Friday, July 24, 2009

Picky Picky: 9 Unexpected Uses for Toothpicks

Sometimes I enjoy finding alternative uses for ordinary household items more than I enjoy using the item for the purpose that nature intended. I feel that way about toothpicks- maybe I have weird teeth or something, but they don't actually seem to do much in terms of dislodging food particles after a big meal at a restaurant, and I always feel gross using them in public. Here's a tip, restaurants: If you're handing out freebies, I'd rather get one of those swirly mints. Plus, ever since I heard a horror story (admittedly, it does sound like an urban legend) about someone who swallowed a toothpick, which then punctured their intestines, I am always very cautious when attacking my molars. Luckily, there are plenty of wonderful MacGyver-like things you can use toothpicks for that carry little-to-no risk of intestinal puncture. Read on.

9 Unexpected Uses for Toothpicks

1. Bring Home the Bakin': This one's obvious, but bears mentioning. Insert a clean toothpick into cakes and breads as they bake to test whether they are cooked through- if the toothpick comes out doughy and wet, leave it in the oven longer.
2. Stick With It: Use a toothpick to apply glue or paint, when a delicate touch is required (like building one of those model airplanes you've been wanting to try, or applying sequins to your Halloween costume). The wood makes a surprisingly good little "brush".
3. Be Fasten-ated: When sewing a button back on, place a toothpick between the cloth and the button. This will prevent you from sewing it on too tightly (which makes it hard to get through the button-hole).
4. Put the Icing on... the Icing on the Cake: Use a toothpick to "sketch out" the design on a frosted cake before you write or decorate it with icing. Alternatively, attach pretty personalized paper flags to one end of the picks and plant them on top of cupcakes- it's a super-easy way to make store-bought, generic-looking cupcakes seem personalized.
5. Let Your Light Shine: When lighting candles, use a match to light the tip of a toothpick on fire- it will burn slower and longer, saving you from using up all your matches and singeing your fingertips.
6. Get a Clean Cell: Dip the tip of a toothpick in cleaning solution to gently clean between the keys on your cell phone or computer keyboard, and to efficiently clean out the little cracks and crevices (and those little speaker holes).
7. Boil Better: To prevent that pasta pot from boiling over and making a hot mess (literally!) of your cook top, stick a toothpick between the pot and its lid. This will allow just enough of the steam to escape from the pot.
8. Get on a Roll: Next time you finish using the packing tape, fold the end around a toothpick. Then next time you'll save yourself the frustration and agony of searching for that illusive end.
9: Simplify Your Spuds: When you microwave a potato or yam, use four toothpicks to create "legs" for the tater, elevating it from the bottom of the microwave. This will allow it to cook from all directions, and it will be ready faster. It makes me kind of sad to think of any of you at home microwaving a single potato, but I decided to include this tip, nevertheless.

Sometimes it pays to be picky.

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