Woo-hoo! Our updated travel blog is here!

Woo-hoo! Our updated travel blog is here!

After weeks of editing, cropping, categorizing and designing, our updated travel blog is here! So, what do you think? If you’ve been a reader of our blog, you’ll notice it looks a little different. If you’re new here – welcome to Postcard Jar. 

Why the change?

Over the past few months, we noticed that some functions of our blog weren’t working quite right. Nothing major, but there was a hiccup every now and again. Our “theme” was old and couldn’t be updated anymore. We’d also compiled a growing list of things we couldn’t figure out how to do and we didn’t have a logo. But we do now! What do you think? 

Back in 2014 when we started this blog, we enlisted the help of a good friend who does web design to get us started. We did our best to update the posts and pages ourselves. We were amateurs, and we knew it. That was okay because blogging was simply a hobby we started as something to do between doctor appointments and surgeries when Ann had become ill and was unable to work.

Over time however, our blog and interest in it have grown. In addition to traveling more places and having more social media followers than ever before, we now find ourselves entering into partnerships with destinations and attractions who enlist us to tell their stories. We are super excited about the direction it’s going, and knew we were outgrowing our old site. So we decided to hire someone to help. 

Our newly updated travel blog

After a lot of research and a few interviews, we ultimately hired designer and University of Nebraska graduate Kelly Diekmann of KDesign. She went right to work. Over the course of a several weeks, many phone calls, and countless emails, she designed the updated travel blog website you’re looking at now. We have to say, we think she did a great job! She listened to our ideas, got our vision, and put together what we hope is a site that is easy to navigate and fun to read.

 

Take a few minutes to look around. Check out the tabs at the top of the page and explore the different categories. Then, click on the cool icons Kelly created to immerse yourself in subjects like the Caribbean, food and drink, and travel tips.

You’ll see that while our content has stayed the same, we updated the design of just about everything. We really put thought into your experience and tried to create an attractive, easy-to-use website that will give you ideas and inspire you to travel. 

 

We categorized and displayed stories in a way designed to help you get a quick overview. Hopefully, you can easily find something that tickles your fancy. Also updated are our About Us, Contact Us, and Work With Us pages so you can stay in touch.

In addition, the new layout really showcases our Ann’s photographs. With a rare exception of a few photos others have taken of us, Ann took all the photographs on our new site.

Be sure to leave a comment

One change we really like is that the comment section is easier to find at the bottom of each post. That makes it easier for you to let us know what you think. Finally, we added some counters and are now keeping track of interesting facts like how many postcards we’ve received and the number of times we’ve been bitten by sharks (thankfully, that one is still at 0). At the very bottom of the page, you’ll also find our beautiful Instagram feed. Click on any image, and be sure to follow us there, as well.

Most of all, we hope you’ll enjoy your time here. We hope that no matter where you are, Postcard Jar is place you can go to lift your spirits, fuel your dreams, and be inspired to go someplace new. Click HERE to visit our new homepage and check out the rest of the site and again, thanks for following along on our journeys.


So, what do you think of our updated travel blog? Please let us know in the new, easier to find comments section below.

How we ended up eating kolaces with readers of our blog

How we ended up eating kolaces with readers of our blog

A few months ago, we got a sweet comment on our blog from a man who had read our post about 70+ Things to do in Crete, Nebraska (our hometown). He wrote,  “My newly discovered half-sister and I have planned a trip to Crete in June to explore our family roots. Your list of things to do in Crete is filled with good humor and practical advice!”

Things to do in Crete, Nebraska

We exchanged a few more messages and were delighted when we asked about how he found the post and he said, “Yes, I Googled “Things to Do in Crete, Nebraska,” and your blog popped up. I was charmed when I saw that Trip Advisor had offered you no responses to this same question. But as you demonstrate, there are many things to do in Crete!”

There are many things to do in Crete. In fact, there are at least 70. We kept in touch with Ben and he wrote again last week to say that he and his half-sister were planning a trip to Crete to explore their roots and would like to meet. We were so delighted to accept their invitation and asked them to stop by our place this week for coffee and a chance to check something else off their “things to do in Crete” list: #29 – eat a kolace.

#29 on our list of Things to do in Crete was eat a kolace.

