Halfway Around the World: A New Zealand Travelogue


Kia Ora!  For our vacation this year, we visited Matt’s mom and her Kiwi dh in New Zealand for Christmas.  They live on a farm of about 10 acres and grow avocados, some oranges, some lemons, and some apples, along within smattering of some other local fruit.  Their main business is a bed and breakfast, so we end up with very nice accommodations :).  Trouble is, they’re selling it, so if and when we visit next, we won’t have gorgeous views of the Tasman Sea, playing on the beach or their grounds . . . sigh.

Anyway, those crazy Kiwis, they do more weird things than just drive on the wrong side of the road and talk funny.  Their cars are different, their road signs are (dare I say?) logical, and child passenger safety laws are abysmal.


The Safest AND Most Flexible Family Vehicle?


We’ve already covered the new 2011 Honda Odyssey quite extensively in Part I and Part II of my preview and also in Kecia’s review.  With the amazingly flexible 8-passenger seating and great cargo space, it is arguably the best family hauler around, especially for larger families with lots of small kids!

But what about safety?  We didn’t know much at the time of our reviews, other than the great history of top crash results Honda has had with the 2nd and 3rd generation Odyssey.  Well, now we know a bit more about the new 2011 Odyssey in terms of crashworthiness, and the results are outstanding.  First, the Odyssey is one of the few vehicles so far to get an overall 5-star rating in the new 2011 NHTSA crash testing system.  In fact, it received a perfect 5-stars in all five crash tests (Frontal Driver and Passenger, Side Front Seat Male, Reat Seat Female and the new Side Impact Pole Test).  As of today, no other SUV or van has managed this feat of crash safety! It received 4-stars in the rollover rating (not an actual crash test).  In fact, only one other vehicle in the 2011 NHTSA crash test database can match this result as of today, the 2011 Chevy Cruze.

The good news doesn’t stop there.  The IIHS has given the 2011 Odyssey it’s top “Good” result in their frontal offset crash test, their side impact test and in their ratings for seat geometry and head restraints (not an actual crash test).  The only thing keeping the 2011 Odyssey from a “Top Safety Pick” for 2011 is that it has not yet been tested for roof crush strength.  A good result there and the Odyssey will be one of a very exclusive group of vehicles to be an “IIHS Top Safety Pick” AND have a 5-star overall NHTSA rating.

Even so, 5-star NHTSA crash results across the board are impressive, especially in the new testing that is more difficult than the tests done in 2010 and earlier.  Kecia has a blog with more on that topic.  To combine that with Good results in the two IIHS crash tests is a very impressive accomplishment  indeed; one that will set the standard for crash test safety for family vehicles.  I have been considering switching from my 2006 Honda Odyssey to an SUV, but these results might make me reconsider!  If only I could get the fuel economy of the Touring models for the price of an EX, or better yet, a hybrid!

Editors Note: The 2011 Odyssey did later receive an IIHS “Top Safety Pick” award, after its result in the roof crush test was one of the best results ever.  With solid performance for crash avoidance and excellent crashworthiness, the Odyssey has a genuine claim to being one of the safest passenger vehicles on the road today!

Guest Blog: Burning Down the House


Earlier this week I inadvertently created a plume of green toxic smoke in my kitchen. As fun and interesting as that sounds, it’s not actually the topic of this post. It did, however, lead someone to remind me about the time I left carrots cooking on the stove while I ran some errands. I realized that we, understandably, spend a lot of time talking about the number-one killer of children (car accidents), so why not also take a minute to talk about the number-one cause of residential fires (unattended cooking)?

Now of course I didn’t intend to leave my carrots on the stove. I had planned on running to the craft store and then out to dinner, so I put some carrots on the stove to boil for my one-year-old to chomp on at the restaurant. I set the timer and went to do some other things.

The Ultimate Graco Smart Seat Review (with tons of pics)!


What’s brand new, highly innovative and currently the talk of the [carseat] town?  Why, the new Graco 3-in-1 Smart Seat, of course!  I was so psyched when I saw this seat for the first time at the ABC Expo last autumn.  It’s no secret that I love new CRs and I get really excited when I see a brand new concept or design.  So now that you know what turns me on – let’s review this hot new product!  😉

 The Smart Seat provided by Graco for this review is the “Signature Series” in the Jessica pattern.  A new girly fabric named Jemma is now available.  Also new, a more gender-neutral pattern called Rosin.  MSRP is $299.

Smart Seat Features:

Stay-In-Car Smart Base  Similar to an infant carseat design, the Smart Seat utilizes a unique, heavy-duty base that installs with either lower LATCH anchors or seatbelt.  An extra base can also be purchased separately.  The sturdy, built-in lockoff device is only used for seatbelt installations.  The lower LATCH connectors are the hook-style but these aren’t the standard hook connectors that you normally see.  These are clearly heavy-duty connectors.  The seat is locked onto the base in either the rear or forward-facing position.  If the seat is going to be used in the forward-facing position – you need to attach the top tether strap (which is on the back of the seat – not on the base), to the appropriate top tether anchor in your vehicle.  You do not need to uninstall the base when switching from rear-facing to forward-facing or vice versa.  You only need to unlock the seat from its base, switch the orientation, and lock it in again.  Just don’t forget the tether if you are using the seat forward-facing!