Category Archives: TWIN

20k in my Venza

As I sit here in the dealership’s waiting area while the mechanic dudes give my car it’s 20,000 mile tune-up, I realize I never wrote a proper “hey we got a new car!” post. Turns out I’ve got some time to kill so, lucky you?


We’ve had our Toyota Venza now for 11 months. Yes. 20,000 miles in 11 months. We drive quite a little bit.

It’s our “main driver”. The kid hauler. The first choice. See, before we had this car we had 1 car that was the kid hauler and 1 car that got good gas mileage. And the Venza does both. So this is our go-to for any errands we run or any trips we take; whether we have the kids with us or not. Hence the 20,000 miles.

Most of those miles have been put on by Andy…he drives about 75 miles a day so he takes the car most days. I joke that we have joint custody of it since I get it during his school breaks/holidays and on the weekends.

Of course there have been minor annoyances…like the controls on the wipers and lights are the total opposite of our other vehicle so I’m constantly having to “relearn” everything. If it was my daily driver I guess it wouldn’t be an issue.

Then there’s the point of the car seat installation. The car is a 2013 model, the “Extended Rear Facing” recommendation has been a thing for a while now. When I went to upgrade Reese’s seat from the infant to the rear-facing convertible seat I was pretty disappointed to find that it didn’t have the ERF floor anchor. I guess I just assumed that Toyota would be on top of that junk and I wouldn’t have to jimmy rig a tether strap around the front seat mount. {First world problems…I’m aware}

Overall? I really do love it. It’s comfortable. Roomy for a car {technically I “crossover”, I suppose}. We like the looks of it. It gets decent gas mileage. The car seats fit well. There are a number of little touches you don’t even notice until…well, you notice them and you’re like “wow, that’s pretty sweet little feature!” {i.e. the adjustable center console/elbow rest}.

The point of this post? I don’t know…a time killer, I suppose. But seriously, if you’re in the market for a new car and you’ve got a family, want good cargo space without getting an SUV and need decent gas mileage check out the Toyota Venza.

The end.

What an amazing ride…

They say all good things must come to an end, right? Well, in this case it’s true. As of today, I’ve “graduated” from the TWIN program. I’m sad to see it end. I’ve met some amazing women. Had some amazing experiences. And ultimately, learned about an amazing company.

I got to go down to Toyota Headquarters.

I got to test drive some of their vehicles.

I learned about some of their philanthropic efforts.

I got to borrow a Toyota FJ Cruiser for almost a week.

I got to experience NASCAR, Toyota Style.

And a lot of other great stuff too.

I’d by lying if I said I’m glad this program is over. Truth is, I’m totally bummed.

Thanks for the amazing time Toyota.

***This post apparently brought to you by the word, Amazing.***

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of the Toyota.

My Toyota FJ Cruiser Ride & Drive

From the moment I got the phone call about setting up my Extended Ride & Drive I was impressed. You guys? They drove a Toyota up from San Francisco for me. They let me drive it around for 5 days, then they came and picked it up and drove it back to San Fran. All that trouble for little ol’ me? I still have trouble wrapping my brain around that.

Anyway, I requested an extended R&D for very specific dates because I was going to be driving to Seattle for work. From where I am, that’s about 5 hours, one way. If you do the math, that’s a whole lotta seat time! Perfect for really getting a feel for a vehicle.

I was a little surprised that they gave me a Toyota FJ Cruiser, but not at all disappointed. I mentioned in my “FJ Cruiser Then vs. Now” post how we’re a Cruiser loving family, so it was really cool to get to drive around the FJ.

{Please excuse the drool/spit up on my shoulder…I can’t make this stuff up people. That’s real life, right there.}

I’ll tell you what, from the locking rear differential…to the oversized knobs…to the aggressive tire tread…to the inclinometer…to the gear shift…to the all-weather flooring & water resistant seats…right down to the way it drove, everything about this vehicle screams truck. The Cruiser has long been known for it’s off-road capabilities and Toyota did not disappoint with the FJ Cruiser.

Toyota FJ Cruiser

As I was leaving the tradeshow I got stuck in some traffic in downtown Seattle. The particular area was kind of hilly…the low gearing in the FJ was awesome. Andy always joked that his Cruiser could climb a telephone pole and I never really “got it”, but after driving this thing on some inclines, it made perfect sense. The FJ kicked into gear the second I took my foot off the break and started crawling up the hill without me even having to put my foot on the gas.

Toyota FJ Cruiser interior gear shift

Even though the FJ built rugged and ready for the trail, it had some pretty great features as well…like satellite radio, a killer sound system, a back-up cam and hands-free phone capabilities with steering wheel controls. {perfect for my long car ride!}

And while car seats and suicide doors don’t exactly go hand in hand, it was totally doable. I took Reese to her 2 month well-check in this. I could see the FJ being Andy’s daily driver and the occasional kid hauler some day.

Toyota FJ Cruiser with carseat installed

I’m pretty sure Rylee loved it too…well, she at least had fun driving it around in our field.

In 5 days I put over 1,000 miles on this baby. While it may not have been the most family friendly vehicle, that’s not what it’s built for…it’s built for off-roading and rock crawling. It’s not designed with mom with carseat using kids in mind, it’s built for a guy that’s going to hit the Rubicon with his buddies. And like I said before, with those things in mind, Toyota nailed it. We had a blast driving it and we did not want to give her back.

