This week marks the fourth year of our travel blog, Postcard Jar, and we can’t thank you enough for following along on our journeys. Since we wrote that very first blog post from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, we’ve been collecting all kids of data and analytics to gauge the success of our blog. We’ve kept track of page views, Facebook followers, bounce rates, comments, shares, and retweets.

But at the end of the day, we’ve come to realize that at least for us, the most important number of all is how many wonderful relationships we gained.

Chamber of Commerce staff with Postcard Jar, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Two of our favorite new friends, Reba Bueno and Joni Nash from the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

When we look back over the past year, what makes us the happiest are the trips we took with family, the new and interesting people we’ve met along the way, the readers we’ve inspired to go places, and the incredible opportunities we’ve had to partner with businesses, community groups, and destinations.

Cocina Economica Los Chilangos, Cozumel, Mexico

We had a wonderful meal at a restaurant in Cozumel, Mexico. The Cocina Economica Los Chilangos is actually in the living room of some local residents. The truly authentic Mexican food is amazing and we really enjoyed the company of others at our table.

Instead of giving you a detailed summary of our year of blogging by the numbers, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite travel experiences and a some of the relationships that have impacted us the most.

After Steve quit his job as middle school principal last summer, we took a wonderful vacation with our daughter, Meghan, through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, eventually arriving at the port in Galveston where we boarded the Carnival Valor for a five night cruise to Mexico. It was wonderful for just the three of us to spend time together, reconnect, and relax after a grueling school year.

Carnival Cruises Valor

Carnival Cruises Valor

Then, just one day after returning to our home in Crete and doing six loads of laundry, we loaded up a 12-passenger van and took four young college men from our college ministry on a vacation to The Ozarks. We have really grown to love these young men (and many others from our college ministry) over the past few years and we counted it a real privilege and blessing to be able to take them on a family vacation, since their real families are far away.

We took Meghan and four of the young men from our college ministry on a family vacation to The Ozarks. They loved the Ride the Duck tour and all of them got their licenses to drive the duck.

We took Meghan and four of the young men from our college ministry on a family vacation to The Ozarks. They loved the Ride the Ducks tour and all of them got their licenses to drive the duck.

We also took an end-of-summer trip with Steve’s mom and dad across the Nebraska Sandhills. We enjoyed the relaxing time we spent with them, exploring new towns and places while admiring the incredible scenery that a drive off the beaten path of Interstate 80 provides. Because of busy work schedules in the past, our time with Steve’s folks has been somewhat limited and it was great to have these experiences with them and the memories that will last a lifetime.

Smith Falls, Valentine, Nebraska

We had a wonderful trip around Nebraska with Steve’s mom and dad this summer. Here we are at Smith Falls near Valentine, Nebraska.

After our Nebraska adventure, we returned to Crete just in time to prepare for our hometown’s celebration of the total solar eclipse. We sold t-shirts and postcards that weekend and invited friends and family over to share the experience with us at our house, which was right in the path of totality. Fellow travel bloggers Sara Broers of Travel with Sara and Tim and Lisa Trudell of The Walking Tourists also joined us, which was so much fun!

Lisa Trudell (and her husband, Tim of The Walking Tourists) and Sara Broers of Travel with Sara have become good friends. We were thrilled that they traveled to our home in Crete, Nebraska, to watch the total solar eclipse with us.

Lisa Trudell (and her husband, Tim of The Walking Tourists) and Sara Broers of Travel with Sara have become good friends. We were thrilled that they traveled to our home in Crete, Nebraska, to watch the total solar eclipse with us.

Along with our parents, college ministry students, and long-time friends, we also had a few new friends we met that weekend who joined us on our front lawn to view the moon crossing over the face of the sun. I’ll never forget introducing our new Canadian friends to Nebraska sweet corn (served from a cooler full of hot water with a thin layer of butter at the top) and sharing the experience with others from far away places like Sri Lanka and St. Kitts.

We had such a good time with Ann's mom, Carol, on a trip to Oregon to see the coast and watch the Nebraska Cornhusker football team play the Oregon Ducks.

We had such a good time with Ann’s mom, Carol, on a trip to Oregon to see the coast and watch the Nebraska Cornhusker football team play the Oregon Ducks.

In the fall, we took my mom on a trip to Oregon for a Nebraska football game and a little Pinot Noir tasting before heading back to Pawhuska, Oklahoma, to judge the National Indian Taco Championships there.

