BBC Online 26.11.09). 

Shift-parenting more common: More parents are taking second jobs and turning to 'shift parenting' (where one parent works in the day and the other at night to avoid childcare costs), according to a new study into how the recession is changing family life. The study, from charity 4Children, involved 1,000 families. Julia Margo of the thinktank Demos said middle-class parents were being particularly hard-hit by the economic freeze, and that shift-parenting – long a feature of working-class family life – was now common in middle-class homes, too. (Observer 22.11.09)

Other stories in brief

ARE YOU AT RISK OF FLOODING? The average costs of a flood are £28,000, compared to £7,300 for fire and £1,033 for burglary. You can reduce this. Find out if you're at risk, how to prepare and what to do if you're flooded. Plus, sign up for free Floodline Warnings or call 0845 988 1188.

Hot threads


This month's prizes are:

It's easy to enter (and keep an eye on winners' corner to see if your name has come out of the hat). 

TALK BATTERIES - FOR A CHANCE TO WIN £500! Help ensure the words 'batteries not included' don't mean missing out on special moments this Christmas by posing your questions to the Energizer battery expert, Clare Burke, and sharing your battery-related stories here. You could win £500!

Quote of the week

Charlie Brooker offers perhaps the least helpful labour tip ever: "Close your eyes and breathe a bit. Apparently, they slip out really easily!"

Looking for an autumn day out? Mumsnetters suggest:

Find more Mumsnetter recommendations for great days out near you in Mumsnet Local - and once you get home, please add a review in our Days out/Attractions section.

Aitch's TV round-up: The Queen, Sun 29 Nov, Channel 4, 9pm
While most of us have considered who would be cast in the film version of our lives (me?: the big lass who plays Heather in EastEnders), it's not something the Queen has had to bother about. Here, Emilia Fox, Samantha Bond, Susan Jameson, Barbara Flynn and Diana Quick compete to portray five ages of the woman over five nights. She comes across as a right cold fish and a bit of a beeatch to her slagbag sister, but the main thing is that Fox is thinner and prettier than the real thing ever was. Her Majesty will be pleased.

Blog of the week: I Love You Blue Kangaroo
serenedays' DS takes sticker charts to a whole new level: "He chose a gold star sticker and I lifted him up to the chart. He has 10 squares in each line. His gold star was his third for Staying In His Bed. He has six stickers on his Eating Up All His Breakfast line. 'Can I have a Gormiti Egg when I've collected all my stickers?' 'Yes of course you can.' He stared at the chart. 'Can I have four breakfasts?'..."
Bursting to blog? Why not start your own?

Recipe of the week: playdoughfree's pear and almond tart
Squidgy, almondy loveliness with caramelised autumnal fruitiness on top: cold-weather, mood-boosting bliss...
Review this week's recipe here - or why not post one yourself?

That's all, we're off to rearrange the shelves at a few Waterstone's stores.
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YOUNG PEOPLE AND ALCOHOL: SURVEY WITH PRIZE DRAW. We've been asked by Ed Balls' team to find out your views on talking to young people about alcohol. If you have a child aged 9-16, please take this survey. Everyone who completes it will be entered into a prize draw to win £250 in store vouchers. Whatever the age of your child, you can also add your thoughts on alcohol and children here.


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