A Word

Column: Think inside the box by Jacqueline Alexander
First published in the Henley Standard newspaper

Picture the scene. It’s Christmas Eve. It’s 3.30pm. You still haven’t bought all your Christmas presents. Panic sets in. You dash around the Henley shops looking for inspiration but all you get is perspiration. The following day you deliver a weak apology as you hand over the box of chocolates you managed to grab just before you were evicted from the shop.

I know there are many of you. I know because I am one of you. I've seen you. But not this year. Come Christmas Eve, I will be sitting smugly in my lounge looking at the fruits of my online labour whilst sipping a glass of Champagne and putting my feet up. And if you want to be in a similar position, here’s how to achieve it.

Over the years, Web Watch has highlighted sites designed to give you the edge in the gift-buying department. Bobbooks.co.uk was a resounding success as many went online to produce a book of personal photography. After preparing the style, selecting the size and designing the layout from the easy-to-use template software, the finished product is produced for you and arrives just a few days later.

BobBooks transforms your snaps into a stylish, hardback book that would look at home on any coffee table. It’s high quality, highly personal and, with prices starting at 36, it’s not too expensive.

The success of this site is plain for all to see. Since highlighting the site over two years ago, the options available have expanded to include calendars and flick books as well as many more size options for the photo books.

Last year, customisedclassics.com attracted a diverse response but the consensus decreed that the fuddy-duddy traditionalists were failing to see the benefits. The basic premise of the service allows you to take a classic novel and customise it for the person of your choice.

Take Romeo and Juliet and think Adam and Samantha, Brian and Sue or Peter and Paul. Not only is the title of the book changed to reflect your chosen ones, the service makes them the central characters of the book itself.

With Customisedclassics.com and Bobbooks.co.uk both being well received, the bar has been set pretty high so this year, the challenge was to think outside the box. Ironically, the result was the exact opposite. It’s all about thinking inside the box.

Myboxofdelights.co.uk allows you to select a wooden box and choose a design for the lid from many options, each relevant to different occasions including Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and apologies. You even write your own personalised message to be printed onto the box. Then you get to the fun part; you get to choose all the goodies to go inside.

The only problem with this gift buying process is that it will make you hungry. The treats include chocolates, wine, truffles, chutney, liqueurs, luxury cakes, preserves, biscuits and champagne. All you have to do is select the favourites of the would-be recipient. The only limitation is the size of the box and as there are three to choose from you can be as generous as you feel but if you are buying one as an apology, it would probably be advisable to go with the biggest.

Of course, if you can’t be bothered to select the contents one by one (what are you like?), you can select one of many ‘quick-fill’ options designed to suit various budgets.

All of the above gift options are guaranteed for delivery within a few days so there’s no excuse for the last minute dash. Come Christmas Eve, you will be relaxed and ready for the big day, and possibly even a little smug.

Next: Creative differences

Audio: Jacqueline Alexander presents Web Watch with Phil Kennedy on BBC Berkshire and BBC Oxford:

Copyright: Jacqueline Alexander 2012

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