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EXCLUSIVE MN OFFER: CHILDREN GO FREE TO THE ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET'S THE NUTCRACKER. Enter the magical world of The Nutcracker and follow Clara's adventures in the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of the Sweets. Designed by Gerald Scarfe and choreographed by Christopher Hampson, this eccentric production of the Christmas favourite returns to the London Coliseum for the last time. To book (terms and conditions apply), click here and quote 'Mumsnet'.

Hello from MNHQ...

Where we're still swooning from Ed Miliband's live webchat pre the Copenhagen summit. Ed reckoned MN's "cool and fab", so he's welcome back any time.

And next in the firing line is - wait for it - Justin 'Mr Tumble' Fletcher (12 Dec), followed swiftly by Miriam Stoppard on 16 Dec. We'll be opening threads for those soon.

Hope you've been enjoying our December Book of the Month Mrs Tim of the Regiment as much as us. Do join us for our discussion on Monday (7 Dec, 8pm): we've got three sets of Bloomsbury-esque goodies to give away to suitably bookish posters on the night.

Now for this week's parenting news...

Back-to-work horrors for mums: Mothers face an uphill struggle when they return to work, according to NCT research that found most companies do little to help women settle back in, even though a year off on maternity leave is now the norm. Only one in three mothers said "re-entry" to their old jobs was easy, while 39 per cent described the experience as "difficult" or "very difficult". Many said their relationship with their boss had deteriorated since becoming pregnant, as their commitment was questioned. The findings come six years after working parents got the power to request flexible work for the first time. (Times 30.11.09)

Doula risk: Women who hire birth partners, known as doulas, to support them during pregnancy are undermining the work of NHS staff and are complicating their care, says an article in the British Medical Journal. Dr Abhijoy Chakladar said the "doula business" exploited women's fears about the quality of NHS care and the "seemingly limitless market for birth-related products and services". A doula had interfered with his work on at least one occasion, he said, when she vetoed his advice to a patient about an epidural. The Royal College of Midwives added that there was "no doubt" some doulas were performing a role that should be carried out by midwives. About 1,000 doulas are working in Britain. (Times 02.12.09)

Other stories in brief

PREGNANT? PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR BABY FROM SWINE FLU. Pregnant women are more likely to develop serious complications from swine flu. Having the swine flu vaccine now could help you avoid catching swine flu and help protect your baby. Find out more here.

Hot threads

Competitions

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). 

COME ALONG TO THE FEEDING OF THE 5000! On Wednesday Dec 16th in London's Trafalgar Square (1-2pm), a partnership of charities, including Save The Children, will serve lunch to 5000 members of the public to highlight the problem of food waste. Click here to find out more.

Quote of the week

tribpot puzzles over the Bishop of Croydon's announcement that baby Jesus did cry: "It's been a while since I heard the Christmas story but is there a bit in it where Jesus doesn't cry? I can't think of any hymns that go, 'Mary was terrified, Jesus wouldn't cry, but the local mums said, "Don't worry, it's just a phase."'"

Looking for a winter 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: Kirstie's Homemade Christmas, Tues-Thurs 8-10 Dec, Channel 4, 8pm
My love affair with the Hon Kirstie was O.V.E.R. the minute she put that bloody country house of hers up for rent last year. Remember, when she 'renovated' her family home in Devon by cadging freebies off various knackered artisans, and then had the cheek to ask them to Deliver Them To Her Door? Unbelievable. Of course the audience lapped it up, so she's back doing it all over again with 'homemade' Christmas bells on...

Recipe of the week: eidsvoid's white chocolate and cranberry fudge
Fantastically festive-looking sweetie squares, crammed with seasonal red berries. Wrap them up in cellophane and ribbons for Christmas fairs and rellies who like pressies with a bit of homemade charm.
Review this week's recipe here - or why not post one yourself?

That's all, we're off to carbon-offset some cranberries.
Love,
Mumsnet Towers

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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