Stars and Cars: Week Two

Stars and Cars: Week Two

When it comes to week two of my film-going, Toyota test-driving gig the first part of November, I'm hard-pressed to say which I was more enthusiastic about: the movies or the mode of transportation. 

Both the festival films and the 2018 Toyota Camry XSE provided numerous delightful experiences on their own. If pushed to narrow my faves of each down to a list of five, though, I'd have to go with the following five for each.

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Stars and Cars: Week One

Stars and Cars: Week One

40th Denver Film Festival via the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Premium

For the past four years, I've had the privilege of covering the annual Denver Film Festival, presented by the Denver Film Society. As a film fan, it's an amazing opportunity. As a resident of Colorado Springs, though, not Denver, the 140-mile round trip to attend screenings, panels, red carpets and more has slightly dampened my enthusiasm for the honor each time festival time rolls around.

This year Toyota came to my rescue, providing not just one vehicle for zipping up and down I-25 for the festival, but two. For week one of the 40th Denver Film Festival, Toyota delivered to my door a 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Premium plug-in hybrid, which turned the trips to and from Denver into festive occasions pert near as fun and entertaining as the event I covered.

I was surprised by how attractive and well-appointed the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Premium is. How comfy and flat-out cool it is, too.

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Grandma's holiday helper: 2015 Toyota Rav4 Limited

As a freelance writer working from home, I don't have to do a lot of driving. Until holiday time, that is. There's all the shopping, the visiting, the touring holiday displays that light up the neighborhood, and more.

toyota rav4 

For all that extra driving on my itinerary this past Christmas, I had the pleasure of tooling about in a 2015 Toyota Rav4 Limited AWD SUV, courtesy Toyota and Rocky Mountain Redline. The vehicle...

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Kids and cars: Safety reminders for grandmothers and others

child sleeping in car

I left for the desert to care for my grandsons just one day after returning home from the Lifesavers Conference, the forum where I learned the sobering stats on auto safety I shared last week.

Because of the timing, those scary stats and many more have been at the forefront of my mind since reporting for duty as sole caretaker of Bubby and Mac for the week. So when I leave the house with the kids in the car, I'm uber conscientious about ensuring they're correctly buckled into their seats. As I drive around with the most precious of cargo in the back seat, I pay extra close attention to other vehicles headed my way.

boy in bicycle helmetPlus, when walking to the park — Bubby riding his bike slightly ahead of me as I push the stroller with Mac inside — Bubby always wears his helmet and walks, not rides, his bike when crossing the street (with Gramma!). On such walks, I regularly and sternly warn Bubby to always listen and watch for vehicles that may be getting ready to back out of driveways he's approaching, which is immensely important, considering that every week in the U.S., according to, at least 50 children are backed over in driveways and parking lots.

As a long-distance grandma, I don't often have to think about such things in relation to my grandsons, so attending the Lifesavers Conference just before visiting them served as an important refresher course for me. I was thankful for the reminders — and the new concerns, too, regardless of how scary.

I thought you, the grandmothers and others who care for kids, might appreciate them, as well. Below are what I consider some of the best safety tips related to younger kids and cars that I gleaned from the organizations at Lifesavers 2013 — tips I'd either forgotten or hadn't considered before. (Tons more safety info can be found on the individual websites mentioned.)

From Buckle Up for Life

From SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A.

The five-step test for determining if a child no longer needs a booster seat (though, you should always adhere to state laws regarding booster seats, regardless of this test):

  1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
  2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
  3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
  4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
  5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?


  • Teach children that even parked vehicles might move. Let them know that even though they can see the vehicle, the driver might not see them.
  • Get in the habit of always walking all the way around your vehicle prior to moving it, to ensure no kids are nearby.
  • Teach children to never play in, around or behind any vehicle.
  • Trim the landscaping around your driveway to ensure you can see children.
  • Set the emergency brake every time you park.
  • Store keys out of children's reach.
  • Lock the power windows so children cannot get caught in them. Power windows can strangle a child or cut off a finger.
  • To be sure your child is never forgotten in your vehicle, put your cell phone, handbag or briefcase on the floor board in the back seat.
  • Text 'kidsandcars' to 46986 for the latest safety info.

