The Five Parents Who Really Need the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited

review pic The Five Parents Who Really Need the 2014 Toyota Highlander LimitedAfter driving a 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited for a week, I had a hard time giving it back. I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I loved it. After all, I happily drive a compact car. But I drove it through the crazy streets of Boston, the crazy streets of New York City, the quiet streets of Amish Country, and I loved every minute. I even parallel parked like a pro thanks to its backup camera. 

While I’d take this car in a second, there are plenty of people who need it a lot more than I do. 

Collage The Five Parents Who Really Need the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited

1. The Parent Who Needs to Have an Awkward Talk With Their Teenager

Without fail, when I tell people with kids about this feature of the 2014 Highlander, their eyes light up and they get really excited. The possibilities! The difference it could make in your everyday life! What is this fantastic feature? It’s called the “Driver Easy Speak” and it’s really just a microphone and speakers. A microphone that only picks up the front seat. A speaker that only plays in the back. The people who designed the Highlander probably just meant for this feature to make it easier for someone driving to talk to someone in the back without having to yell or turn around. But the key to the Driver Easy Speak is that this is not a two-way system. It’s a one-way system. As in You Talk, They Listen. 

Need to chat about the birds and the bees? Need to talk to your child about why they can’t drink alcohol even though you can? Awkward conversations now no longer require you to look your kid in the eye. You have their full attention and neither of you has to look at each other. Also? They can’t stop you. You’ve got the microphone, you can turn the volume up and say what you need to say. 

I told you. It’s brilliant. 

highlander 2 300x300 The Five Parents Who Really Need the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited2. The Parent Who Is Still Too Cool For a Minivan

With seating for 8, the Highlander gives you the ability to take a bunch of kids to carpool without surrendering to the minivan. Sleek and stylish and definitely an SUV, this is an excellent choice for the person who technically should be in a minivan but can’t get over that mental block that this will really mean that they’re not cool anymore. 

3. The Parent Whose Trunk Is Chronically Full of Sports Equipment

Whether you drive an SUV or a sedan, having crap constantly filling up your trunk is no good. Especially when it’s crap for your kids and it means you never have anywhere to put your groceries. The third row in the Highlander can be all the way up, all the way down, or a mix of up and down. But whether you keep the seats up or down, that third row can be the new resting place for that stuff taking up all your trunk space. Won’t it be nice to get that back?

Highlander resized 1 The Five Parents Who Really Need the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited

4. The Parent Who Insists on Roadtrips Because It Was Good Enough For Them When They Were A Kid And It’s Important For Family Togetherness And No We’re Not There Yet Now Shut Up.

We took a week-long road trip to Pennsylvania in the Highlander, from Boston, to north of Philly, over to Hershey, then back to Boston. We got comfortable.

highlander 1 300x300 The Five Parents Who Really Need the 2014 Toyota Highlander LimitedWith all the room, we had plenty of space to stretch out, plenty of room to stash treats, and plenty of places to keep activities for the littles. 

But as the driver I got the best deal. The Highlander has its own navigation system so I didn’t need to rely on a passenger or use up all the battery on my phone. 

It has Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, which means when you’ve got cruise control on and the car in front of you slows down, the Highlander slows down, too. 

It has satellite radio, so on our drive I didn’t have to resort to podcasts or audiobooks. Instead, it was the Broadway Station all the way, baby! 

5. The Parent Whose Giant Purse Takes Up The Passenger’s Entire Foot Space

The center console of any car is usually space that doesn’t get put to much use. Maybe you can put some things down there, but not a lot. 

The new Highlander? Has the BIGGEST center console I have ever seen. Its capacity is nearly 25 liters. Even if you have a gigantic purse, you can set it right in there, still close the top, and your passengers will no longer have to try and wedge their feet into the teeny space remaining in a part of the car that should have been theirs alone

It doesn’t feel obtrusive, just like an arm rest. There aren’t a bunch of tiny little nooks and crannies you can’t really use.

Oh, and there’s also a nice little shelf along the bottom of the front dash board that has a nice grippy surface so if you set your phone in there, it won’t go skidding across the car when you make a turn. Everything’s just so stinking convenient!

 

I still miss that Highlander. Sigh.

Thanks to Toyota for bringing me in for their Highlander Press Preview and giving me the use of a Highlander for a week. I was not required to write about it. I just wanted to.

