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The Day I Put A Christmas Tree in a Honda Odyssey

auto, GEAR By December 15, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

If you ask what the biggest obstacle is for just about any Mom, keeping the car clean will be near the top of her list. We’ve sent people to the moon, can photograph a cheque to deposit it into a bank account and yet no car company had ever made a vehicle with a built-in vacuum.  Until now.  I have been test driving the Touring version of the 2014 Honda Odyssey and quite possibly may never give it back. I shoved a Christmas Tree in a Honda Odyssey and vacuumed up all the needles.

Roomy and luxurious, the favourite feature of the minivan is a vacuum that extends right from the rear all the way to the front windshield.  With a cord that won’t tangle. To truly test the functionality, I got permission from Honda to use the vehicle to carry not one, but two Christmas trees from the lot to my home. Pulling a cord and flipping the seats down was easy, and the 11-foot tree slid into the car with ease.  The 12-footer was strapped to the roof with twine.  After removing and decorating the stunners, the car was pine scented and fresh, but there were needles everywhere.

The Honda Odyssey Vacuum

I pressed the start button on the vehicle once to put the Odyssey into accessory mode. Pupping the trunk using the smart key, I only had to touch the ‘on’ button and grab the hose from the stowage area.  There are 2 attachments and it will run for 8 minutes before it shuts off on its own.  Not to worry if your car looks like mine – shutting car off and turning cit back on gives you another eight minutes of Cheerio-sucking bliss. 

The Odyssey Cool box

Cool box as in ‘keeps drinks, leftovers or pumped breastmilk nice and chilly. You just press a button to put air conditioning in the box.  The great thisg is that unlike other auto manufacturers, Honda does not simply use the vents to cool the box but has a seperate A/C cooling system.  So you can be warm while the juiceboxes stay cold.

The Odyssey Back Seat

You know when you try to squeeze three carseats across a back seat and the kids can’t access the seatbelt buckles so you have to get out of the car and buckle everyone in yourself? That doesn’t happen here.  You can move the back seats wider apart to make more carseat room.  There are window shutters that slide up and down that proved very durable as my kids played with them. ‘Daytime. Nighttime. Daytime. Nighttime.’ What a fun game.

The Miraculous Odyssey A/V System

Have you ever had a toddler and a teen fight over tv selection? Dora or Twilight and NO compromise.  This vehicle solve the issue. (Yes, you may want to move into it).  The wider drop-down video screen can split into two sides so each can watch their preferred programming. Switch seats after a rest stop? No worries.  The flick of a button on the remote will allow you to swap the screen. Cordless headphones can be assigned to either side, and the third row seating boasts hdmi or rca jacks for your secondary source dvd.  Or maybe an ipod. Or the Xbox or ps3.  Guitar hero anyone?

Odyssey Tech

The touchscreen is new to this Odyssey and when used with the Aha system, makes your life easy. Hondalink is a free app from iTunes or google play. It allows you to stream internet radio. You can pick any station in North America, type of music using hardly any data. You could, for instance, use it two hours per day for a month and use only 1 gig of data on your smartphone. Swipe to play the next song if you don’t like the current one, and set up to 16 stations as favourites..

Voice command functionality allows you to talk to the car.  With 2 presses of the voice command button you can say things like:
‘Find nearest gas station’, ‘Passenger temperature 25’, ‘Fan speed 5’ or ‘Rear defrost on’ and the car will do your bidding. No you cannot marry your car.

The clock is set via satellite so you never have to change the time again (or remember to add an hour).

Curious about the Christmas Tree test? Check out my video.  Spoiler alert: It will make you want a 2014 Honda Odyssey.

 

This article was generously sponsored by Honda Canada. All opinions, images and ideas are my own.  For more information, visit honda.ca/odyssey.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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How to Drive a Stick Shift

auto, GEAR By July 3, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , No Comments

How to Drive Stick ShiftGet your head out of the gutter Mom.  Learning how to drive a stick shift (or manual transmission for the techies) is a perfect skill to add to your bucket list.  Not only does the manual shifting of gears give you more power and control, but it could be necessary in an emergency (think James Bond in Die Another Day), renting a hot European driving machine in the South of France, being a DD to a friend in a race car, or driving on icy roads (last but not least).  I have owned a couple of manual cars and was fortunate to learn on my Dad’s before I ruined my own clutche(s) (thanks Dad).  But I must admit, the control over the car and the jaw-dropping stares by people as I stepped into my car in stilettos and didn’t stall was worth every ounce of effort.

It used to be the case that most people drove manual. Not now.  Honda has a deep heritage in racing, and I was lucky to attend a manual driving school with professional racers Daniel Morad and Jeff Boyce.  Very cool.  Honda believes that manual transmission is at the core of the driving experience. and without it, driving has lost some of its ‘fun-ness’. It doesn’t have to be just for getting to a destination with juice boxes being biffed at your head.  It’s a better experience with manual because you control more.  About the car.  Unfortunately Honda has no backseat nanny option .  As yet.  They do have a vacuum in the new 2014 Odyssey though.

