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Friday, November 21, 2014

Can I ship cookies to Australia?

“Can I ship gingerbread cookies to Australia?”

With the holidays coming up, one of our patrons was planning how she’d send her Christmas cookies to her friend overseas. She wanted to know if they’d last the trip and if they’d be able to clear customs once they arrived.

We checked the Australia Customs and Border Protection website and found that there shouldn’t be any need to pay taxes or duties on the cookies, since they wouldn’t be worth more than AUD1,000. The prohibited imports list includes porpoises, certain novelty erasers, and radioactive material, but cookies are in the clear.

They should also still be fresh by the time they arrive. According to Nancy Baggett’s The All-American Cookie Book and Tish Boyle’s The Good Cookie, gingerbread cookies can be stored in an airtight container for three to four weeks. Christmas Cookies Are for Giving by Kristin Johnson and Mimi Cummins cautions bakers that crispy cookies like gingerbread break more easily in transit. Johnson and Cummins recommend baking the cookies in small geometric shapes (cutout circles, for instance, will be more likely to make it in one piece than cutout reindeer) and packing them carefully.

Fortunately, Christmas Cookies Are for Giving and the Land O’ Lakes website both have tips on how to pack the cookies so that they survive their journey. Our patron will need a rigid container (such as a tin), bubble wrap, plastic wrap or tinfoil, and another large box for shipping that allows for at least two inches of cushion all around the cookie container. First, use plastic wrap or tinfoil to wrap together similarly-sized cookies in packages of four to six. Line the container, putting bubble wrap in the bottom and a piece of plastic wrap or tinfoil on top of it that will be big enough to cover the cookies once they’re all packed. Layer the cookies in the container, separating the layers with more bubble wrap or crumpled up tissue paper. Once the cookies are all in, cover them with a final layer of bubble wrap and wrap the extra lining over them before sealing the container. Put the container inside the large box and surround it with packing material (either more bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or crumpled up newspaper). Tape up the box securely and be sure to mark it perishable, and the gingerbread cookies should be able to make their journey.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Where Can I Exchange Foreign Money?

“Is there anywhere local that I can exchange foreign money for American money?”

If you’ve been out of the country and ended up with foreign currency that you want to convert back to money you can use every day, there are a few different ways to go about it. Sometimes it’s possible as soon as you get off the plane. Most international airports, such as Cleveland-Hopkins, house a company that will sell foreign currency to travelers and buy it back again after they return. However, they often charge steep fees for this convenience.

Many banks, including Bank of America, Fifth Third Bank, and TD Bank provide a similar service. However, it’s always best to call ahead and see what, if any, fees they charge and if they deal in the currency you have. Iraqi dinar are particularly difficult to exchange; Wells Fargo and Bank of America both make it clear on their websites that they don’t work with dinar.

For more advice on traveling, Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips is available through CLEVNET.

Friday, November 7, 2014

How Do Chameleons Change Color?

“How do chameleons change color?”

Chameleons have several layers of skin containing special cells called chromatophores. The cells are filled with pigment, which they’ll redistribute in response to chemicals in the chameleon’s body. For example, the cells containing the red pigment (called erythrophores) are in the upper layer of skin. When those cells expand, they can block out the colors contained in the lower layers of skin, turning the chameleon a vivid red. This can happen quickly or over the course of several minutes. There are over one hundred species of chameleon and not all of them are able to change color to the same extent, though almost all of them have some range of green and brown.

While most people think of the chameleon as a master of camouflage, they mainly change color as a way to communicate. Their changes in hue can indicate whether or not they’re looking for a mate, aggression, or their level of stress. Chameleons also change color as a way to regulate temperature, turning darker to absorb more sun and lighter to reflect it.

If you’re interested in having your own chameleon, Bartlett and Bartlett’s Chameleons: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual is available here at the library. However, be aware that, according to the authors, they’re one of the most difficult lizards to care for. Gary Ferguson’s Chameleons: Care and Breeding of Jackson’s, Panther, Veiled, and Parson’s and Fran├žois Le Berre’s The Chameleon Handbook are both available through CLEVNET.