First things first: this is not a sponsored post. I've been asked by PRs to review many products this Christmas, and I've turned them all down. They are usually things either totally inappropriate for the Littleboys - eg. tights(!) - or things that would be impractical to ship to the US, where the PR in question clearly has not realised that I reside.
I would rather, instead, write about a Christmas gift that I truly admire and have bought on several occasions. And one with which I have something of a personal connection.
Let me tell you a story first. Almost eleven years ago, I started a new job on a magazine. I sat down at my new desk, and smiled at the girl opposite, and it was the beginning of a firm friendship. While at first we bonded over the usual things - office gossip, tipsy work nights out - our friendship outlasted the workplace, and long after she moved to another magazine we would still meet up for lunch, coffee and a heart-to-heart over a glass of wine.
It was during one of these heart-to-hearts, in late 2003, that I announced to her my secret news. I was leaving the company, going travelling and then setting up as a freelancer with a view to starting a family. And then my friend announced her own secret news. She was also leaving; and planned to start her own business.
I was pretty surprised by this, and thought it was an incredibly brave move. But she then explained her absolute gem of a business idea - the creation of personalised books for children, using not only the child's name, age and other details but their photograph throughout the book as the hero or heroine of the story. The idea, she said, had come from books that her grandparents had lovingly created for her as a child, cutting and pasting the photos - now, with digital printing, it could become a reality on a much larger scale.
And so Itsyourstory was born. Six years later (my friend somehow having also found the time to have three children and move the entire family to Somerset) the business is going strong, with a range of 18 books to choose from as well as other products such as calendars, party invitations and letters. There are stories suitable for all ages and all occasions - birthdays, Christmas, even a super-hero story. In every story, the child is the star, and all kinds of information about their life - from their best friends' names to their favourite food and TV show - can be included in the tale. You simply go online to upload your child's photo and all the details, and the books are mailed out to you.
The Littleboys will each be getting an Itsyourstory book this Christmas, and I am confident that they will absolutely love them; you see, I've already seen the combination of delight and amazement before on nieces and nephews' faces as they open the books and realise that they are the main character. So, if you're short of a present either for your children, a relative or friend's child, pop over to the site and take a look (you can also follow them on Twitter). My friend has even set up a 20% discount for readers of this blog, valid until January 31st (although if you want it for Christmas, last orders must be made by this Friday, December 17). All you need to do is type the voucher code NAPPYV20* during the first stage of the order process on the website. I can guarantee you'll love the books. And you'll be supporting a very special friend of mine at the same time.