Honda Manual DriveSo I ‘raced’ the 2013 Honda Civic around a track – it’s the best selling car in Canada for 15 years.  It was responsive, compact and exciting.  And then I got to drive with the pro.  For the record – I didn’t stall.  But I certainly picked up a ton of pointers on how to drive a stick shift.

1. Depress clutch all way to floor so car will start.
2. Adjust seat. (In my case way up and forward).
3. Hands at 9 and 3 to protect from airbag. No longer 10 and 2.
4. Put car in 1st gear. Put right foot under seat. Cars have enough torque to move a bit nowadays without balancing the clutch and gas. (Exception – on a hill use the emergency brake to avoid rolling backward and balance the feet).
5. Once car rolls, lift clutch and give a bit of gas.
6. Clutch needs to be fully up or down.   Don’t hover foot over clutch pedal.
7.  Put foot on floor or to left of clutch.
8. Advanced: When you downshift blip throttle to eliminate jolt to lower gear.
9. Clutch down then break when stopping.
10.  Breathe. 

 

Here’s a clip of the lovely Laura Heasman from Honda Canada ending in Daniel Morad doing his power lap – WHILE talking as I shot footage.  I think I would have stalled.

 

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Acura 2103 ILX Hybrid and ILX Technology

auto, GEAR By June 4, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , No Comments

acura ilxThere’s a joke now about me as I test drive vehicles.  Unlike other auto journalists, it takes about an hour for me to take all of the kid stuff out of my own car and transfer it to the tester.  Car seats, sporting equipment, groceries, garbage, dried cheerios and dirty coffee mugs make their way into the clean new car as everyone around me chuckles.  Luckily whenever I drive an Acura, I feel so much like a princess that I don’t mind the extra work.  I drove the Acura ILX Hybrid (MSRP $35,050) and ILX Technology (MSRP$32,350) back to back and was delighted by what I found.

Though they are different to drive (and a tad distracting if you watch the dials as much as I do), hybrids are winning my love at the moment.  Typically it’s all about the environment and the time and money you save at the gas pumps, but as an under-appreciated mom, I have other reasons.  I feel like I’m in control; of how I use the fuel, how I drive, and the noise level within the car. I also feel good about myself for simply driving a hybrid (and am able to park in hybrid-only parking spots).  That’s nice too.

That aside, here’s what I loved about both vehicles:

1.  The Valet key is genius. The removable key portion ensures that the valet or a burglar can’t get into trunk if the ‘valet’ option is switched off.  For this reason there is no passthru on the trunk on hybrid.  (Skiiers beware).
2.  Flat tire seal repair kit for the hybrid ensures you have no need to change a tire on the side of road.  Perfect safety for women!
3.  There’s a hard drive in the vehicle so that when you insert a cd it will copy your music and store it on the hard drive (150 cd capacity).
4.  Like in Hondas, there is a flat back floor which gives backseat passengers more room – especially if someone is sitting between two carseats.
5.  Pant protector and the double seal on doors ensures that you don’t get oil and grease on your new designer jeans.
6.  Seat warmers remember last setting so nobody can play a joke on you by making your backside too hot..  Ditto for the navigation system with voice recognition.
7.  The push button start, while leaving the key in your purse is a must for moms.
8.  The look is super sporty with a low profile and great viz.
9.  Rear windows are nice and low so that the kids can see out (hopefully avoiding some car screaming time).
10.  The SMS text message function reads you texts as you drive, and you are also able to respond with a few stock responses such as ‘I’ll text later, I’m driving’.  Much fun can be had with passengers in the back seat depending on the propriety of incoming text messages.
11.  There is a “feedback” system in the Hybrid that lets a driver know how well they are performing.  A big green ball grows larger if you drive sensibly and shrinks if you don’t.  So try to limit the shrinkage.

Drawbacks:
1.  I thought the trunk of the hybrid was small, as the battery is behind the back seat (or perhaps I carry around too much junk…)
2.  Totally not a drawback with the vehicles but either with my kids or my ineptitude as a Mom.  Where does all of the kid-dirt come from?  I am SO glad I don’t have to clean the car after a week of driving. What’s with the blue playdoh?

The Verdict?

Loved both of these vehicles and for the extra couple of thousand dollars, I’d choose the Acura ILX Hybrid.  The savings in fuel, the rear spoiler and the self-love you’ll receive make it a slam dunk.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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The 2013 Honda Accord Unveiling in Santa Barbara

auto, GEAR, ROAM, USA By October 9, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

At the 2013 Honda Accord Unveiling in Santa Barbara, I realized that I am really not an auto writer.  I know.  Our readers have known that for ages.  But as I was grilled on social media by die-hard car journalists from the LA Times and highly technical publications, I realized that as a mom, my perspective is very unique and valid.  I admit, though, that I dropped a few comments like “What is torque again?” (With a valleygirl accent and a hair twirl) just to get their shocked reactions.  Snicker.

