Survival tips for hosting the in-laws this Thanksgiving

Yeah! This year, you get the privilege of hosting the Thanksgiving meal. Will you make it through the day without help from "Mommy's little helper?" (That's 70s lingo for Valium.) Sure, you can! Resist the urge to become Betty Draper this holiday season. Instead, take a measured approach and plan for a happy, memorable day with your extended family.

Keep the meal simple. That's a trick, but you can do it. Trying to please everyone frustrates a hostess, even an experienced one. Write down your menu and stick to it. Here's a bit of advice: keep the menu top secret to avoid unwanted suggestions.

Don't compete with his mom. If she's a master at sage dressing, ask her to bring a pan, if she's local. Asking the in-laws to contribute to the Thanksgiving meal alleviates a lot of headaches.

Put away the booze, at least until after dinner. Nothing stirs the pot like liquor. Save the wine and eggnog for the post-dinner activities. Drinking on an empty stomach leads to arguments and misunderstandings.

Focus on the faces, not the food. Prepare some dishes ahead of time, so you can spend more time mixing with your in-laws. Don't spend the entire day cooking, even if that's how his mom usually does it. It's your party!

Give the in-laws a task. Ask his family to help decorate one side of the Christmas tree or take pictures of the festivities. Other great chores include starting a fire (in the fireplace) or finding some holiday music on the radio.

Plan some outdoor games if the weather allows. It gets crowded indoors; take that party outside for some fresh air, weather permitting, of course. Setup a game of horseshoes or plan a small bonfire for marshmallow roasting.

Follow the festivities with a thank you note. Yes, you're the hostess, but that only means the onus is on you to show grace and kindness. Send a "thank you for attending" note to his family post party. Mention special moments and offer a few kinds words. Thank you notes go a long way, socially.