Gadling Gear Review: Heat Holders Socks

I suffer terribly from cold feet; it’s why I don’t cheap out on socks. It’s also why I have one of those electric heater mats on the floor under my desk (a gift from my mate who sometimes just nails the gift giving with weird yet supremely likeable prezzies). Socks are way low on the scale of glam gear down with quick-dry underwear and refillable three ounce bottles, but they’re essential, and having warm feet can really make the difference between a lousy day or a good one.

Because of my terminally chilly paws, I was keen to see if Heat Holders are any better than the merino brands that stuff my sock drawer (SmartWool, IceBreaker, Dahlgren, and Darn Tough Vermont) at keeping my feet warm. (I am a fan of good socks, you may have guessed.) The short answer? Well, sort of.

I have a strong preference for natural fibers, it’s a “less plastic stuff” thing. I’m not totally naive; I do know that sometimes, the synthetics are the way to go. I’m just not that keen to spend a couple of hours waxing a canvas raincoat because I want to go with heavy cotton over far superior modern materials like GoreTex or PolarTech. Heat Holders are an acrylic poly blend; there’s nothing particularly natural about them.

They feel fine, though. They have a deep pile fleecy inside, they’re kind of cuddly, furry, even, a little bit like the inside or your lambswool slippers. (No, I don’t have those. The husband does and they’re sweet.) Outside, they’re, uh, a little plastic-y. I’ve been spoiled by merino, which I tend to prefer. But it’s the outside of the sock, who cares?

Here’s my issue with these socks. They’re really bulky. All that fluffy really does work to keep your feet warmer, and they’re great for sleeping in. But I couldn’t get them in most of my shoes. I’m not totally sold on the idea that adding bulk is the best way to stay warm. I get it — loft is how you hold heat and the loft that these socks somehow manage to provide, even after a full day’s wear, works. They worked great in my wellies, which are a little big, but I couldn’t wear them with many of my other winter boots. I’m wearing mine around the house and with my rain boots out in the wet, but for travel? Nope, too bulky.

The marketing text on the elaborate packaging says that these socks are “seven times warmer than your basic cotton sock.” That’s probably true. But I’m not sure they’re seven times warmer than some of the wool or alpaca fiber socks I’ve got, and that’s a more useful comparison.
Heat Holders socks come in a few styles: stripey, long, and in a slipper sock. Their original sock goes for just just under $20.00.

Name a cockroach after your lover: Valentine’s Day at the Bronx Zoo

cockroach, cockroachesThe Bronx Zoo has come up with a good way to show that special someone you care–name a giant cockroach after them.

The BBC reports that for ten bucks you can buy the rights to one of the zoo’s 58,000 giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches and name it after that special someone who bugs you more than anybody else. The zoo says they sold 1,000 dedications in the first day of the promotion. Perhaps their tagline helped: “Flowers wilt. Chocolates melt. Roaches are forever.”

Indeed they are. They’ve been around since before the dinosaurs and they’ll probably be around after we’re long gone. The Bronx Zoo has some interesting facts about the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, like that they can grow to three inches long and the hiss they make can be as loud as a lawnmower.

They’re nutritious too. Check out our 8 bug-eating videos including two on eating cockroachs. Also check out the far less disgusting but much more educational the video below.

[Photo courtesy user Husond via Wikimedia Commons]

It’s still Christmas in Spain!

Spain, spain, roscon, Christmas, christmasWell, Epiphany actually, but in Spain this is when we give presents. Christmas in Spain is a time for big meals and family fun, as well as church services for those who are so inclined. Santa passes Spain by to deal with the Anglo and Germanic countries, and Japan from what I hear. Spanish children wait for Los Reyes, the Three Kings, who come on their camels bearing gifts for good little boys and girls just like they did with Jesus all those years back.

The night before, it’s traditional to eat roscón de Reyes, the tasty donut-like creation seen here. This year my wife Almudena took some time off from astronomy to bake her very first roscón. It came out great. As usual, we ate it over at my 99 year-old neighbor’s place, and my wife’s roscón was better than the store-bought one she provided. Roscón is typically eaten with chocolate, hot chocolate. Now this isn’t your wimpy American cocoa; it’s a big chocolate bar melted down and served in tea cups! Perfect for dipping your roscón into.

Every roscón comes with a secret toy surprise baked somewhere inside. If you get it in your slice you have good luck for the rest of the year. I got the toy from the store-bought one, and my son Julián got the one from my wife’s roscón. Some mothers mark the spot where the toy is and make sure their kid gets that piece. I can neither confirm nor deny that Almudena did that.