What about older kids? Those with teens in the family will find a wealth of information — for teens, parents (and grandparents) and educators — on the Toyota Teen Driver website [editor's note: site no longer online].

Disclosure: Though I attended the Lifesavers Conference courtesy of Toyota, I was not obligated to write this post nor did I receive compensation for it.

Today's question:

When did you last drive with a child in your vehicle?

What I learned this week: I'm bad and Toyota is awesome

lemon barsI've been bad. Very, very bad. And I'm feeling pretty guilty about it.

What I'm feeling guilty about is the thing that I learned this week. And that thing is this: I can eat a batch of lemon bars. All by myself.

Okay, it wasn't an entire batch, but close enough to be an utterly disgusting deed for me to complete on my own.

But I did. And that's something I have never, ever done before.

See, I made lemon bars for eating after Easter dinner. Just something small, considering that I, er, the Easter Bunny had given loads of chocolate, jelly beans and other sweets to Jim, my daughters and their boyfriends.

A few of the bars were eaten on Easter. Then I forgot to give each of the girls some to take home.

Jim doesn't care too much for lemon bars. I, on the other hand, care far too much for them. Which meant that I simply could not just let them go to waste.

So nearly every day since Easter, I've nibbled on a lemon bar or two, pulled from the dish in the fridge. In all justification fairness, I usually chose to eat them for breakfast — as my breakfast, not in addition to it, in order to swap out at least some of the extra calories.

I couldn't waste them. I couldn't resist them. And as of yesterday, this is what was left:

devoured lemon bars 

Which I promptly ate. For breakfast... instead of breakfast.

So very, very bad. And so not what I wish I had learned this week.

(But they were pretty darn good. If you'd like the recipe, you can find it here. Just learn from my mistake — share them!)

So what do lemon bar sins have to do with Toyota? Well, absolutely nothing.

Toyota is part of this post because I wanted to tell you today where I'll be going and what I'll be doing for the next few days, starting tomorrow and courtesy of Toyota. (Though you will find new daily posts here; can't ruin my record.)

Toyota contacted me not long ago to be one of their guests at the annual Lifesavers National Conference on Highway Safety Priorities. With all expenses to be paid by Toyota for me to attend the Saturday through Tuesday event. Transportation, hotel, meals. Yes, I feel so very privileged.

Lifesavers, according to the conference website, "is the premier national highway safety meeting in the United States dedicated to reducing the tragic toll of deaths and injuries on our nation’s roadways." Which means I should have some pretty great info to share with you all afterward on keeping those we love — little ones, big ones, and older ones (including ourselves) — safe on the roads.

One of the highlights for me will be the stay at the fabulous Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. It's the spot where Jim and I celebrated our 20th anniversary more than 10 years ago, and this return trip will surely be quite a treat... even though Jim won't be along.

One particularly amusing note about my trip: The conference is in Denver. I live in Colorado Springs. Toyota is flying me there instead of providing a rental car, as I suggested. Flight duration? Forty-two minutes.

It's not often — at least not yet — that baby boomer bloggers are honored with such invitations. The fact Toyota has put their money on baby boomer bloggers in general and this baby boomer blogger in particular makes them, in my opinion, totally and completely awesome.

Now if only a brand would invest in this baby boomer blogger and foot the bill for me to attend BlogHer13 coming up in July. That, I must say, would be equally totally and completely awesome.

Perhaps offering lemon bars to brand representatives might do the trick. Ya never know — those lemon bars make folks do things they have never, ever done before.

Or so I unfortunately learned this past week.

Today's question:

What did you learn this week?