Kathryn Powley goes shopping for the 10 gifts she'd rather not find under her Christmas tree this year

1. Vacuum cleaner -

Nothing says your house needs cleaning like a new vacuum cleaner. It may be nice and shiny, ergonomic and the latest design. And it could cost $100 or $10,000 for all we care. There's no way around it - this present really sucks, but thanks.

2. Bathroom scales - Ouch. Whereas the giver may see a stylish apparatus useful for weighing household items such as over-filled suitcases before a big overseas trip, or a giant pumpkin grown for the local A&P Show, all the receiver sees is a slap in the face. You may have thought it would be handy for checking "bulging luggage" but secretly it's more about our bulging waistlines. Thanks.

3. Oxfam goat in Papua New Guinea - In days to come I'm sure we'll be thrilled for the family in PNG who are now the proud owners of said goat. Yes, 7 litres of milk a week is a lot, and all that manure will surely come in handy. And who knows, maybe one day we'll visit our nanny but ... well, there are no buts really. Thanks.


4. The Ridges DVD - The Ridges isn't even available on DVD yet, so how thoughtful of you to have recorded it and saved it to disc, just for us. We somehow managed to miss all six episodes, and don't even know who the Ridges are, so thanks for enriching in our knowledge and understanding of modern Kiwi culture.

5. Clean & Lean Warrior Workout, by James Duigan - It's Christmas Day, the pavlova's in the fridge and the lamb's about to go in the oven. An afternoon holding down the couch is beckoning - and is far more preferable to refining our keg into a six-pack. The sight of that buff bod on the cover - and the legend "James has made me lean and frankly irresistible", apparently uttered by Hugh Grant - are more terrifying than inspiring. It's the gift that rubs salt into the wound. Thanks a lot.

6. Naughty novelty gifts - We ripped the wrapper open and now we've turned beetroot red and don't know what to say or where to look, but we sure know where we'd like to insert this risque corkscrew. The glare of a handicam, and the room full of our nearest and dearest laughing at us, isn't helping. Bottle-openers, aprons, hats, barbecue utensils, oven mitts and soap - we'd prefer ours functional, not funny, thank you very much.

7. Potty shooter - Somebody obviously thinks you're not spending enough time in the small room. This weird game comes with a handy swing sign for the door. It says: "Do Not Disturb. Shooting Game In Progress - Potty Shooter." It includes two target boards, five darts and a shooter. Gee, thanks.

8. Missing Pieces, Ian Wishart's latest book on convicted murderer David Tamihere - It's not that we don't care, it's notthat we aren't interested, it's not that we don't like to keep abreast of injustice, and we love a good murder mystery as much as the next person. But please, give us a good Lee Child or Jo Nesbo novel any day. Cheers.

9. A three-legged rescue dog called Spike from the SPCA - No, we don't remember saying we wanted a pet. Granted he is cute and does need a home - but we're going away on Boxing Day and can't take him with us. Can he stay with you? Thanks.

10. Beer belt - We'll never lose our drinks at a barbecue again - although we won't be able to sit down easily at one either. Not only is this special present made from moulded foam to keep the beer cool, it'll also hold our pants up once we get the message delivered in gift 5 (see above) and shed some kilos. Thanks.

It takes tact to cope with a bad present

If you've ever found yourself on the receiving end of a thoughtless gift - like the woman who received a gigantic box of tampons from her (very-soon-to-be-ex-) boyfriend, or the modern sophisticated mum who got a tatty 1970s cookbook from her well-to-do mother-in-law - you'll know it hurts. You wonder "Don't they care?" and "What does it mean?"

Relationships Aotearoa national practice manager Jo-Ann Vivian advises putting the gift into the context of the entire relationship. If you feel hurt or offended by a gift, she says, take a step back, think about the entire relationship and ask yourself: "If I hadn't received this gift, would I still be upset?"

And if the answer is "Yes"?

"Then Christmas Day is probably not the time to tackle that issue. There are relationships that are tense and difficult for all of us. Sometimes the presents that are given and received in the spirit of that difficult relationship reflect it."

There tends to be an air of competition about Christmas gifts that puts stresses people but there could be another less hurtful explanation for your dodgy gift.

"There are some people with terrible taste in presents - it's not about you."