Cute Napkins = Self-care?
February 23, 2024

Cute Napkins = Self-care?

You may see a stack of colorful napkins next to my dining table.

I see a part of my ideal self-care routine. For real. And, I say ideal because it’s not like I’m 100% at this. But I have been noticing something about the aesthetics of being present. It often centers on meals. Even when I eat alone, my day is just better and more grounded when I have a real meal at a cute place-setting, enjoyed without a distracted brain. No finishing off the onion dip over the sink and calling it a meal. (Working on this.) Balancing running a business and parenting, it’s easy to check out, snack along the way and forget to pause and enjoy the peace that a phone-free, distraction-free, visually non-blah meal can be. Sounds good, you say, but maybe a bit much? I’m here to say that making your meals just a little bit more is truly rooted in “just a little bit.” It doesn’t have to be a big production.

OK, you’re ready to set a self-care table? Cool. Here’s what you need to know: First, the old rules about matching don’t apply. It’s less about a fully coordinated table, more about creating a feeling. For me, that’s details like colors and how they’re combined. Right now, I’m into primary colors paired with some muted tones or pastels. Like, bright red alongside a dusty lavender, or kelly green with blush. I also really like combining geometric prints and using oddball accessories. Whatever makes you feel good is the idea. Second, it doesn’t have to be expensive! Making regular stops at the thrift store means you’ll have a collection of unique finds like trays, small dishes and salt shakers to mix in with napkins and ceramics purchased from small makers or other stores. At the very least, setting a neutral table with a bright, statement-making napkin can set the right tone: unique, personal and non-boring.

Any meal scene is improved with adding something floral. If arranging flowers is your jam, perfect. But, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Anything from outside—branches, interesting leaves, unidentified flowers—can be snipped and plopped in a small vase on the table. My most favorite long-lasting floral hack: last October, I was sent a beautiful flower arrangement for my birthday. Being in the fall, the arrangement was full of items that would dry well: branches, rose hips, straw flowers, etc. After enjoying the whole thing for a while, I pulled apart the elements, snipped down their lengths and placed them in small colored-glass cups on my dining table. No water needed, and they’ve lasted all winter long, beautifully drying and adding a branch-y, wintry vibe to meals.

Collect personal, oddball items that make you smile—and use them on your table. These days, I like to use a clam shell found on a beach long ago for salt. And, the cute cat plate you see above? It’s a soy sauce dish my sushi-loving son picked out a while back, but I like to use it for any little condiment, because it makes me happy. Get creative with little finds discovered when traveling: any interesting bottle, dish or basket adds memory-rich personality to meals.

For the parents, kids can be a huge help here: they love picking through a stack of napkins, finding just the right one for their meal. Being visual creatures, they get into setting the scene. When our little ones catch us making the table just a little bit more thought-out and fun, with care and joy, it rubs off. They get the message: this is important, we’re important together.

Finally, don’t forget about the grounding power of lighting a candle. No, I’m not talking about a line of formal tapers. Though, a single colorful candle in my favorite colorful holder is great. But, I’m talking about something simpler: lighting a candle as a symbolic start of a meal. Phones away, fully present in the moment alone or together. Just a single tea candle in a cut glass jam jar can brighten up these last dark breakfasts of winter.

An aesthetic table is self-care.

colorful gingham cloth napkins add fun to any meal