Volvo XC 90 Car Review: A 3rd Row Disappointment

We saw the Volvo XC90 finally! Here’s what we thought:
✅ comfortable seats
✅ reasonably spacious third row
✅ extra cargo space under lid
✅ 2nd row middle seat child booster seat option
✅ all wheel drive option

❌ NO 3rd row lower anchors
❌ NO 3rd row back seat tethers
❌ Poor 2nd chair folding – you may have to take out a baby car seat to allow third row access
❌ not a car for 3+ children who require standard car seats.
❌ good interior but not truly luxury

I’ll be posting a video, but considering this is. Swedish brand with a history of safety standards and features, it’s shocking that the 3rd row allows for no car seats. A great car for five people for older children, but definitely not for kids under 4,

Car seat layout is disappointing at best. The middle seat in the second row has to steal from one of the end seats. Also an issue: to access the third row, the second row end seat must be folded; that means TAKING OUT the car seat.

And what parent has time to remove and reinstall a car seat every time the third row is needed?!

The only perk to the XC 90 is the 2nd row middle seat has an optional installed booster (33 lbs+) for older children.

You are still screwed in the 3rd row where no latches are available.

Preeti’s Recommendation:

Great for 2 young children requiring car seats or 3+ older children (boosters).

NOT recommended for families requiring 3 latched car seats.

Chevrolet Traverse Family Car Review

Here are my thoughts on the Chevrolet Traverse:
✅ surprisingly spacious
✅ 3rd row seats three people
✅ trunk space has extra space under the lid
✅ all wheel drive option
✅ back tether latches on all five rear seats
✅ bench or captain’s chairs for 2nd row ❌ interior not as refined
❌ no panoramic sunroof (comes as double sunroof)
❌ classic 3 year warranty (though it’s the standard for most cars, but just not great)
❌ top trim levels offer all the safety features, while lower levels you have to upgrade.
Note: we didn’t get to test drive so I can’t speak to drivability. If I have time (sans children), I’ll do so in the next couple weeks.

Photos from Instagram:

The image below is from 2017, so I am glad to say the 2019 Traverse has back tethers for ALL three seats in the third row.

The Comprehensive Family Car Comparison Guide

Here it is! My comprehensive spreadsheet on 50+ car models comparing cargo space, fuel economy, base price, vehicle length, car seats availability and more, just for you.

Hooray!

This is still a work in progress and is is being updated all the time. If you see a car model that I’m missing, please let me know!

Also check out my series on car buying for 3 young children. Turns out, it’s a lot more complicated than one would expect. There are pdfs, videos, and questionnaires.

Family Car Buying Guide: Questions to Ask Before Buying a Family SUV

Preeti’s Car Seat Guide for Family SUVs & Minivans

Which 7 (or 8) Seater Car Should You Buy? A Quiz!

Individual Car Reviews:

Chevrolet Traverse

Audi Q7

Honda Pilot

Honda Odyssey

Volkswagen Atlas

Subaru Ascent

You can view the full spreadsheet here.

This took many hours to compile and create, if you have a few dollars, help buy me a postpartum donut with a Paypal donation. You’ll be super loved!

PS – Are you a car manufacturer and looking to have your car reviewed? Please contact Preeti and we will be glad to test out your vehicle for family friendliness.

Hospital Bag Checklist for Mom, Partner, & Baby!

We always end up over packing for the hospital. To be honest, you don’t need much if you’re going to be there for a couple days.

But, if you think you might be spending more than a couple nights at the hospital, definitely get your packing done early.

Here’s what I learned from my past two pregnancies.

What the hospital usually provides:
diapers
newborn blankets
nose aspirator
mesh undies
ice packs
sanitary pads

What I didn’t find useful to pack:
Extra clothes for baby – baby will have his/her newborn swaddle. You need one or two outfits.

Sanitary pads – the hospital gives you pads, and they are not terrible. They are not great but the pads do the job the first couple days. If you really want to have comfortable sanity pads, then make your own.

Nursing nightgown – I still don’t know what that is. A comfortable robe or shirt works just fine.

What you should really pack for the hospital:
Portable fan – you never know the temperature in your room. Some rooms will let you control the temperature, others not at all. Upon admittance into the hospital, you will go from triage to the labor & delivery room and then to the maternity ward. Since you cannot open windows in a hospital room, a portable fan can keep you from feeling stifled.
Pillows – Bring 1-2 of your favorite pillows from home. Be aware though, if you use them during delivery, they just may not cleanable when it’s over.

