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EXCLUSIVE MN OFFER: CHILDREN GO FREE TO THE ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET'S NUTCRACKER. Don't miss your last chance to see Clara's magical adventures in the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of the Sweets as this vibrant Nutcracker production, designed by Gerald Scarfe and choreographed by Christopher Hampson, returns to the London Coliseum this Christmas. The offer applies 22 Dec-3 Jan on tickets priced £60, £50 and £40 (terms and conditions apply). Click here and quote 'Mumsnet'.

Hello from MNHQ...

Where we're gushing in a slightly unseemly fashion over the full-length version of our MNTV interview with Will Young. And good to see he knows what norks are now, bless 'im.

A word to the stocking-filling-wise: don't forget to check out our Discount Partners and Shopping Page before you shell out elsewhere. And should you be smugly present-sorted enough to be thinking of next year's holiday (get you!), do have a dekko at our new discount partner, Feather Down Farm Days.

Now for this week's parenting news...

Schools breaking rules on admissions: Some schools are using underhand tactics to attract pupils they consider more desirable, according to a report on the English admissions system from the Research and Information on State Education organisation. It found that some schools took distance measurements incorrectly, or ranked children using an unauthorised system. One undersubscribed school was even found to have contacted parents after 'offer day' in the hope of persuading them to reject another offer in favour of a place with them. (BBC Online 09.12.09)

Parents given new internet safety powers: Parents are to be given greater powers to set privacy settings or lockdowns so that children aren't able to view pornography or violence online, according to internet safety rules published this week. The rules force companies running search engines to give parents better control over their services – at present, privacy settings can be easily undone by IT-savvy kids. The new rules also say false pictures posted on social networking sites (a tactic often used by teenage cyberbullies) will have to be removed by host companies within 24 hours of a complaint. (Times 08.12.09)

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.

Other stories in brief

A PHONE IS FOR LIFE, NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS! With mobile phones on top of many children's Christmas wish lists, PhonepayPlus is encouraging parents to be more phone-aware when it comes to the ongoing costs of a mobile phone. Clilck here for more information and tips.

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). 

ARE YOU A WORLD-CLASS MARMALADE MAKER? The organisers of the World Marmalade Festival – held in Cumbria in February, to encourage interest in marmalade-making and to support the charity Hospice at Home – are looking for the world's best home-made marmalade. Enter by post or at a collection point (click here for details). Entry cost: £5 (£1 for children); closing date 7 Feb 2010.

Quote of the week

ABetaDad realises he's become a man of a certain age: "When I was 17, I used to look at women in short skirts and think – well, you know, what all 17-year-old blokes think. Now I am 47, I just think, 'You look cold. Put some clothes on.'"

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: The Thick of It, Sat 12 Dec, BBC2, 10.10pm
"YOU WILL SEE ME AGAIN!" threatened an even-more-pissed-off-than-usual Malcolm Tucker at the end of last Saturday's episode (seriously, if you haven't watched it yet, stop what you're doing and go immediately to iPlayer cos I'm trying hard not to spoil it for you). His Blackberry's been taken off him and he's been chucked out of Millbank but a week is a long time in politics and all that jazz, and you can bet your backside he'll be back and bilious for the final episode of this increasingly troubling political comedy...

Recipe of the week: JoeyBettany's mince pies
Release your yuletastic inner goddess and rustle up a batch of mince pies to offer favoured pre-Christmas guests (and carol singers). Stow the mincemeat jar carefully in the recycling and serve with a virtuous trill of "Homemade, dontchaknow..."
Review this week's recipe here - or why not post one yourself?

That's all, we're off to put some clothes on...
Love,
Mumsnet Towers

CHRISTMAS ENTERTAINMENT WITH CABARET SIMON This Christmas, from 16-31 December, prepare to be amazed as the irrepressible host and master of ceremonies, Simon, brings together a truly remarkable band of entertainers in a variety show for four to 10-year-olds that's intriguing, surprising and magical.

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