Where Is Santa?

NORAD and OnStar can tell you

Where Is Santa?

Santa's journey through NORAD and OnStar

It's the happiest time of the year! Beginning 5am Christmas Eve through 5am Christmas morning, you and your little ones can track Santa's journey with the help of NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command). You can call 877-HI-NORAD (877-446-6723) or visit NORAD Santa Tracker to see where the jolly man and his entourage are.

If you have a GM product with an active OnStar subscription, simply push the blue OnStar button and request a 'Santa Update.' The OnStar advisor will provide information based on NORAD's report. We're road-testing the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel over the holidays — you can bet that my kids will be asking to call OnStar. This is very important information at their age, you know.

My previous experience with OnStar was in the Chevrolet Malibu when I road-tested it in remote Nova Scotia. There was absolutely no cell reception, no wifi — nothing. I used OnStar to call home... it was so good to be connected and I didn't appreciate the OnStar system until then. Being in the city all the time, I just never thought about not being able to call home by my own means. And now it can track Santa? That just brings OnStar to a fun and magical level. 

The Santa Tracker tradition started in 1955, when a little girl called a number listed on a local store advertisement. That number was misprinted and she ended up calling NORAD's predecessor CONAD (Continental Air Defence Command). Colonel Harry Shoup had his operators find Santa's location and relayed the information to many kids who called that night. Since then, every year NORAD faithfully keeps kids up-to-date with Santa's progress. What gets me is how awesome it was that the colonel didn't just say “wrong number” and hang up the phone, but that he gave the night that magical touch. I can just imagine how joyful those kids were!

Today, NORAD uses infrared satellite systems, high-powered radars, SantaCams and jet fighters to locate Santa. NORAD is a joint US-Canada organization that is charged with the tasks of aerospace warning and control, as well as maritime warning. Visit NORAD Santa Tracker for the official countdown clock and to find out more about the program, Santa's village, his 'secret files,' and NORAD.

Isn't it amazing that 9 reindeer can outdo any amount of horsepower we can imagine? Talk about efficiency and achievement! Here's to you and yours — have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year! Thank you for reading my blog throughout 2013.

In gratitude, Emily.


Know the Signals: Your Dashlights are Telling You Something

Do you stop driving when a red light comes on?

Know the Signals: Your Dashlights are Telling You Something

car dash lights

It seems like there's more and more information that manufacturers want to display for you while you're driving. Not too long ago, instrument panels were plain—no lights on—just displaying your speed and RPM.

Old Car Instrument Panel

Nowadays some cars display a headlamp image (to indicate your daytime running lights are on), navigation and audio information, system information (if your oil change is due soon), tire pressure warning, etc. If you have blind spot monitoring, lane departure, or forward collision warning features on your car you'll get an occasional flash from them, too.

New Car Instrument Panel

The standard colours are red, amber, green, and occasionally blue. There have been a number of times when clients call us and ask what they should do when these warning lights come on.

Your Parking Brake: Did You Know If You Don't Use It, You'll Lose It?

Do you remember playing the traffic light game on the skating rink? The instructor says green light and you skate as fast as you can, she says red light and you have to stop. First one over the line wins. Question: When a red warning light comes on, no matter where you are, do you pull over to the side of the road and stop driving?

Green/blue light: These are for your information and are generally used to indicate to you that things are fine and/or normal.

Amber light—CAUTION: These lights include check engine, ABS, tire pressure warning, traction control, etc. Typically, if these lights remain lit, it means that the car is still driveable, but you should head to the repair shop as soon as possible. Note that in some vehicles, when the check engine light is on AND flashing, you should definitely get the vehicle diagnosed right away. More information can be found in your car's owners manual.

The Toy You Want To Take When You Drive With A Baby

Red light: Safely pull over to the side of the road and STOP. Common indicator lights indicate parking brake left on, battery charge low, oil pressure low, engine temperature too high, etc. Continued driving will lead to further damage to your vehicle. It's very important that you do not continue to drive the car if you have a red warning light. In some cases, by the time the car flags a warning light on the dash for you, the problem has already been occuring for a while.

We all have places to be and things to do. If a warning light comes on, it will seem like the worst timing. How willing are you to stop driving immediately?