There Must Be (Thirty)Something More Than This

A couple months ago I was very smart and got a deal on Audible that got me 3 audiobooks for 6 bucks and after I forgot about it for a couple months, I finally started using them. That’s how I ended up listening to Landline by Rainbow Rowell (affiliate link) for the last few days. It’s delightful, but also has me all meditative. What’s struck me as I listen is just how much it’s about 30-something life. Especially what you think your 30′s will be compared to how they shake out.

Your 30′s is when things are supposed to start coming together. You build your family, you advance in your career, you settle into your friendships, you find your financial footing.

So far none of these things are happening to me. 

I mean, yes, I have two kids, but building a family is more complicated than procreation. I guess I had this one for a while, but so so much of that hard work got destroyed by the subsequent family-breaking-apart business. 

I have a job, but I have yet to stick to a career with forward movement and progress and expertise. I have a salary, but I am still living paycheck to paycheck. I pay my bills (hopefully all of them) and then hold my breath for a few more weeks. I’ve made friends, but my community is spread out and me being single has only made my connection to the almost-completely-married bunch more tenuous.

I feel like my 30′s were supposed to be my prime in that 30′s-are-the-new-20′s kind of way. The decade when I had myself together enough to enjoy life, where I’d be wise enough to not feel embarrassed about myself in the future, where I’d really come into my own. But so far, nearly halfway through, my 30′s just feel unmoored. Busy, exhausted, and unmoored. So when will my prime get here? Will it ever get here? Did I already miss it? Is there even such a thing?

I have my doubts.

And there’s more. Your 30′s aren’t just the years that life sorts itself out. They’re also the years when things start getting painfully real. In your 20′s you get your first brushes with mortality. Friends die in accidents and get cancer. In your 30′s, that keeps happening, and on top of that your friends’ kids die in accidents and get cancer. At the rate things are going, I expect this to just continue getting worse from here.

Now it feels like 30′s are when you sit down for the first time and say to yourself, “This is not what was supposed to happen.”

But what next? What happens after you say that? I guess on the plus side it’s only the 30′s! You’ve still got time to throw a real life together. You haven’t yet reached the point where you’re looking back mournfully on a misspent life. I’ve still got 5 years to see what I can make out of this decade. And looking back at how much has happened in the last 5 years, I can see just how much time that is. 

It’s a lot of time, but there’s still a lot I’d like to do. I’ll be honest, the thought of entering my 40′s in the state I’m in now is terrifying. Somehow it’s excusable now by the fact that I’m still 34, that this is just temporary, that things will come together. I sure hope they will, because I’ve only got 5 years and a couple months left to get ready for the next decade.

Back to School at Macy’s

sponsored post image Back to School at MacysIf you’re in that boat like me, there’s a big Back to School event at Macy’s at South Shore Plaza in Braintree tomorrow (Saturday) at 2 pm. I’ve covered a bunch of these Macy’s events in the past and I am always able to shop, have fun, and keep the kids busy when I go. A triple win, especially on the weekend when the errand list gets a little long.

BRIDGEWATER FINAL Page 2 2 1 Back to School at MacysYou know that wave of Back to School shopping you do? And you know how you always forget that second wave of Back to School shopping you do after school starts when you realize what you missed the first time? Yeah, that.

The kiddos and I will be there and so will crafts, games, and Radio Disney. 

Want to come? Head to South Shore Plaza (I know you’re probably heading somewhere like that anyway. Let’s be honest.) and you’ll find it at Macy’s on the 2nd floor at 2 pm. Updates on styles for kids clothes this year, stuff to keep the kids busy and happy, and a gift with a qualifying purchase. Full info here.

I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with compensation for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

A Few Little Heartbreaks

Monday was the first day of school. It’s not a huge change for us because Graham spent all summer at camp, which is like school in a lot of ways. But it’s still a bit of a shift, especially after both kids spent a week at home in paradise getting pampered by their Grammy.

We had a little time to kill and Tessa requested nail polish. I gave in. Graham decided he wanted some, too, the same sparkly red that Tessa was getting. 

Little heartbreak #1: Then he changed his mind.

“I don’t want the girls at school to see it,” he said.

“Why not?” I said.