Chapstick – dry lips. Need I say more.

iPad – to watch movies. Especially nice if your room has no tv and you have a long labor. Or you’re in the maternity ward and the only tv you have is from 1999.

Phone charger – do not forget this!

Extension cord – no joke. Outlets are in the weirdest spots in a recovery room. Get an extension cord and you won’t be stretching your arm out trying to instagram and charge at the same time.

Camera and camera stuff – Bring your camera.

Phone – duh.

Maxi or mini dresses – Pack a dress that is EASY to wear; no buttons, zippers or hard to access area for the boobs.

Zipper hoodie – if it is cold in the room. ZIPPER is key.

Robe – makes it easy to nurse and provides a layer if you become cold. Plus a robe makes you feel a little more stylish and human.

Blanket – feel cozy and bring a light blanket you love. Don’t bring your ultimate favorite because you never know what could happen.

Socks – continue the coziness with your own socks. If you get cold easily, pack 2-3 pairs.

Toothbrush and toothpaste – I was surprised my hospital provided them for me, but it’s always good to have them packed in your bag.

Disposable contacts – if you wear contacts, don’t forget to pack them!

Flip Flops – Do you really want to walk barefoot on the hospital ward?

Toiletries – Collecting hotel toiletries? Now is the time to use them! Pack a travel size shampoo, conditioner, soap. Also pack face wipes – even if you don’t time to take a full shower, a refreshing wipe will give your face life.

Makeup – Bring your absolutely must have to walk out the door on any given day. I always have eyeliner, lipstick, and mascara. Even in the chaos of new baby and learning of your newly weird body, a little makeup will give you an instant esteem boost. Not to mention, a good time to take a photo!

One nice top – Speaking of nice photos, have one nice top you can take a photo with. The top should be easy to wear, comfortable, and quick for nursing. Look for a maternity top, nursing top, or something loose fitting.

Swimming trunks – If you have a bathtub during labor and delivery, you may want a two piece bathing suit.

Snacks – have your favorite snacks for when you’re in the recovery room. If you take an epidural during labor, you will not be able to eat, at all. Keep the snacks for your spouse (when they are starving and it’s 1am) and yourself.

Baby things:

Going home outfit

Something cute to take a photo with – a newborn printed sign, a special gift from a family member, an outfit, a stuffed toy, something lovely.

If you leave in the hospital in a car make sure you have a CAR SEAT!

The Yummiest Low Sugar Banana Bread Recipe You’ll Ever Need

What’s more delicious than smelling banana bread wafting through the house?

Nothing, am I right? The smell of fresh baked banana bread is intoxicating and inviting. Everyone knows something delicious is about to pop out of the oven.

I have been working on my banana muffin and banana bread recipe for a while. My muffins are a total hit with the kids because they are yummy, full of good things, and don’t have much sugar.

I wanted to translate that into a delicious that was also low in sugar but full of the good stuff.

There is also some room for modification with the recipe too. You can replace the peanut butter with any other nut butter or sun butter. You could also skip the nut butter entirely (but also eliminate the milk).

Banana bread likes to take time in the oven, at least 45 minutes. Not the best when you have kids who are super excited and have zero patience!

You could convert this to a muffin, but I recommend you head over to my muffin recipe as there are a few changes to make healthy cupcakes.


For the bread:

3 very ripe bananas mashed
2 eggs
1/2 cup room temp butter
1/2 cup milk (may not be needed if fruit/veggie are very moist)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup instant oats
3 spoons hemp seed powder (optional)
1 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup chopped walnuts optional or 1/2 cup peanut butter

Mash bananas.

With a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add bananas.

Mix all dry ingredients.

Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients together. If the batter looks doughy or tough, add milk. You can add peanut butter (if you are doing so) at this point.

The batter should be a bit wet like cake batter but not very wet like pancake batter.

Spoon into a loaf pan and bake for 45 min- 1 hour at 325F. Loaf breads take a while. If you don’t have the time, you can put this into a muffin pan and bake for 15-20 minutes (be sure to spray the muffin tin).

Once out of the oven, let rest, and enjoy!


What Moms Really Want for Mother’s Day


It’s that time of the year again. Spring has sprung. The flowers are blooming. Allergy season is killing us already. And moms are wondering, what their families have planned for their Mother’s Day celebration.

Is it brunch with the kids at a restaurant? Oh joy! A meal OUTSIDE, at a RESTAURANT, with SMALL overdressed creatures. Great, I wonder who will be the point person on that one.

Or is it breakfast in bed? Scrambled eggs, hot coffee, donut, bacon. Now, that’s dreamy! But is it? Who’s gonna steal that donut? And who’s gonna spill the coffee on the bed?

