20 March 2009

Eco-Monograms in the Lunchbox

Everything has a story.

Years ago, my sister-in-law was working for the company that was assembling the land to build what's now a fancy hotel in New York. One of the properties that got bought and demolished was an old, funky hotel. In the brief moment between the last paying guests and the wrecking ball, we got access to the hotel and swooped through - acquiring leaded glass windows, kitchen ladles, #10 envelopes, oval platters, champagne buckets, a ceramic table lamp, a mess of stainless steel flatware, and a couple of bricks of plain white cotton dinner napkins, still wrapped in plastic fresh from the cleaners.

They're nothing special, the napkins. They'd look fine starched and pressed in a dimly lit dining room, but in the bright lights of my kitchen, lo these many years later, they're showing their liver spots, yellowy stains of indeterminate origin, resistant to bleach. I don't really care - I have so many that we can use freshly laundered cloth napkins with every meal and not run out before laundry day rolls round again. And given the amount of ketchup that gets blotted up on a regular basis, no napkin would emerge unscathed.

Back in September, when I was agonizing over what to do about lunch for the newly minted kindergartner, I assembled a bunch of plastic containers of various sizes, and some plastic utensils, and a little thermos - that is, lots of things to send back and forth to school. And I decided that, as long as the lunch box and all the bits and pieces were going back and forth, I'd send her to school with a cloth napkin.

I pulled out five of the hotel napkins, got some fabric paint and a stencil kit, painted her initials onto one corner of each napkin, and doodled on the other three corners with colored Sharpie. [Word of advice: Sharpie doesn't come out when you want it to come out, but it doesn't hold up terribly well in the way that I used it here - it bled a little and the color faded.]

You know what? It's March, and those five cloth napkins are still in circulation - which means that we've not used more than 100 paper napkins. Score!





These cloth napkins are brought to you by Nature's Source and the Parent Bloggers Network, and I approved this message.

36 comments:

Rachel said...

What a cute idea! And thrifty! And green! :)

She She said...

I send Owen to school with a small silver spoon and fork, and he always manages to bring them home again. Not sure that would hold true with the other two.

When the Sagamore on Lake George was closing, my MIL swooped in and got glass doorknobs.

Mental P Mama said...

I love it. What treasures;)

FreshHell said...

That's a great idea. I'm thinking of ways to cut down on waste: plastic bags, disposable cups of fruit and yogurt, etc. And now, paper towels.

nonlineargirl said...

Those are great. I will keep that in my mental file of "cool things to do when the girl is older."

I agree that the sharpie is a cruel mistress, who comes and goes when she wants not when expected.

liz said...

That's terrific! I send MM with cloth napkins, too, but yours are much much better.

Pearl said...

That's a great idea, and I just love the look.
Pearl

Mary G said...

Great idea! I will do some for the grandkid. Yours look very cool. Thanks for this.

Hip Mom's Guide said...

Now THAT is a great idea. We often use cloth napkins at home, but I hadn't thought about sending them to school... Bravo! I'm off to find my Sharpie.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Excellent--I wish I would have done that in elementary school. It's pretty hard in high school when they want to be able to throw everything away and be free for the rest of lunch.

heidi said...

awesome idea! We, on the other hand....have lost every kid spoon in the house, to the lunch box brigade.

Janet said...

What a great idea! Makes me wish I had some of those napkins!

Stephanie said...

Fantastic idea!

Parent said...

This is awesome and about 14 times better than some of the "kiddie" ones out there.

Kristen - Motherhooduncensored.net

Mayberry said...

You so crafty! Actually, even I could handle that, couldn't I?!

Daisy said...

Great idea! I like cloth napkins, and I often buy them on clearance and at thrift stores. This would be a great way to personalize them!

de said...

Oh, I love salvage. I salivate over salvage. Pass me a napkin, please.

My kid regularly throws his entire lunch box in the trash. I don't think our napkins would make it home.

meno said...

I'm stuck on the idea of rampaging through a defunct hotel. What fun.

Beet juice is like sharpies, it only stains things that you don't want stained.

Kelly said...

I wish I had a recently defunct hotel to loot!

kathy a. said...

the hotel adventure does sound fabulous! i should stock up on cloth napkins...

want to put in a plug for fabric paint, which is EVER so much better than sharpies on anything besides paper. when the kids were small, we used it for so much! costumes, special t-shirts, art projects... i did costumes for classrooms at a time for "international day," and can testify that a little fabric paint embellishment is enough like fabulous embroidery to get everyone excited.

we still [after up to 15 years] have some terra-cotta flowerpots decorated with fabric paint designs, christmas ornaments, nametags, and decorated clipboards [school; activities -- i used them to keep track of the notices and directories and such].

the new girl said...

What an awesome idea.

Gwen said...

You are so creative. And very eco-friendly!

formerly fun said...

What a great idea. I use cloth napkins at home but would never have thought to send them with the hubs or kids. Sadly, I usually offer no napkin, so on one hand, I'm a little lazy and gross but on the other hand, still eco frindly:)

painted maypole said...

we've had the same pack of paper napkins for about 6 years (i think i bought it for MQs baptism party) and I use those in her lunch... but keep meaning to switch to cloth. I think we have enough. We've always used cloth at home.

I bet M just LOVES her personalized ones!

Becky said...

Love this. I need to start using my grandmother's cloth napkins.

Debbie said...

We use cloth napkins at home every day. I love it. I've never sent them to school with my kids though.

Gotta Knit! said...

oh I love using cloth napkins at home. Such a small way to have a little bit of luxury during one's meal.

phd in yogurtry said...

Those are priceless napkins! Now... can you craft a way for tupperware lids to make it back home?

Woman in a Window said...

Cool. My kids would love that, old things and all.

Menopausal musing said...

From "Over The Pond....... Errrrm..... what are "Sharpies"??. . . are they what we call felt pens? x

Angeline said...

you definitely have some excellent brain cells in you!

bernthis said...

how on God's green earth has she not lost any of these? Phoebe has sometimes come home without the plastic containers. Napkins? I'd never see them again after the first day.

niobe said...

Just brilliant.

Anonymous said...

@Menopausal musing: Sharpies are the brand name for permanent markers. The kind that you use to mark laundry so that after it's washed, you'll know it's yours since the ink is designed to not wash out. At least that's the intent...

Kelly said...

This is a great idea, because Hannah's school requests two napkins in every lunch box. One to lay the food on, and one to clean up with. And I was always like, why the hell are two necessary. Kindergarteners don't really care too much about cleanliness anyway. Perhaps this will do the trick. Yay to reducing waste.

Swistle said...

SO CUTE!

Long ago, I bought a package of "fabric markers" at a craft store. I used them to decorate a shower curtain with little bits of poetry I found deep and meaningful (*eye roll*), but I'll bet if they're still available they'd be perfect for cloth napkin decorating.