Q I’d like to send cookies to my nephew, who is serving in Iraq. What types will survive the journey, and how should I package them?
A: Home-baked cookies are a wonderful way to give your nephew (and undoubtedly his friends) a taste of home. Transit time may take more than two weeks, so look for cookies with a long shelf life.
Shortbread is a good bet. Oatmeal-raisin also has staying power, because dried fruit helps the cookies stay moist.
Gingerbread men are a sturdy choice. Steer clear of chocolate chips, which are likely to melt; candy-coated M&M’s are a good substitute. Label any baked goods that contain nuts.
For maximum freshness, freeze the cookies until the day you’re ready to send them. An efficient and economical way to mail them is in a Priority Mail Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office flat-rate box, which is 12-by-12-by-5 inches; it costs $11.95 to ship.
Wrap the cookies individually, for easier distribution. Place them in a cushioned airtight container and fit that inside the flat-rate box. You can pad the space between the two containers with extra socks for your nephew. Then seal the edges with packing tape.
Soldiers are required to throw away homemade foods unless they know the sender, but prepackaged treats, magazines and toiletries (packed separately), are certainly welcome.
Q: Is there an easy way to remove dried latex paint from my wood floor?
A: Latex-based paint isn’t usually a disaster for hardwood flooring, even if the spill has gone untended. You can probably remove it with rubbing alcohol.
Apply the alcohol to a clean, white cloth and test it on a hidden area of the floor to make sure the floor’s finish won’t be harmed. Then rub the spill. If more friction is needed to remove the paint, switch to a soft-bristle brush or a plastic scraper.
Another option is to use a straight razor blade. Hold the blade almost parallel to the floor, taking care that you don’t scrape the wood or its finish. If you remove some wax, you’ll have to treat the area afterward.
If rubbing alcohol doesn’t work, try a product designed to clean dried latex paint, such as Goof Off. Test the product on an inconspicuous area and use it sparingly.
Q: How can I remove the deposits inside my teakettle and coffeemaker?
A: This residue, called scale, is a buildup of minerals — primarily calcium and magnesium — found in hard water.
To remove the deposits inside your teakettle, boil equal parts white vinegar and water. Turn off the heat, and let the kettle sit for a few hours. Rinse and repeat as needed until the interior is clean.
If you have a drip coffeemaker, it will also need routine cleaning, because the deposits can slow the flow of water and affect the flavor of the coffee.
Once a month, fill the reservoir with equal parts white vinegar and water, and turn on the coffeemaker. Halfway through the cycle, turn it off. Let it sit for an hour, and then let the cycle finish. Afterward, run a few cycles with just water to rinse.
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