And then…what happens the REST OF THE DAY? Why must your family insist that you hang out with them? ALL DAY? Don’t they know you already hang out with everyone enough?

Here’s the deal. We love you to bits. We love our family so so much. But sometimes, we need a pause. A refresher. A chance to enjoy ourselves as people BEFORE we had kids.

Side note if you are wondering why all the fuss over Mother’s Day, it actually has a great history. Until commercialization ruined it (which took a few short years).

It was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 as a *memorial* to her mother’s 3rd year death anniversary. It exploded into a national phenomenon and was recognized by president Woodrow Wilson in 1914. It was quickly commercialized by the greeting card and candy industries so much that Jarvis tried in her later years to rescind the holiday.

That’s how messed up Mother’s Day is.

Listening to other moms, I put together a list of what we REALLY WANT FOR MOTHER’S DAY. Sure, we like beautiful flowers (read: beautiful) and excellent quality chocolate. But for icing, sprinkles and the cake itself, this is what we want:

A real day off – Partner catches up ALL the dishes and laundry while mom catches up with Game of Thrones.

No brunch outside – If you’re going give mom a meal, make it tasty, something she likes, and requires 0% of her energy to watch kids.

Spa day – Book her and a friend a day to get manicures, pedicures, lunch. You take care of the kids AND the house (no excuses on not doing laundry).

Weekend off – Really love your wife? Give her whole dang 2.5 days off by sending her and a friend off to a mini-vacation. Have the hotel pre-paid. Make a list of to-do’s that she can choose from. If your wife likes things to be in order, you can prearrange for meals to be paid for.

Otherwise you can give her an envelope with cash and let her choose the schedule (don’t be stingy on the money). And DON’T forgot to clean the house, do the dishes, and finish all the laundry before she comes home. There’s nothing more enraging than having the “day off” only to still have to do all the work because people couldn’t adult in the house.

Have the house deep cleaned – You read that right. Do the cleaning. Be an active partner in the relationship and get it done without whining. Did you know that women still do 2 hours 15 minutes per DAY of housework versus men 1 hour 25 minutes? And that daughters do more household work than their brothers? Do you really want your little girl thinking she is supposed to do more house chores because she’s a woman? Didn’t think so.

Sound of silence – Having nobody call your name 100 times only to irritate you or scream about what they want in life. It’s possible to avoid this?

Send your wife away for one night to a fancy hotel and breakfast just so she doesn’t have to hear this. You do.

Week of house care – This is the GOLDEN EGG of gifts you can give. You do all the laundry, all the dishes, all the childcare, and most of the meals (we will forgive you for being a mediocre cook if you wipe down the kitchen). And don’t forget, on Mother’s day itself, mom still gets a day off and you take of the kids and the clothes.

Family events – unless the family event includes mom not going, chances are, her idea of spending a spa day is not with her mother in law. So please don’t plan some complicated affair with extended family.

So in case you are still not sure what moms want, let me repeat:

Sleep, movies alone, complete silence, wine (beverage of choice), food. Alone, sleep.

We love you. but we love sleep too.


Pop of Color First Birthday Desi Family Photo Shoot

My second little bean turned one year old a few months ago and of course we had to do a family photo shoot!

Our Indian-Swedish inspired family photos started back in 2015 when I was pregnant with #1. It’s since evolved into a beautiful series that we hang on the wall.

If you want to have a family series for years to come, do it! Dream it! It is absolutely possible. My tips on creating an everlasting family photo series will do you well.

It might even mean nursing your baby during the photo shoot

Love to:

Fancy Fig Photography, Marin County, CA | Lifted Balloons, Martinez, CA | The Lighthouse at Glen Cove Marina, Vallejo, CA

This 4 Years+ Maternity & Family Shoot is Seriously on Fire

When I was pregnant four years ago with my firstborn, I always had it in the back of my mind to create an epic photo series with my family.

And by epic I mean, taking the same photos styles every year, at the same venue, with the same photographer, AND the same clothes.

Back then it was a dream and we were floored with the initial reception of an Indian maternity photo shoot. Buzzfeed, Good Morning America, BBC Radio, My Modern Met and many other places honored us by sharing these photos.

Our Indian maternity photos broke the barriers of being pregnant AND Indian. For so many reasons, there weren’t any Indian pregnancy pics to be inspired by when it came time to taking one’s own photos.

And by golly, an Indian pregnant woman with mehendi on her belly was sacrilege for many members of the South Asian community (we received plenty of hate mail). Yet, Darcy Vasudev of Henna Lounge, an Oakland mehendi wedding artist, was up to the task to turning my belly into a work of art. Seriously, she is magic.

