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The damage: You made the (unsolicited) observation that, what with all the festivities, your GF has been "packing on the pounds," and furthermore her new jeans "really make the muffin-tops pop." Now she's turned into Frosty the girlfriend.

Bad gifts: Spanx shapewear (or their more intense full-body cousin, the SlimCognito Shaping Suit). A treadmill. The latest low-carb cookbook.

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Good gift: Anything that says: "I think you are beautiful/sexy the way you are." If it's lingerie, though, don't go overboard. Remember: It's a gift for her, not you, and if you blow this, it might wind up being a gift for some other, future dude.

Hanky Panky stretch lace thong, holiday 5-pack, $98,Holt Renfrew


The damage: Trying to be witty at a dinner party you made a joke about your husband's culinary skills – and he's the cook of the household! Ever since, the emotional weather inside your house has been frightful.

Bad gift: Cookbook. Lemon zester. Melon baller. Kiss The Cook apron. Family chefs appreciate fresh gear, but not as presents this time of year. Too drudgery-oriented: like giving office supplies to your secretary.

Good gift: A top-drawer knife – an exception to the above rule. Chefs love their knives and it's also a little macho.

Global 9.5-inch chef's knife, $169,

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The damage: Trying to get everything wrapped up before the holidays, you and your boss got into some friction. Tart words were exchanged. Now she's treating you like the other reindeer treated Rudolph before realizing his light-up nose might be useful.

Bad gift: Anything that carries the hint she might be too uptight and need to chill. Ixnay on the spa/massage gift certificates, in other words.

Good gift: I like bourbon and cigars as boss gifts. They send a slightly different message about relaxation, i.e. "You work hard and you've earned the right to kick back and savour your success." If she's not a cigar or bourbon person, she can always hand them out to people who come over to her house – an exclusive group that could, if you play your cards right, include you.

Glenfiddich Tasting Collection, $74.95, LCBO and select liquor stores


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The damage: You told your brother you think your sister's recent conversion to vegetarianism is "silly" and "a pain," particularly since you're hosting the family festivities this year, in which traditionally everyone tucks into some form of roast beast until their shirt buttons pop off. Word gets back to her and she's feeling Grinched.

Bad gifts: A charcuterie plate. A cookbook by Ted Reader, "King of the Q" (who says he belongs to PETA, a.k.a. "People for the Eating of Tasty Animals"). With a note saying, "How can you give all this up?"

Good gift: A gift basket of fine cheeses, wines, special olive oils, and whatnot – with a note saying you spoke hastily and foolishly and upon reflection realize a perfectly delicious diet can be put together from non-meat ingredients. If you can afford it, toss in a truffle – prized by carnivores and non-carnivores alike as one of nature's most delectable foodstuffs. Personally, if someone gave me a truffle, I think I could forgive them almost anything.

Best of B.C. gift box, $125,


The damage: Recently you had a holiday party that got a little out of hand. You have thin walls and the noise levels at your soiree caused your new neighbours to gnash their teeth and pull their hair – and, ultimately, call the cops. Now they're sulking like insulted elves.

Bad gift: Earplugs. Not funny. Could escalate to total warfare.

Good gift: A potted plant, something nice that flowers. On the one hand, it says: "Care for me, nurture me, and I will grow and bloom – kind of like the relationship one might have with, say, one's neighbour." On the other hand, it says: "You're stuck with me, now, and one way or another you're going to have to deal with me." Also like a neighbour.

Happy Hydrangea, $64.95 U.S.,

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