In "The Last-Minute Party Girl: Fashionable, Fearless, and Foolishly Simple Entertaining," Napa-based author Erika Lenkert owns up to some of her mistakesincluding the time she found herself up at 3 a.m. after 18 hours of cooking, trying to finish a towering croquembouche for her 30th-birthday party. She vowed never to repeat the experience. Today, her approach is all about finding smart shortcuts and coming up with zany, inexpensive ways to add style to any event.
What's your favorite hostess gift? There's a company in San Francisco called In Fiore that makes amazing natural beauty products. I give the body oils in the summer and the balms in the winter (from $25 at Studio at Fred Segal; 310-394-8509).
How do you set your table? I'm sentimental about Quimper china from France because my mom collects it. When I was a child, I looked forward to seeing the little man or woman beneath my food after I'd finished eating (from $62 from Quimper Faïence; 800-470-7339). But I mostly own lots of plain white dishes because they go with everything.