In the book that Mom and I were working on, we have a chapter on money. This little list comes from one of the how-to sections in that chapter, written by Mom, I think. (I realize that hardly any stores are bagging up the groceries in brown bags anymore, but if your store still is, and you have a pile of bags at home, then this list is for you.)
A big brown shopping bag is good for:
* a blockhead-type child’s mask, complete with eye holes.
* a rack for the piping hot, baked goodies. Just rip the bag at the seam and spread it flat. If you’re pulling the bread loaves from the oven at bedtime, though, dump them into an intact bag and paperclip it shut to preserve the freshness overnight.
* a cover for a ratty lamp shade, sized to fit overtop, made by pencil-tracing the worn shade while rolling it tediously across the paper. The antique brown reduces glare, creating a homey ambience, and the grocery-store slogans add personality. For a little razzmatazz, glue metallic craft ribbon around the top and bottom.
* backing a picture after it’s matted and framed.
* a handleless strawberry basket. Cut the sides down to about 12 inches and fold the edges over several times like pant legs.
* drying mint leaves for tea. Spread them out and lay the paper on the oven rack and let the pilot-light heat do the trick.
* drying rinsed butternut squash seeds for the next season’s garden.
* drying apples, too. G-daddy lines up the slices like on a cookie tray and puts them next to the wood stove, but somebody keeps snitching.
* steaming dinner rolls. Close them up in the bag, sprinkle it with water, and heat in a 350-400° oven. Caution: left too long, the bag will char.
* roasting a turkey. Slide your roasting pan holding the bird into the bag, staple it shut, and deliver to the oven for the indicated cooking time. The steam and grease rising off the turkey’s crisping skin will prevent the bag from kindling.
* an envelope, designed so that the flap bears the official bottom-of-the-bag data, including the international recycling symbol.
* a greeting card. On a strip of bag paper paste a line-up of photos from when the cousins slept over at your house, and accordion-pleat the paper. It can be easily mailed this way and then positioned staggeringly on the relatives’ coffee table. On the back, ink the copyright date and the name of your card company, standup greetings.
* a blotter for deep-fried donuts or drippy bacon, or a splatter shield for frying hamburgers.
* storing the Christmas-tree popcorn strings till next year, allowing them to yellow charmingly.
* a refrigerator. Before leaving on a trip, slip one bag into another to double the insulation value and stick in your breakfast milk and fruit.
* lumping the family’s dirty wash in, when you’re traveling.
* spreading crumbled garden soil underneath the wood stove to dry, before sending it off for analysis in the little muslin bag provided by the soil conservation service.
* gathering walnuts, or the itty-bitty green peppers still in the garden on a br-r-r night when the radio’s forecasting frost, or a cutting of late broccoli.