He started to explain, but couldn’t articulate it, so he stopped. Over the last couple years Graham has slowly started to understand that things he likes are not what other kids do. Lately I’ve noticed it’s starting to impact his behavior. It hasn’t changed his preferences, but he’s paying attention to what others think. On one hand, it shows an increase in social awareness. On the other hand… I hate that he can’t do what he wants to do because of what other kids will think. And the first day of school isn’t the time to have this talk.

Graham is taking the bus in the mornings this year since I’m already home for Tessa’s therapy twice a week. I got out the camera and someone was not in the mood.

Little heartbreak #2: No perfect first day of school picture. 

It’s a small thing, but one that’s particularly hard after the parade of photos of smiling kids heading off to school all holding those damn printouts.

First Day of School 2014 A Few Little Heartbreaks

Never fear, he was perfectly happy to go to school. Just not thrilled about the camera part of the equation.

Tessa finished up therapy on a high note, a bit surprising since early on it was looking like it could be an epic tantrum kind of day. After that things went downhill. 

I tried to get her out to the car and off to daycare. She wasn’t having it. “Mommy’s house,” she said. “Park,” she said. Daycare? No thanks. Finally got her out the door and in her carseat by allowing her to carry my lunchbag like a purse with a jar of dino gummy vitamins inside.

In the car she fell asleep a few minutes before we got to our destination.

Little heartbreak #3: Handing off Tessa at daycare was full of tears and fighting.

This was probably the hardest one of the day. Tessa made her desires known. She wanted to stay home and play like she just had for a week with Grammy. She wanted to be at my house. She would even take me as a substitute for Grammy. But it wasn’t going to happen.

And worse, it’s not what I want. Even if I could afford to stay home with her, I would be unhappy staying home with her. I’ve done it, I know this already. But this was the first time she’s ever let me know that she would rather things were different.

Pickup went better. Tessa was just up from a very very long nap and was in oddly good spirits. Graham was happy after his first day of school, though he reported, “We did so much work and there was hardly any time to play!” I’d spent Sunday catching up on work and not prepping the house for the kids, so we had to get groceries.

Little heartbreak #4: Everything feels so hard sometimes.

As you can imagine, grocery shopping didn’t go so great. I thought we’d made it through and then it all fell apart near the end. Of course, the big problem was that I fell apart. I was that woman whose child starts losing it in the grocery store who sounds so tired and frustrated and fed up. And it’s only Monday. 

Right now life isn’t perfect for us. Each day has its fair share of little heartbreaks, some not so little. We are together, we are often happy, we love each other, and I think that’s enough.

Chicken Verde Lettuce Wraps

sponsored post image Chicken Verde Lettuce WrapsWhen Hood asked me to put together a recipe for a dinner entree using sour cream, I immediately said yes. Because apparently I have no idea how hard it is to make a recipe. Respect to all the food bloggers out there, you guys have a hard job. 

But I put in some time and effort and ended up making a tasty meal with a little Mexican flair that is mild enough for kids and super healthy. 

The star of my dish? TOMATILLOS!

Hood Resized 2 Chicken Verde Lettuce Wraps

I love tomatillos, and an opportunity to give them some visibility was one I was happy to take. I do like salsa, but salsa verde made with tomatillos instead of tomatos is by far my favorite. It’s got a more citrusy tang and some sweetness that works well with creamy sour cream or cheese. (Yes, I am a sucker for Enchiladas Suizas.)

My original vision was to create a kind of street taco with a crema from tomatillos, avocados, and sour cream. But after a few tries I moved in a slightly different direction when my crema just didn’t get the right flavors or substance. Plus I found that a corn tortilla overwhelmed my mellow tomatillos.

I was thinking about salads and then it hit me: lettuce wraps. A healthy way to serve my dish plus an extra green ingredient to make a real “verde” dish.

This is a slow cooker meal, perfect for a working parent and super easy. Tomatillos were easy for me to find in the grocery store, even here in New England! If you have trouble just hit your local ethnic grocery. They’re also cheap (win!) and it’s a great time of year for tomatillos and avocados both. 

If you’ve never used tomatillos before, they come in a husk. Make sure you give them a once over before you buy. Like many veggies, smaller means more flavor. When you get them home, take off the husk and give them a good rinse since they tend to be a little sticky.

