Monday, March 30, 2015

Product Review: Pro Gold Breakaway Rim Basketball Hoop

Our boys love our finished basement.  They've gotten through five winters here playing a lot of "Nerf" basketball.  Although they'd had an over-the-door Nerf hoop at our smaller house, there was not a great place to use it.  The basement here is pretty perfect, although the ceiling is low and Charlie can dunk while flat-footed.

Due to the ease of dunking, we had a succession of Nerf hoops of the typical sort - a cardboard backboard with a plastic rim.  These tended to fail at the same weak points - a) the cardboard slot into which the hoop inserts, b) the thinner cardboard slit where the over-the-door hook inserts and more rarely c) plastic hoop itself.  Not a single hoop of this variety survived its time in the basement without serious plastic packing tape repairs or reinforcements. None of them lasted more than four or five months, either.

A few Christmases ago, Santa stepped up his game and brought the boys a POOF brand Pro Gold over-the-door hoop with a shatterproof plastic backboard and a metal breakaway
rim.  Unlike Nerf hoops, it comes with an inflatable ball about the same size.  Our boys use that ball interchangeably with various Nerf balls.  

The hoop has survived near daily winter use.  The rim tilts down now, as almost all toy hoops seem too before too long.  But the metal rim is much more solid than the plastic ones, which enables one to occasionally make non-swish free throws and jump shots.  The backboard has taken incredible abuse (the closet door will never really be the same again) and stood up to it.  Pricewise, it's about twice as much as a cardboard and plastic hoop but has lasted at least four times as long already without a single repair.  Plus, it looks cooler.

As always with CompetentParent product reviews, I have received no compensation from the POOF-Slinky corporation.  I'm just telling you what I like.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

HHHHHH: A Measure of Improvement

This post might be better labeled "confession" than "hint."  Longtime readers will know that I am that rare person who uses his bread machine regularly, currently a Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme.  I still use a recipe from one of my Breadman machines, modfied only with a substitution of 3/4 cup of white whole wheat flour (WWW) for an equal amount of white flour.  No one in our family really likes traditional whole wheat flour, but this small substitution adds a little nutrition and actually lends some nice structure to the basic sandwich bread we use all the time.

I've used the same recipe for years and worked out the ratio of using 3/4 cup WWW in a total amount of 3 cups of flour as the maximum amount of WWW without making the yeast fight to rise the loaf reliably.  For years, when getting out my ingredients and measuring devices, I would get out a one cup measure, a 1/4 cup measure and a 3/4 cup measure.  Now that 3/4 cup measure came from a set we got at the King Arthur Flour store on a pilgrimage to Norwich, VT, a sacred place for bakers.  In addition to the traditional 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and 1 cup measures, our set includes a 2/3 cup and this 3/4 cup.  One doesn't know one needs those (or a 3/4 teaspoon) measure until one owns them.  Even owning this set for years, I left an opportunity for efficiency on the table (er...counter).  See, I would measure 2 cups of white with my 1 cup measure, then 1/4 cup of white, then 3/4 cup of WWW with that measure.  Any mathematicians shaking their heads yet?  

In the last few months, I figured out that I was replacing one part out of four with WWW.  That means I could do all my flour measuring with one measure - the 3/4.  Now, I fill that one three times with white flour and once with WWW.  There are multiple benefits:
  • It's faster to use one measure than three for the actual measuring step.
  • It keeps my counter cleaner to not put down two used measures (the other option of plunking them in the sink one by one always made me impatient).
  • I wash one cup measure instead of three.
 The strongest hint in this post is to acquire more finely-graded cup measures like this awesome-if-not-cheap set.  The other one we love is a 1/8 cup measure from another set.  While one doesn't see 1/8 cup in recipes much, one sees 2 tablespoons often, and 2 T = 1/8 C.  Boom!  Then, once you've acquired them, pay more attention than I did and find ways to cut down on the number of measures you have to use.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sexiest Young Man Alive?

If the science is true (and I have no reason to doubt it) that women find men who are interested in babies sexy, then our Charlie (12) should do pretty well with the ladies...eventually, after acne.  This year, he has added helping out in the toddler room to his church activities.  One Sunday a month, he reads over a prepared lesson and teaches the kids in the toddler Sunday School class.  He loves it and is so excited to be old enough to take on this duty.  A chidren's ministry employee told me recently that when it's Charlie's week, the paid caregivers in that room know they have easy duty because he will keep the kids' attention the entire time.  He devotes his whole self to it.

As evidence, I submit this image of his Google calendar (Yes.  He has a Google calendar.  What do you think he is?  A farmer?)  The left-hand appointment was created first and shows that it's his week to work in the toddler room.  He created the right-hand appointment later, presumably when he saw the original appointment.  It's just his private celebration of getting to spend time with the little tykes.  It's so sweet and captures his lack of self-consciousness, even in the crucible of the middle school years.

Charlie (4) holds Teddy in the first
month of brotherhood
We knew early on that Charlie loved babies.  He doted on his baby doll (Baby Russell) and was extremely affectionate and solicitous when a real baby joined him at home.  Little-boy affection for his younger brother didn't necessarily predict the current state, of course.  We feel lucky to parent this pre-teen who just loves babies and toddlers in a wholesome and caring way.