As a mom I look for vehicles with style and family-friendliness.  The 2013 Accord comes in a plug-in hybrid, coupe or sedan versions.  I drove them all, and also the manual transmission model.   Wow.  These things purred.  Peppy, spirited and fun to drive, I think I may have to take a look at investing in Honda stock.  Here’s what I loved about the new Accord.

Honda Link 2013 Accord1.  Honda Link.  I could go on and on.  Honda Link is a cloud-based system that connects you (safely) to the web.  Voice recognition, text messaging, audiobooks, digital music content, hand-picked radio stations, restaurant searches and Facebook audio feeds without having to mess with your mobile phone… perfect for kids and passengers.  You really shouldn’t tweet and drive, BTW.  And Honda is so safe they won’t even let you set up your Bluetooth or wireless texting sync when the car is moving.

2.  The plug-in hybrid.  Talk about quiet.  And fast.  It reminded me of driving my husband’s Jaguar.  Seriously.  (Except I kept forgetting the car was on and trying to restart).  When it comes to recharging, Honda says the Accord plug-in can get a full recharge in an hour from a 240-volt charger.

3.  Quiet.  The interior is so quiet that you have to blast music so you don’t lull off to sleep.  Great for babies.  There are lots of reasons for the lack of interior noise – one is that the dashboard is only one piece so not as much wind gets in.  The engine is coated in a sound-deafening shield-thingy too.

4.  Similarly, there is little drag.  The ‘sideburns’ of the car and exterior styling make it look fabulously sporty, but also improve the performance.  The coupe is sportiest of all, of course, and offers parents with teens going off to University enough room in the back for visits home while helping them combat the empty-nest state with a huge amount of cool factor.

Accord 2013 LED Lights5.  I can honestly say that I have never driven a car with a more responsive steering system.  It made me a little dizzy, as I like to ‘bop to the music’ and tend to ‘steer’ to the beat.   Another reason the auto writers were gaping at me. (And I was the only one driving in stilettos, of course).

6.  Holy trunk room.  We were joking that you could fit a couple of bodies in there.  The trunk was easy to close with one hand if you had groceries, an infant or multiple Vuitton sachels in the other.

7.  Lots of attention was paid to details such as where the stitching on the steering wheel falls as you grip it.  The luxury-lover in me was pretty happy with the design elements.

Lane Watch Honda8.  The side mirrors could be on the space shuttle they are so technical.  Not that a shuttle has side mirrors, but whatever..  To eliminate blind spots, Honda has developed a camera called LaneWatch™ that ‘sees’ into the next lane.  The image flashes onto your 8 inch dashboard LCD screen so you are never blind.  They’ve kind of fixed every frustration about driving, allowing you to have confidence in your ability and thereby be a safer driver.  Pretty smart.  If only Honda could make my hair look good when I don’t blowdry.  And make all of the mirrors in the world make me look skinny.  Ok.  I digress.

9.  There is an option to turn the Accord’s Lane Departure Warning sensor on or off.  Once I figured it out, I was really impressed.  And realized that I’m not a very good driver. Driving along I couldn’t figure out what was beeping at me.  Every time I got too close to a line on either side without putting on my indicator signal, I thought there were birds in the car.  Back to driving school for me. (Or maybe fewer riveting conversations with my drive partner Tanya Gordon).

10.  The forward collision warning was incredible.  And there is also a turbo-break thing that happens.  When the car senses you breaking suddenly, it will put even more force into the brakes, ensuring you stop on a dime.  (Which was incredibly fortunate when a distracted mom pulled over in a dangerous spot on the side of a  vineyard road and her toddler ran into the street.)  My heart is still racing.

11.  Talking to the car was a blast.  “XM Channel 72” and the sounds of Broadway filled the vehicle.  Better still – it only recognizes one voice at a time so my kids wouldn’t be able to change the tunes to the Disney Channel every five minutes!

Technical Stuff:

The 2.4-liter, 185 horsepower four-cylinder engine is rated at 27 MPG in city driving and 36 on the highway.  For the V-6 engine, the highway rating is 34 MPG and city rating is 21 MPG.  Pretty great – especially for a vehicle that handles beautifully and can go from zero to 60 MPH in a quick 5.6 seconds (Motor Trend).

Our take?  Honda enthusiasts, Moms, kids and tech-lovers will snap it up.  Fast.  And we’d certainly want it as a push present.

