An SUV Fit For Modern Families

With three kids, my husband an I often complain about space in our vehicles. We live about one hour west of the city of Chicago where we work, visit family and enjoy so many great urban amenities. That means we spend hours and hours in our cars with our children, especially me! My trunk has everything from a case of water bottles, blankets, shoes, clothes, paper towels (you ALWAYS need paper towels), wipes and who knows what else. The back seat is another story. There's a car seat, books, more water bottles, snacks, a trail of snacks on the floor -- it's a little absurd because my husband's car is spotless compared to mine!

In my head, I often go back and forth about "upgrading" to a minivan. The thought honestly makes me cringe and think of mommy jeans. Although the thought of driving a minivan with kids in tow is actually quite practical, what about the times I'm heading into a downtown affair with some fabulous people? The thought of valeting my minivan and stepping out in stiletto heels make me laugh. So, the only other choice for me and family is to find an SUV that is affordable while gives us the space we need, preferably with third-row seating, so that we can spread out a little as the kids get older and family comes to visit us.

For those who have followed me over the years, I love working with car brands. I think cars, family and food, go hand in hand. And when I partner with a car brand who I believe in, and also believes in Momma Cuisine -- it is truly magical!  Late last year, I traveled to Carmel Valley, California for a press event with Toyota Highlander. It is a part of the country that is very dear to me because I grew up in San Francisco and would often visit Monterey Bay and Carmel with my family. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
After settling in a bit and checking in to Carmel Valley Ranch, I knew that Toyota would spare no expense in showing us a great time. But for me and having great experience working with car brands, I was excited and very interested to see more about the Highlander and how it compares to others.  My immediate thoughts after seeing the new Toyota Highlander is the new and more bold exterior. The exterior is big and robust, but still streamlined. You often only see the "in your face" exteriors on the Toyota Sequoia and Toyota 4Runner. I was also impressed with it's affordability. Ranging from $29,215 to $47,300+, there is a Toyota Highlander that fits in to many different family's budget.

What made me the most excited about the 2014 Toyota Highlander is the thought they put into every detail. Toyota made sure to speak to the very people who will be driving this vehicle and tried to incorporate their feedback into the Toyota Highlander. With our lives all centered around social media and the web, the dashboard including a space for smart phones and devices with a non-slip surface seems like an insignificant detail. But, how many times has your cell phone flew out of your cup holder or that awkward space under your radio?

The middle consul can fit my handbag -- and Momma loves a BIG purse! To demonstrate the space, they fit 52 juice boxes in the middle consul. We all chuckled but were equally impressed. THAT'S A LOT OF JUICE BOXES!! The kicker -- the Toyota Highlander has a built in speaker in the rear view mirror, so that the driver (most of the time parents) doesn't have to yell across to say, "Don't make me pull this car over!!" Again, we chuckled but were so impressed. That is genius!

The passenger and cargo space in the Toyota Highlander is comparable to most SUV's in it's class, it's great. (<---- That's the best car rating I can do.) I think that the best things in the Toyota Highlander are in the details.
My trip to Carmel Valley Ranch with Toyota Highlander was perfect for #FoodTravels! We visited a artichoke ranch and dined outdoors overlooking the rolling hills. We caravaned though the California mountains test driving the Toyota Highlander, taking in the beauty that you can't find anywhere else but California.
The best part of our trip was picking up fresh produce, piling it in our Toyota Highlander's and bringing them to the Food Bank of Monterey County. We not only dropped them off, we helped back goods for delivery to families who need them. Simple things like rice and beans, and canned tomatoes where packed. We spent the afternoon doing this and I was so happy to give back. This is what Great Everyday Meals and Momma Cuisine is all about.
After a long day of touring farms and volunteering at the food bank, we went back to the amazingly gorgeous Carmel Valley Ranch to freshen up for a big dinner at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We dined among the fish with tables draped with lights, got to know each other more and just reflecting on our experiences throughout the day. When a car brand can makes you feel more about who they are just as much as about the vehicles they sell, I say it is a car brand worth checking into.

Photo Gallery