Hood Resized 1 Chicken Verde Lettuce Wraps

 

Chicken Verde Lettuce Wraps

1 lb tomatillos, husked and rinsed thoroughly
2 cloves garlic
1 lb chicken breasts (or thighs)
2 white onions
1 bunch cilantro
3/4 c. chicken broth
3/4 c. sour cream
2 avocados
1 head butter lettuce
2 cobs fresh corn (optional)
 
Broil the tomatillos and garlic cloves (unpeeled) until slightly charred, turning once, about 5-10 minutes. Peel the garlic and halve the tomatillos.
 
Add chicken, tomatillos, garlic, chicken broth, and a few stalks of cilantro to slow cooker. Slice one onion and add. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.
 
Remove chicken and shred. Pour remaining contents of slow cooker into the blender. Mix, then set aside about half the liquid. To remaining liquid, add sour cream, cilantro to taste and 1 avocado, cut into large chunks. Stir until smooth. Add salt to taste. 
 
Combine chicken with half of the sauce, adding more bit by bit until it’s very moist.
 
Slice remaining avocado. Dice remaining onion. Add some chicken, avocado, onion, and corn to each lettuce leaf.
 
This also works as a chicken salad you could eat over lettuce or in a sandwich. It’s mellow, tasty, and delicious. You can use reduced fat sour cream to keep this dish more healthy, though it’s already solidly healthy and good for you. 
 
Thanks to Hood for inviting me to their Sour Cream Meal Makeover Cook-off! It was tons of fun and a great chance to pull out my cooking skills. I was compensated for my participation.

Going Bold in Boots

After a phone catastrophe recently, I had to get a new phone. And thus I had to get a new phone case. I went home with a silver sparkly one. As I told the first person I ran into who looked at my phone with skepticism, when it comes to phone cases you can either go boring or bold. And I chose bold.

These days that is where I stand style-wise, and it’s still a very strange place for me to be.

Of course, my version of bold is probably not the normal person’s version. It means I’m not playing it safe. I’m not going for what I know. I have never been fashionable or stylish. I’ve never kept up with trends. I’ve never been the best dressed person anywhere. I just try to make sure I get by with something I feel comfortable with.

Lately, though, in an office full of 20-somethings, I have started to realize that I’ve got to start upping my game. I work on my blog, on my writing, on my place in the online world. I should probably work a bit on how I present IRL as well, right?

This summer I did a pretty good job. I spent very little and shopped mostly at Old Navy, but picked up dresses that were perfect for summer, great for the office, and flattering for my body.

Now winter is coming and it won’t be so friendly to my budget. I must shell out for the standards that I never bothered with before. A great pair of jeans. A well fitted blazer. And a pair of boots versatile enough to go with all kinds of outfits. I don’t have the cash to buy a lot, so it’s just one or two well chosen items. And I’m working hard on being bold, figuring out what my style actually is, and getting more comfortable in my own skin.

Next on the list are the aforementioned boots. (The jeans are already done and they look marvelous.) 

What do all of you lovelies think? First, buckles: still definitely a big trend and they cover a surprising variety of styles.

Black Boots with Buckles Going Bold in Boots

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9

 1: Alodie by Dr. Martens $135, 2: Mona by Naturalizer $139, 3: Riddle Avant by Clarks $160, 4: Leandra by Born $160, 5: Morgane by Born $135, 6: Quimby by Naturalizer $139, 7: Elwoodd by Lucky $139, 8: Kalea Gillian by Born $150, 9: Ondine by Born $124

 

Next: going beyond the simple bootie into an ankle boot that’s got simple but stylish details.

Black Ankle Boots Going Bold in Boots

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7  / 8 / 9 / 10

1: Limbo Dance by Clarks $185, 2: Movie Retro by Clarks $180, 3: Spye Celeste by Clarks $130, 4: Malia Hue by Clarks $150, 5: Later by Naturalizer $110, 6: Jolene by Dr. Martens $96, 7: Leyden Bell by Clarks $150, 8: Wera by Sofft $150, 9: Versant by Ariat $190, 10: Bayleigh by Born $165

My ideal pair is comfy, cozy, and completely versatile. Can be dressed up for a dress, but work just fine for an everyday outfit. If you were looking for a pair to go over jeans and tights, and you could only get one pair, which way would you go?

And any tips on blazer shopping would be much appreciated…