Dear Sun Spots: I stopped by the Lisbon Post Office recently and noticed they had a specific mail slot for Netflix movies. I had a movie to return, so dropped it there and less than 24 hours later I had an e-mail from Netflix saying they had received my movie. I was surprised how fast it got to them! Why does Lisbon have a mail slot specific for Netflix? Are they the only Post Office that does this? And how do they get the movies returned so quickly? Thanks. – David, Auburn.

A statement from Netflix dated Aug. 14, 2006, announced that a new distribution center, or hub, opened on Tuesday, Aug. 15 in Portland. Netflix ships 1.4 million DVDs a day from 55 hubs around the U.S. By opening a hub in Maine, Netflix decreased the DVD shipping times to its members in Maine. Prior to the Portland hub opening, Maine residents received their DVDs from Netflix’s Worcester, Mass., hub. We suspect this is the reason for the quick turn-around time; the DVD was simply mailed and processed at the Portland site.

Representatives from Netflix and the U.S. Postal Service do not have a list of locations that have a drop box specifically for Netflix returns. But, according to Kathleen Walker at the Lisbon Post Office, they process approximately 200 Netflix DVD returns daily. So, since they had a leftover drop slot, it made sense to dedicate it to Netflix.

She explained that they had a leftover slot since there is no longer a need to use separate drop slots for “In Town” and “Out of Town” letters. Virtually all mail is processed more efficiently on automated equipment at a centralized location. However, DVDs do not process well if mixed in with other letter-size mail. This requires the Postal Service to use costly manual labor to separate the DVDs from hundreds of thousands of letters at their mail processing centers. Using a separate drop lets customers know exactly what to do with their DVDs and it also helps the Postal Service lower processing costs. That, in turn, helps keep postage rates low.

Dear Sun Spots: Does anyone have used padded mailing envelopes that they are no longer using? I am shipping books and have run out of the padded mailers I had accumulated over the years. I can pick them up around the Norway-Paris-Bethel area. Please e-mail me at [email protected] with the amount you have, where you are located, and when it is a good time for me to pick them up. Many thanks. – Pat B., No Town.

Dear Sun Spots: For AJC in Lewiston who was looking for the fruitcake recipe from CMP, here it is. It’s called “Traditional Brandy Fruitcake.” – N.G., Auburn.

To be made several weeks ahead and avoid last-minute holiday rush. Power level: Medium High. Microwave time: 16 to 20 minutes.

1 cup (½ pound) butter, softened; 2 cups light brown sugar; 4 eggs; 3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour; 1 teaspoon baking powder; 1 teaspoon salt; 1 teaspoon cinnamon; ¾ cup brandy; 2 packages (8 ounces each) chopped dates; 1 pound mixed candied fruit; ½ pound whole cherries, candied or maraschino, ½ pound (about 2 cups) pecans or walnuts, cut in large pieces.

Method: In large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add to creamed mixture along with brandy. Blend well.

In large bowl, mix together fruit and nuts. Fold into batter. Pour into lightly greased 16-cup plastic microwave fluted or straight sided ring mold.

Microwave at medium-high power for 16 minutes, rotating dish quarter turn every four minutes, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let cake stand 20 minutes directly on heat-proof counter or wooden board before turning out of dish onto serving plate. Brush generously with white corn syrup if glazed top is desired. When cake is cold, sprinkle with more brandy and wrap in foil or plastic wrap. Store in cool place four to six weeks to age. Makes one large fruitcake.

Important note: Cake may appear to be unevenly cooked and must be stored for at least a week before serving.

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