It was so nice to finally meet Ben and his sister, Jackie (Jelinek) Eggers and hear their story. Ben, who had been adopted as an infant, grew up with wonderful parents and after their deaths, decided to look into identifying his biological family. Through a series of inquiries, ancestry websites, and eventually a DNA test, he found that he had a half-sister, Jackie. Ben contacted Jackie’s grown son and with his approval, contacted the sister he’d never known until last year.

The two siblings and their spouses and families have quickly developed wonderful relationships and their trip to Crete was a next step in their journey to better understanding their past. They visited the Benne Museum in Crete, drove to nearby Wilber to explore Czech heritage there, and found a granite memorial that we’d never even seen. The memorial was erected in 1929 in memory of the Bohemian pioneers who settled in Saline County, Nebraska.

Memorial to Bohemian pioneers near Crete, Nebraska

We had a lovely time with Ben and Jackie, discussing their family history and our hometown. And of course, we had kolace.

Kolace in Crete, Nebraska.

 

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Ann’s visit with The Weary Teacher

Ann’s visit with The Weary Teacher

A couple weeks ago, while helping our daughter, Meghan, get settled at her new place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I met another blogger who is just inspiring! Her name is Haley Curfman and she is a second grade teacher in Blackwell, Oklahoma. You might remember her (or at least her dress) from social media.

This post about the dress her second graders colored with things that make them happy went viral.

This post about the dress her second graders colored with things that make them happy went viral.

I had come across a Facebook post several months ago about Haley wearing a white dress which she had allowed her students to decorate with drawings of things that make them happy. It was such a sweet idea and even though I’m not a teacher, I loved her creativity and wanted to learn more.

Apparently, she had a few rules for her students when they colored her dress. #1 – They had to draw something that made them happy. #2 – They couldn’t cross anything out. #3 – They couldn’t cover up anyone else’s work.

After seeing that adorable post, I checked out her blog, The Weary Teacher, and just loved the creative photos she had staged and posted like the ones below.

The Weary Teacher Haley Curfman. (Photo from The Weary Teacher website)

Photo courtesy of The Weary Teacher.

Thanks in part to the prop gathering/placement and photography skills of her mom, The Weary Teacher has created some of the most hilarious scenes at her desk, including nods to Dr. Seuss, Valentine’s Day, and the Kay County Fair.

I’ve enjoyed following her teaching adventures through her blog and recently realized she lived in Oklahoma right off the highway I was going to use to go back to our home in Nebraska. I sent her a message and it worked out for us to meet and exchange ideas and tips about blogging.

The Weary Teacher blog

The Weary Teacher blog

She told me about her second graders and her love for all things Disney and I shared some of our experiences traveling throughout Oklahoma and our plans to travel to Italy and Greece this summer.

Turns out, we had a quite a bit in common and even brainstormed some ideas about how we might partner on a project or two in the future. One of things I love most about travel (and blogging) is that you get to meet new and interesting people like Haley along the way.

If you have a chance, check out her blog at www.thewearyteacher.com and follow The Weary Teacher on social media. She also has a fantastic new 2018-2019 school calendar for sale HERE with all proceeds going back to teachers.

Haley Curfman is a delightful young woman as well as a fantastic teacher and blogger. I’m so glad we had a chance to meet.

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The Weary Teacher

We’ve been invited to tour Italy with Deb and Massi the Driver and we can’t wait!

We’ve been invited to tour Italy with Deb and Massi the Driver and we can’t wait!

Yes, we’ve been invited to tour Italy with Deb and Massi. She’s from upstate New York, backpacked through Australia and New Zealand, and worked in Silicon Valley and in Texas. He’s small town boy who grew up on a Tuscan hunting estate and winery and took a job in a salumeria just 20 miles from his home. Somehow they met, fell in love, and were married in a bar-b-que line in Austin, Texas. And this summer, we get to spend five days touring the Italian countryside with them. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?

Deb and Massi

Massi and Deb, with whom we’ll be spending five days this summer.

Three years ago, long before I’d even thought of leaving my career as a middle school principal, Ann and I booked a cruise on the Celebrity Reflection for this summer from Rome to Greece. Because the ship will whisk us away from Italy almost immediately, and now that I’ve got some flexibility since leaving my job, we thought it would be nice to see a little more of Italy before our cruise because, well, Italy.

Italian countryside

This should help answer any questions as to why we’d want to see Italy.