Another tradition on January 5 is the Cabalgata de Reyes, a big parade where the Three Kings pass through town accompanied by their friends. Check out the video below to see this year’s parade in Madrid. After the parade the kids go to sleep, setting a shoe out for the Kings to leave the gifts next to. They also leave supplies for the hungry Kings and their camels. Julián left out peanuts for the camels and Baileys for the Kings. Remarkably, it was all gone the next morning! I thought of making a trail of peanut shells leading from Julián’s bed to his presents, but decided that would be a bit creepy.

The morning of January 6 is just like Christmas morning in other countries. The kids are up and out of bed early to see what those magical home invaders have brought. Since Julián was a good boy he got everything he asked for in his letter to the Kings. This was easy because he only requested four things. Ah, the advantages of not having a television! In fact, he got more than he asked for.

Now we’re off to my mother-in-law’s house because the Kings stopped there too. I have a shoe sitting in her living room and I’m dying to know what’s next to it. Although we did our shopping last minute (some traditions are universal), we made sure every shoe was well stocked. A few years back we got our elderly neighbor a Furby, which she still has and loves. Yeah, we all made fun of those things when they came out, but imagine how amazing a Furby is to someone born in 1911.

¡¡¡Felices Reyes!!!

SkyMall Monday: Money Maze & Bilz Pinball Game

Bilz Pinball Money Maze Game SkyMall MondayThe holiday season is in full swing and everyone is looking for the best gifts for friends and family. The SkyMall Monday headquarters is filling up with presents for our favorite people. Sometimes, though, you simply have no idea what to get for someone. No matter how much you rack your brain, you just can’t come up with the perfect gift for someone in your life. Whether it’s your coworker, mailman or mistress, you may realize that they’re better off picking out their own gifts. That’s when you need to suck it up and give them a gift card or, if you want to limit them only by their imagination, cash. However, gift cards and cash can seem cold, easy and, possibly, lazy. Not on your part, that is. You were generous. Cash and gift cards are easy for the recipients. Make those people earn their gifts by forcing them to solve a puzzle to get to that sweet consumer gold. Thanks to SkyMall, now your friends and loved ones will be able to cherish the greatest gift of all: humility. Because, after a few glasses of eggnog and with everyone staring at them, they’re going to have a hard time freeing those gift cards from the Bilz Pinball Game and Money Maze.

While there may be no greater holiday thrill than opening a giant wrapped box to find exactly the gift that you were hoping for (oh yes, I remember getting my original Nintendo very well), as an adult there is a simple joy in receiving cash. I mean, it’s money. It sure as heck beats underpants, a hideous sweater or a Two and a Half Men box set. The down side of receiving cash is that it lacks the oohs and ahhs elicited by flashier gifts. If you want the recipient of your monetary gift to be the center of attention, there’s no better way to do so than by forcing them to solve a puzzle to get their hands on their holiday booty.

Think it’s perverse to require someone to solve a puzzle to receive their holiday gift? Believe that it’s not in the Christmas spirit to make someone earn their presents? Well, seems to me that complaining about your gift might just put you on Santa’s naughty list.

Money Maze Bilz Pinball SkyMall MondayThe Bilz Pinball Game and Money Maze also serve another wonderful function: They allow the gift-giver to avoid shopping for holiday cards. Normally, you would put cash in a greeting card. Have you gone to a stationery store to shop for cards during the holidays? Christmas songs are blaring, the shelves are in complete disarray thanks ravenous customers and the employees are counting down the days until their seasonal position is eliminated by slashing marks into their wrists. In other words, it’s not the most pleasant retail environment. By putting the cash in one of these puzzles, you save yourself the time and depression of having to shop for cards. It’s a win-win.

This year, stop trying to figure out what everyone on your list wants for Christmas and Chanukah. Just get them all cash and lock it in either the Bilz Pinball Game or Money Maze. They’ll be sure to thank you when they’re done muttering obscenities under their breath while trying to solve the puzzle that is holding their gifts captive. Frankly, if you have to endure their company at yet another holiday party, the least you can do is make them get carpal tunnel while navigating their gift.

Happy Holidays!

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Bring bourbon – International travel tip

Many countries have limited access to American-made Bourbon Whiskey, but people outside the U.S. love the stuff. With the American dollar at an all-time low, it’s a good idea to have something to barter with overseas.

Some Japanese will spend the equivalent of $40 for a handle of cheap whiskey that costs $20 or less in America. So, bring a few bottles of your favorite bourbon to your country of choice and bring back souvenirs for your whole family.

Alternatively, present a bottle to your host as a deep appreciation for inviting/hosting you.

[Photo: Flickr | Chris.Corwin]