2014 Honda Odyssey: Vacuuming Is Child's Play

Make a mess in this minivan—I dare you

2014 Honda Odyssey: Vacuuming Is Child's Play

2014 Honda Odyssey Vacuum Test

In my opinion, there’s only so much you can do to make a minivan exciting. A minivan, according to Google, is quite simply a “small van, a people carrier.” The 2014 Honda Odyssey is positioned as a minivan with all the bells and whistles—and a built-in vacuum cleaner. Yep, built-in. So our Odyssey clients with this feature have no excuse for driving around in a dirty minivan! That’s a lot of pressure, I must say.

Honda Odyssey profile

I gave my two boys a bucket of popcorn each and gave them complete freedom in making the minivan as messy as possible! Oh, what joy! I was impressed. The vacuum took care of the popcorn, no problem—and even my youngest son wanted to do the vacuuming. Anytime something can convince my kids to do chores, I’m sold!

Honda Odyssey Vacuum

The 2014 Honda Odyssey has a small Shop Vac in the trunk area with the vacuum hose long enough to reach the driver area.

Honda Odyssey Shop Vac  Honda Odyssey Vacuum Accessories  Honda Odyssey Vacuum Hose

Well, looks like we won’t need our vacuum cleaner; we loaded it up and off it went to my mom’s place for her to use.

Check out the cargo space:

Honda Odyssey Cargo Space

In terms of flexibility, the rear ‘Magic Seat’ easily tumbles down to provide more trunk space when you’re not using the van as a ‘people carrier.’ Since the Magic Seat is a split fold, you’ve got more options with who and what you carry – and how many.

Honda Odyssey Magic Seat Step 1  Honda Odyssey Magic Seat Step 2  Honda Odyssey Magic Seat Step 3  Honda Odyssey Magic Seat Step 4  Honda Odyssey Magic Seat Step 5  Honda Odyssey Magic Seat Step 6

The Odyssey also features a widescreen DVD player with a remote control. Perfect for a little break time at our shop.

Honda Odyssey Ultrawide DVD  Honda Odyssey AutoNiche Break

The middle bench seats are child-car-seat-friendly. With a relatively flat bottom and flush headrest, you should have no problems achieving the correct angle. The headrest does come out in case you need to remove it when installing the car seat forward-facing. Built-in sunshades are a great safety touch as they don’t become flying projectiles during a collision. Also very handy is the standard Honda conversation mirror—that way you can keep tabs on your little ones behind you.

Honda Odyssey  middle bench  Honda Odyssey booster seat  Honda Odyssey sun shade  Honda Odyssey conversation mirror

Up front the dual screen navigation/information panel took a bit for me to get used to. The instrument panel had the usual gauges that I like to see (I love analog gauges), but take a look at the panel with the key on and you’ll see how many warning lights the Odyssey has. Thankfully they kept the lights to a minimum when you’re driving.

Honda Odyssey centre console  Honda Odyssey front dash  Honda Odyssey instrument panel key on  Honda Odyssey instrument panel driving

I will say this: the built-in Cool Box is pretty neat. It keeps drinks and snacks chilled during those long summer road trips. Nice touch.

Honda Odyssey Cool Box

The front centre storage console is removable in case you need more space, and its flat top with a non-slip surface holds a take-out cup tray perfectly.

Honda Odyssey front centre console

One thing I wasn’t fond of is that the Odyssey’s door controls are to the left of the driver. If you’re in the passenger seat, you wouldn’t have easy access to the controls in case you wanted to help open the doors.

Honda Odyssey door controls

Under the hood, basic do-it-yourself maintenance items were clearly visible and the owner’s manual was full of information. They had instructions on replacing light bulbs, remote transmitter care, checking and maintaining tires, as well as jump starting and information on exhaust gas hazards, to name a few. The Honda Odyssey also has maintenance item codes which make it easy to know what needs to be done when you bring the van in for service.

Honda Odyssey engine bay

All in all, we had a good ride with the Honda Odyssey and I can see why our clients like it. Starting price is $29,990 CAD. Any vehicle that encourages my kids to vacuum is definitely worth considering!