Indian Taco fry bread being cooked in oil at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Indian Taco fry bread being cooked in oil at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

That trip back to The Pioneer Woman’s hometown was the start of many wonderful relationships with so many new friends there. The Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce had invited us to be “celebrity” judges for the contest.  When we called them back to say we weren’t really celebrities, they responded, “Well, you’re celebrities to us!” and they welcomed us with open arms. We enjoyed our time in Pawhuska and were made to feel a part of the community by everyone we met.

We loved Pawhuska so much, we took our moms back a few weeks later to visit The Pioneer Woman Mercantile and explore the town a little more. Needless to say, they loved it and we will always cherish that special time with our moms.

Pioneer Woman Mercantile morning coffee, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Our moms enjoy an expertly crafted cup of morning coffee at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.

Over the course of this last year, we’ve met fascinating people wherever we’ve gone and we’ve gotten to know so many of you through your comments. Your encouragement means the world to us and we’re so thankful you enjoy reading our blog.

What you’ve said

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From Mary Hughes:

“I really enjoy the road trips you take, and the food pictures you take and share. You pretty much cover everything I like. Just keep up the great work! Lol”

From Anonymous:

“Thanks so much for sharing all your stories and pictures! I truly enjoy all of them.”

From Alicia:

“I stumbled across your blog thanks to Twitter and I am glad I did…Love this blog!”

From Neodyssey:

“You all write such a great blog. Thanks for continuing to share about your travels!”

From Anonymous:

“Love reading your blog! Keep up the good work.”

From Jana Fulton:

“Really enjoyed this tory! What fun u two have! Can’t wait to read more.”

From Natasha:

“OH MY GOODNESS! What a GREAT combination of personalities in the writing. I loved walking through Magnolia with you Ann as I live in Canada and it will be a LONG time before I am able to cross that off MY bucket list…and Steve..wow..I could hear so many men’s sentiments in your quips.

Just want to say that I will definitely subscribe to your blog. I don’t subscribe to many but I certainly don’t want to miss out on your dual adventures. Thank you for sharing…

Bless you both!”

From Dee Williams:

LOVED this! What a fun way to blog. In between all the great descriptions, Steve kept me laughing.”

From Anonymous:

“Love your story! My husband did too. I think he’s ready! [to go]”

From Donna Rutherford:

“Love your blog! Keep it coming!”

From Dorothy Pavel”

“Awesome pictures!”

From Lois Lilleholm:

“Great picture! You two have so much fun!”

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What’s next for us:

We’re off to a very busy start this year, having just returned from a month-long trip to Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Mexico, and the Florida Keys. We’re at home catching up this week and then it’s back to Pawhuska for the Chamber of Commerce Gala and quick trip over to Tulsa to check out an apartment for our daughter, Meghan.

She’ll be moving there this summer for nursing school and we’re so excited to this next step in her journey (plus, we just love visiting Tulsa).

Despite being raised a Nebraska Cornhusker, Meghan will be attending nursing school at OU.

Despite being raised a Nebraska Cornhusker, Meghan will be attending nursing school at OU.

We have several speaking engagements planned for this spring, including a talk on Social Media in Tourism at the Plains Safaris Conference in Kearney, and we’ll be making another trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for some tests and follow-ups.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota

We’ll visit the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, this spring where Ann will have some more tests and meet with her doctors.

May will be a busy month with graduations and getting Meghan moved and we’ve got a wonderful trip to Italy and Greece that we’re finalizing plans for this summer.

It’s exciting for us to think about these plans, but more importantly, we look forward to the time with family, the people we’re going to meet, the stories we’re going to tell, and the many ways our words and pictures will hopefully inspire extraordinary travel for everyday people like us, and like you.

Thank you again for coming along. And let us know what you’d like to see more (or less) of in our fifth year of blogging. We’d love to hear from you.

  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
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Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
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This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
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For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
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Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
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Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
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We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
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Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
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The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.
  • We'd never heard of cannonball rocks before we drove past them at North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and asked each other, "did you see that?" We'd never seen anything quite like these natural "concretions" created when water leaked into pockets of minerals in the ground. Now, as a hill erodes, these formations are exposed.⁣
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Seeing these rocks was such a cool experience because it reminded us of why we travel. We never know when we'll find something new, something that we never knew existed. We got along fine not knowing about cannonball rocks, yet now that we've seen them, our lives are a little richer. ⁣
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The world is a pretty cool place. Check it out.⁣
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@ndlegendary

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