Win a Free Copy of “Perfect Table Settings”!

The highlight of my week–so far, anyway–has been mastering the Elf Boot napkin fold. It’s one of more than 100 ways to fold a napkin in Denise Vivaldo’s new book, Perfect Table Settings (Robert Rose).

Win a free copy of Denise’s fun book, Perfect Table Settings: Hundreds of Easy and Elegant Ideas for Napkin Folds and Table Arrangements!

As Denise notes, cloth napkins are an eco-friendly choice and one of the easiest and cheapest ways to dress up your table. Dipping into her book is a little like opening a bag of potato chips–you can’t stop at just one. I started browsing and folding, working my way from simple folds, like the Bird’s Next and Pope’s Hat, up to the more advanced (and seasonally appropriate) origami that is the Elf Boot. Perfect Table Settings also has ideas for themed parties, tips on buying flowers in season and some simple recipes, too.

But you have to enter to win.

So here’s the deal. Only NOURISH Evolution members are eligible to win, so now’s the time to join if you haven’t already! Then, head on over to the Thursday Giveaway group in our community area and leave a comment to be entered to win (important: be sure you’re signed in to NOURISH Evolution so we can find you).

Lia will announce the winner in next week’s Friday Digest!

Good luck, and just to whet your appetite, here’s a picture of my Elf Boots! (OK, I just like showing them off!)

A Perfect Table Setting, Made Easy

I fashioned elf boots out of napkins today. That’s them, in the picture below. Ain’t they cute? I’m not the handicraft-y type (despite Lia’s insistence last spring that I decorate Easter eggs and write about it), so these adorable elf boot napkins really are examples of if-I-can-do-it-so-can-you.

The only person in the world who could get me excited about performing the oragami to fold a napkin into a bootie is Denise Vivaldo, author of Perfect Table Settings: Hundreds of Easy Ideas for Napkin Folds and Table Arrangements (Robert Rose). She’s a top-notch food stylist–meaning her job is to make food look mouthwatering, and a big part of that is creating gorgeous table settings to showcase that food. Prior to food styling, Vivaldo ran a successful catering business in Los Angeles, where she created stylish events for celebrity clients. But, she points out, big-name clients didn’t always have big-time budgets.

“When we had low-budget parties, sometimes all we had for decor on the table was the napkin folds,” Vivaldo chuckles. “The cheapest way is to set a nice table is to have a set of cloth napkins and change the fold.”

Everything in Perfect Table Settings, from the 100 napkin folds (ranging from the super-easy Simple Upright to the advanced Elf Boot) is designed to offer affordable, real-world solutions to balance the often unrealistic expectations created by the many cooking and home style shows on TV. As a behind-the-scenes stylist, Vivaldo confesses to helping create some of those “simple” projects, and to some degree, this book helps atone for that. Unlike many of the crazy crafts she was charged with styling for some of the best-known personalities on TV, the strategies in this book are “supposed to be achievable for people.”

And they are, as evidenced by the fact that even I could turn a plain red napkin into the Elf Boot, thanks to the clear instructions and step-by-step photos in Vivaldo’s book. As I twisted and folded and flipped napkins, I couldn’t help thinking that if she tires of food styling Vivaldo should write instructions for assembling Ikea furniture (after, of course, penning a tell-all book about the many crazy characters with whom she’s worked over the years).

Since many of us want to set a festive table with panache this time of year, here are 5 tips from Vivaldo to create a gorgeous table for the holidays and everyday.

Opt for cloth. “There’s nothing easier or greener than investing in two sets of cloth napkins for your family,” says Vivaldo. If you want to experiment with different folds, 20-inch square napkins are your best bet. The fabric depends on your preference–100% cotton is great for everyday use, though a cotton-polyester blend tends to hold its color better and won’t need ironing.

Use napkin rings. These add style and sparkle to a table, but they originated with a practical purpose. “Napkin rings were meant to identify a napkin as yours so it  didn’t have to laundered every day,” says Vivaldo. Her suggestion: Buy a set of animal-theme napkin rings and assign a different critter for each family member to use for his or her napkin.

Go monochromatic. Pick a hue you love and stick with it. “Mixing colors is much harder than staying with one color,” says Vivaldo. One of her favorite themes is an all-white brunch. “It’s beautiful, because the food really pops on those inexpensive white dishes.”

Decorate with what you have. “You don’t have to buy an expensive flower arrangement to have a good-looking table,” she says. Instead, she’ll scavenge her yard for interesting and seasonal greenery–magnolia leaves are a favorite (“I use the gold side up, and with a few gold ornaments, they couldn’t be more beautiful”). She also suggests creating a simple, low-profile centerpiece with pillar candles and scattering seasonal fruit down the center of the table as a runner. Clove-studded oranges are lovely this time of year; so are pears.

Get out the fine china–but don’t worry if everything doesn’t match. If you’re missing a few pieces from Grandma’s china set, so what? Round it out with clear glass or simple white dishes. “They’ll work with everything on your table and won’t become dated. Any kind of glass adds some sparkle and pizzazz.” She’s also a fan of silver or gold chargers. “They’re not expensive and they totally dress up the table.”

Ultimately, Vivaldo’s recipe for a pretty table is simple: Mix some of your best china with some newer pieces and nicely folded napkins. Garnish with a few natural, seasonal touches. This time of year, she says, “Setting a table is as much of a tradition as the food you’re serving.”


Eggnog Flans with Maple and Toasted Walnuts