Henna Lounge (left) | Ritual by Design (right)

Of course after the maternity photos, we knew we would do a first birthday photo shoot. It’s our first little baby turning one!

We did the traditional smash cake (thanks Ma Petite Maison Cake Design) and M Sutra Bride glammed me up. I mean it’s a first birthday!

And then I got pregnant with my second baby.

That meant, another photo shoot! Actually TWO photo shoots. A pregnancy milk bath shoot (<3 Juniper Spring Photography in San Jose) and the third year series.

My photographer extraordinaire Tami Weis of Fancy Fig Photography made extra time to spend the *entire* day with us (with a 2 year old toddler and pregnant woman is super exhausting). Sabreena of Ritual by Design, one of the best henna artists in all of the San Francisco Bay Area did my belly mehendi and hands. Timsi, an Indian bridal MUA, of TM’s Makeup Artisty spent the morning with us because it’s not often moms look uber-glamorous.


Plus don’t forget the balloons. I mean, can you never have enough balloons in life?! Lifted Balloons doesn’t think so and we agree.

2017
2018


Here are a bunch more photos from our four years of Indian maternity and first birthday family shoots at The Lighthouse in Vallejo. It’s a historic house on the water and seriously, you cannot go wrong with hosting a party at this event space.

I’ve written some tips as well on how you can create a family photo series too.

2015
2016
2017
2018

With my two little beans from 2015-2017.

Don’t forget your spouse!

2015
2016
2017
2018

I’ll see you next time when our 5th year is complete! (Cue the shock!)

Family Car Buying Guide: Questions to Ask Before Buying a Family SUV

Turns out, we are a buying a car! It’s like having a baby; but with more upfront costs, depreciates quickly, yet fun to ride.

We are in the market for a seven seater car and it’s something we have never looked at in our life. The good news is that every car manufacturer has one seven seater offering – and it’s usually just one model. The porblem is that the pricing for a seven seating car in the same models can vary $10,000-40,000 (thanks Volvo!).

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When it comes to buying a larger car, I mean SUV/crossover/minivan/small creature bus, what matters to you may not matter to someone else. And those details will determine which car you should buy.

I designed this handy guide to ask yourself and your partner on what matters to you when purchasing a seven seating SUV. You can also download this handy PDF. I’m hoping to put together a test in the upcoming weeks that you can take and receive suggestions on best matches.

Questions to ask yourself when buying a 7 seater car:
Do you want three full rows (two passengers in the front, 3 passengers in the middle, 2 passengers in the rear) or a second captain’s row?
A captain’s row is where the middle is just two seats and use identical seat framing as the front seat. They are often more comfortable, but can cost more money while losing the 7th seat.

Do you want second row seats to fold down and be flush with the flooring or just fold down? Or does it not matter?

Do you prefer the second row seats to move together as one unit (3 seats), two units (1 seat, 2 seats) or it doesn’t matter?

Do you plan to keep the third row seats in regular use for people or folded down for more truck space?

Do you want the third row seats to comfortably accommodate adults, older children, or babies/toddlers?

Do you want the third row seats to fold down?

Do you want the rear doors to open as regular, lift up falcon style (e.g. the Tesla Model X), or automatically slide open and close?

Car perks
Do you want a full spare tire and kit?

Do you want Apple Airplay, Android Play and other similar latest connectivity?

Do you want USB cables? This way you can connect your phone and charge.
Because some car manufacturers charge to add a USB outlet. Facepalm.

Do you want standard outlets?
If you are a pumping mom or someone who will travel on the road a lot, consider this.

Do you want automated parking for parallel parking (and regular parking)?

Do you want high definition screens?
Makes a big difference when you’re looking at a map or anything else for that matter.

Do you want driver seat memory?
If you are short and your spouse is tall, seat memory will keep you two from quarreling.

Do you want a tow hitch?
If you are an outdoor person and plan to take bikes and things on trips, a tow hitch will be helpful. You can also add it post purchase.

Do you prefer yearly maintenance or every six months?

How much does a speaker system matter to you? Rank from (1) a little to (5) a lot.

Do you want a traditional sunroof (1/3rd the room) or panoramic sunroof?

Engine and systems
Do you want AWD or two wheel drive?

Do you want a turbocharged v4 engine, v6 engine, eco/eco boost v4 engine or frankly have no idea what is written here.

Do you want gas, electric only, or hybrid?