And really? I just think they’re pretty.

Toyota FJ Cruiser

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of the Toyota.

Not just dudes turning left.

Up until last weekend, the extent of my NASCAR knowledge came from watching the movies Cars and Talladega Nights. Not kidding one bit.

When Toyota mentioned that they’d like to send some of the TWIN members to a NASCAR Immersion trip in Charlotte, NC I thought “sure, that might be fun” but I had no idea it would be as amazing as it was.

I’ve spent the last 3 days since I’ve been home trying to process the weekend. If you ask me about it, I will go on and on and on so trying to pear it down to a blog post (or two) is giving me some trouble. I don’t know where to start because I want to share all! the! things! Right now. The food. The People. The cars. The sounds. The strategy. The stories. Well, I guess technically, I already shared some about the food but I think you get the point. Every single one of my senses was in overdrive this weekend. {seriously, no pun intended} I feel like every single item on our 2+ day agenda could be its own blog post. But, like my husband, I’m sure you don’t want to hear me/read about me going on and on and on about NASCAR. I get it.

So, with that in mind…let’s see…highlights…


We headed to Joe Gibbs Racing Shop where we got to check out the Fan Fest they were hosting, tour the garage and meet Joe Gibbs himself. We also met JD Gibbs (president of JGR), Darrell Wallace Jr (driver for JGR) and Bryan Cook (Digital Marketing Manager for JGR)

After some lunch and free time, we loaded back up the shuttle and headed to the race track! That night, Toyota driver Joey Logano won and we got to go down to Victory Lane to help celebrate!!


We started the day by touring Michael Waltrip Racing Shop. We got the play-by-play of how they build their cars. Then we got to play around a little. {side note: if you don’t know the story behind Michael Waltrip, I highly recommend his book In the Blink of an Eye. Amazing story.}

(Images courtesy of Toyota Racing)

After that we headed to Darrell Waltrip’s Race Shop {yep, they’re brothers}. Darrell Waltrip was one of Toyota’s first partners in NASCAR. Darrell is one of the NASCAR greats. He was a kick in the pants. We also got to meet his crew chief and his wife. He gave us a crash course in NASCAR 101. He let us climb into his cars. He shared a bit of his testimony with us.

From there we headed down to the racetrack. Hung out in the suite for a few before we hit up the FanZone. We walked around a bit, then went to the Toyota PitPass display where they announced the winner of the Breast Cancer Awareness shirt design contest and presented a check to the Carolina Breast Friends foundation. Then, before going back to the suite to watch the race, we headed into the infield where we toured one of the trucks, hung out on pit road and talked with some women in racing.

Based on our time spent hanging out with the pit crew (AKA: the cute Canadian ex hockey player) of the #15 5-Hour Energy car, I decided that was the car I’d route for that night. And guess what…it won!!

Sunday I flew home. And read this book nearly the entire way. I only have about 10 pages left.

Just like my last Toyota trip, I have come away with so much respect for this company. They really know how to do things right. They’re committed to diversity. Toyota Racing is a seriously impressive division of the Toyota family.

(Image courtesy of Toyota Racing)

ToyotaWomen, left to right: Shannon, Amanda, Stacey, Kristi, Suki, Christen, Mary Lou Hamlin (NASCAR’s Danny Hamlin’s mom), Andi, me, Janice, Maricris, Kitty

I won’t lie, the whole weekend I kept quoting Talladega Nights in my head. I couldn’t resist.

I could go on and on and on about my weekend. And who knows, I may feel the need to share more details on particular parts later on, but for now I will sum it up this way…while I wouldn’t call myself an all-of-a-sudden NASCAR fan, I have a much greater appreciation for the sport and that weekend was a once in a lifetime experience. One I will never, ever forget.

If you ain’t first, you’re last.

Shake -n- Bake baby.

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of the Toyota.

Digesting My Weekend.

And I mean that both literally and figuratively.

My weekend was spent being completely immersed in NASCAR and eating.

While I’m still sorting through everything I learned I will say this: after this weekend I have a much greater appreciation for NASCAR as a sport, and of course Toyota is continuing to impress me.

So while I collect my thoughts and upload my pictures, I thought I’d leave you with this…a glimpse of my weekend by way of food.

Yesterday when I got home I started showing Rylee the pictures on my phone. As she was scrolling through them she looked up at me and said, “wow Mommy! You ate a lot of food!”

And oh was she right…









Not pictured: salads, sandwiches, pulled pork, hashbrown casserole, chicken enchilada casserole with jalapeño mayo and various snack type items.

The fake cheese nachos were just icing on the NASCAR cake. I’ve made it a rule over the years that if I’m at a sporting event and they have those nachos, I get them. Whether I’m hungry or not.

The In-N-Out was in San Fran during my layover. It was a first for me. Not gonna lie…I wasn’t overly impressed.

I was a little disappointed I didn’t get the opportunity to try any grits, but I did get some real deal fried chicken, I tried some fried okra, got to eat at Bo Jangles and there was plenty of opportunity to eat Mac n cheese.

Now…what was I saying last week about joining a gym?

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of the Toyota.