Honda Accord

 

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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What's in My Bag: The Coolest Flash Drives sent by PR Folks

GEAR, tech By August 30, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

I get a ton of PR pitches and therefore a staggering number of flash drives.  Incidentally, I also receive a ton of CD roms filled with information I can’t access with my MacBook Air.  (PR People please take note).  I thought I’d follow through with Kelby Carr’s ingenious ‘Marketers Who Understand Blogger Outreach‘ post with something fun before the long weekend.  So I emptied my USB Drawer and found my ultimate favourites from Public Relations teams who know their brand and respect me as a writer enough to make me want to grin.  Here are my favourites:

1.  McCafe, who engraved my Twitter handle ‘@urbanmommies‘ on the back.
2.  Honda – A clever car key (that I could make into a necklace a la Tiffany & Co and take my data with.)
3.  Disney Fantasy.  Rubber (waterproof I think), fun for kids to play with and very chic.
4.  Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe.  Gorgeous wood.  Refined and symmetrical.
5.  Dole.  Because who doesn’t want to carry a banana-shaped flash drive in their purse?
6.  Disney Cars Land – in the shape of a race announcer’s microphone.
7.  Store Brand Formula.com in the shape of a formula bottle.  Because I laughed out loud, as no Canadian PR company would ever attempt this given the volatile and judgmental Canadian nursing climate, and the most popular articles on UrbanMommies are breastfeeding-related.
8.  The Victorinox 4GB super-secure flashdrive which cannot be broken into if you’re a PC user.  And because it is made by Victorionox and stores information on it’s own brand, which is smart and somehow ironic.  And I love the spy-like nature of it’s security.
9.  The ultimate: The G. Marquis Winery flashdrive in a branded wine cork.  Because it floats, it’s durable, cool, on-brand, and, well.. they did their homework.

Cheers!

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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The Honda CR-V

auto, GEAR By August 22, 2012 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

I had the pleasure of driving with Yoyomama’s Annemarie Templeman-Kluit over the Sea to Sky Highway in a Honda CR-V.  Final destination: the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.  I was never very familiar with Honda, and after meeting Steven Weber and getting a mini-university education on the innovations within the CR-V, I feel like an expert.  (And I kind of geeked out while I listened.)  Wow!  Cool!  What’s a powertrain again?  (And why would all these car companies advertise the warranty on one when most of us have no clue what it is?)

We began our trip by loading the car.  Piles and piles of coolers, carseats, suitcases, beach balls, canoe paddles and hockey bags were piled on the floor.  I looked at the pile skeptically and took photos as Annemarie loaded up.  Ha ha.  But it all fit! I was shocked at how much space there was.

During the drive, we played jokes on each other with the voice-activated commands which culminated in Annemarie raising the passenger seat temperature so high that I was sweltering.  I later got her back but driving so quickly that she got a bit nauseus while Tweeting.  The car was so quiet we couldn’t stop gabbing.

Favourite things about the Honda CR-V:

  1. Noise cancelling wrap on engine.  It’s called something fancy but I just know how quiet the car is to drive.
  2. No bump in backseat floor because the stabilizers are on the sides of the car and Honda has figured out how to place the drive shaft lower down.  This allows for much more leg room if there is a passenger in the middle.
  3. The rear doors open 90 degrees, which helps immensely when loading kids into car seats.
  4. Voice activated commands so if you don’t like the person in the passenger seat, you can alter their temperature so they are uncomfortable.  Plus it only works with your own voice so your kids can’t change the music to ‘Wheels on the bus’.
  5. Storage to die for.
  6. Really smooth ride.
  7. You can put photos from usb onto your screen – perfect for a road trip!
  8. ECON mode saves on gas but the car lost a bit of pep.  Pedal to the metal baby.
  9. The backup camera has 3 lines and the dotted one shows you how far you can back up and still open the hatch.  So smart.
  10. You can pull a lever and the seats and headrests flip and fold down.  There’s another strap on the side of the car so you could pull the seats from this area too.
  11. There are mud flaps on the door so you don’t get mud and grease on your Gucci pants.
  12. The ice blue colour of our vehicle was like Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes and I think it made me look taller.
  13. The car was pretty high off the ground and had great visibility.  The windows are also low so kids can see out even if they are small.  I’ve always found that this helps distract the children who tend to dislike car rides.
  14. The front looked stylish and kind of reminded me or Mr. Moustache (not that I’m addicted to Angry Birds).
  15. There was bluetooth connectivity for syncing music wirelessly from your phone.  You can also sync texts to the car!

 

And the verdict?  Loved it.  Safety is obviously a huge priority for Honda, and the CRV is a great, spacious family choice.

Would it make a good Push Present?  Yup.  And she’ll still feel super-sporty and fabulous.

 www.honda.ca

 Disclosure: UrbanMommies drove the Honda CR-V for 2 days and was hosted for meals and hotel accommodation.  As always, our opinions are our own.

 

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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