Do you want a tighter drive or a soft drive?
The difference here is suspension control. A tighter suspension gives the car more oompf, is noisier, yet tends to be more fun to drive.
Soft drive is for people who want confort and ease and don’t care about their car being an oompf maker.

Preeti’s Car Seat Guide for Family SUVs & Minivans

Shopping for a family car is complicated. Throw in the need for children’s car seats, and your mind may explode.

After searching, and still being in the process of buying our second car, I decided to write a guide on car seats on SUV and minivan models (we don’t want a sedan so they are not included). This includes both 2 row and 3 row vehicles.

With nearly ZERO car manufacturer websites being transparent regarding car seat placement, the burden is left entirely on the consumer to figure this out.
Some questions families with children (from infant babies to toddlers to kids) have to ask:

  • Does the second row come with BOTH lower anchors and back seat tethers?
  • Does the second row middle seat have lower anchors?
  • Do the third row seats have lower anchors? If so, which seats?
  • Do the third row seats have back seat tethers? If so, which seats?
  • Does the third row lack any child seat safety tethering?

That’s a lot of information to figure out. And even on the internet, it is disjointed. However, there are a couple websites to absolutely check out.

First is The Car Seat Lady – she covers just about every car make, model, and year and tells you which car seats can fit. Rear facing, forward facing, booster, etc. Bless TCSL and her team because it is THE MOST THOROUGH resource on the web for car seats.

Second, is A Girls Guide to Cars. The car reviews are detailed and helpful, though the breath of car seat reviewing is limited.

Last, and where I obtained all the below diagrams, is IIHS – Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization that is funded by auto insurance companies. Their safety information is up-to-date for most cars though some, most notably the Chevrolet and GMC car models stop in 2017.

After you have perused the above and feel seriously overwhelmed, it’s time to get a cup of tea and review your intentions with buying a SUV. I wrote a pdf on questions to ask yourself (and your partner) on what is most important in your car purchase.

I also have a spreadsheet comparing pricing, engine power, anchor options, vehicle dimensions for 20+ car models. I manually pulled this data from car manufacturer sites, Edmunds, Car & Driver, and Google excerpts. It is by far the most comprehensive spreadsheet you will find comparing family size SUVs. As I work to complete the list and add new car, you’ll be able to see the changes. I very much hopes this helps you in your car buying process!

Then, figure out how many children you have/plan to have and how many children you want to fit in the car.  For anyone with 1-2 children, every SUV/minivan is available for you.

If you have 3 or more children, then you need to do some planning. How many kids will be in rear facing seats, and how many in front facing seats? Do you want to squeeze another kid in if you’re doing car pooling?

Once you’ve written down your needs, the below diagram of 20+ car models will get you going in the right direction.

Each of these diagrams is from the IIHS, so please visit their website for more information. Also, I’m not a car seat expert and I cannot vouch for the information provided. Car manufacturers can change their info at any time.

I reviewed 25 cars that are both two row and three row options. Some of the interestings findings are:

  • Many car manufacturers do NOT have lower anchor latches in the third rows. This is puzzling to me as bucket seats (used for babies and infants), car seats (rear or forward facing) and booster seats (for older children) all have lower anchor clips.
  • Yet, many of these third rows have back seat tethers, which clearly mean front facing car seats *can* work IF you use the seat belt. Yea, I’m confused by this logic.
  • Fiver seater cars do not usually have the rear middle seat with lower anchors. This means that slot needs to be a booster or a front facing car seat using a seat belt.
  • Subaru as a car manufacturer is a winner hands down for all the larger car models.  Personally, I dislike the interior finishing quality, but by golly, they know how to put down car seats.
  • The Audi Q7 is the only car model that has lower anchors and backseat tethers for EVERY car seat slot. (If there is another model out there, please let me know!)

The list of popular car models and their car seat options

2019 Acura MDX

2019 Audi Q3

2019 Audi Q5

2019 Audi Q7

2019 BMW X-5

2017 Chevrolet Tahoe

2017 Chevrolet Traverse

2017 Chevrolet Suburban

2019 Ford Edge

2019 Ford Escape

2017 Ford Expedition

2019 Ford Explorer

2019 Ford Flex

2019 Honda CR-V

2019 Honda Odyssey

2019 Kia Sedona

2019 Mazda CX-5

2019 Mazda CX-9

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander

2019 Subaru Ascent

2019 Toyota Sienna – Not as versatile as the Honda Odyssey for car seat position, the Sienna does a better job than most other SUVs. Oh, and it comes in all wheel drive option too.

2019 Toyota 4Runner

2019 Subaru Outback

2019 Subaru Forrester

2019 Volvo XC-90