As the date for our trip came closer, we began making plans and asked a question in an Italian travel group on Facebook.

Deb Larsen of Italy Unfiltered, responded by telling us that she and her husband, Massi, (Massi the Driver), would like to host us for some amazing experiences like winey visits and cooking classes, offering their services free of charge. Now, if you think for one minute that the promise of fresh Italian meats, cheeses, pastas, and wines as well as beautiful views of the Italian countryside could lure us in, then you would be 100% correct. I mean, look at these pictures! We. Can’t. Wait!

Italian charcuterie board

A beautiful Italian charcuterie board.

Let me tell you a little bit about our hosts. Deb is a world traveler who isn’t afraid of adventure. After finishing culinary school in upstate New York, she caught the travel bug and backpacked around Australia and New Zealand using the skills she’d learned in school to support herself. After three years, she figured she’d better head back home, but didn’t have money for airfare, so she worked her way home on a container ship. A container ship!


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Italy Unfiltered with Deb and Massi the Driver


Once back in the U.S., she took a job in marketing in Silicon Valley and learned the ins and outs of the internet. Later, she moved to Texas where she began an estate sale business. After being in the rat race for a bit, these jobs took their toll, so she decided to go with a friend to Italy to recharge. She immediately fell in love with the country and told us that, “Italy was this magical place.”

Beautiful Italian sunset

We would agree that this view seems pretty magical.

So magical, it seems, that she stood crying in the airport in Milan when it was time to leave. Seriously. She was in tears. Just as soon as she was home, she began planning her next trip.

Deb traveled to Italy regularly after that. She said that when she kept coming back to the same place over and over again, even in the winter, the locals got to know her. One day she walked in to a salumeria and began speaking to one of the employees in her broken Italian. (Try not stare at this prosciutto too long. There’s more story below.)

Italian salamis and meats

One glance at this delicious looking plate tells us why people visit salumerias.

That employee was Massi. He’d grown up just 20 miles away, on a Tuscan hunting estate and winery where his father had worked. By age 15, he was working at the winery. After high school, he spent some time working for an energy/recycling company and began doing some driving. Later, he took a job at a salumeria in Siena, a store that sold cured meats, cheeses, and wines. It was there he really began to learn about Italian wine and not just the stuff his dad had made in their garage.

Grapes on the vine in Italy

Grapes on the vine in Italy.

He worked hard, and his employer soon rewarded him by taking him on tours of wineries. He took advantage of those opportunities and learned as much as he could.

Massi opens Prosecco

Massi even learned to open Prosecco in the traditional way: with a sword!

Then he met Deb, and let her talk in her broken Italian even though he spoke English well. They exchanged emails. Then phone numbers. Then, they fell in love.

Soon, friends in Austin were asking Deb to help them arrange trips to Tuscany. She worked with Massi to help create perfect, custom experiences for these people. One group led to another. Then repeat customers began to call. Suddenly, they were in business, even bringing an authentic Tuscan meal back to the states for a group of 14 people in California. They served it on a terrace, the ultimate in take-out dinners.

Italian meats ready to be served

Italian meats and bruschetta ready to be served.

Is your mouth drooling yet, looking at these pictures of cured meats and cheeses? Back to our story.

It was on a visit to the U.S. that they decided to get married. They considered Vegas or the courthouse, but those weren’t them. They did, however, love Franklin’s bar-b-que in Austin, Texas, where they’d waited in line together many times for the iconic barbecue. It was the perfect venue. So, they decided to get married in the line that forms daily outside that Austin favorite. Wanting a small wedding, they invited one of Deb’s friends to be the witness and found a justice of the peace to join them in line. Even on their wedding day they had to wait in line, but the restaurant did give them a banana cream pie for a wedding cake. Oh, and their intimate wedding wound up featured on the local news.

Deb and Massi wedding

Deb and Massi exchange vows in the line of Franklin’s Bar-b-que in Austin, Texas

Deb and Massi wedding announcement

The couple left a wedding announcement at Franklin’s Bar-b-que.

We’ve enjoyed getting to know Deb and Massi while preparing for our trip this summer. Planning travel to a foreign country where you don’t know anyone or even speak the language is a pretty daunting task. But working with this great couple has made things so much easier. Deb is from the U.S., so she understands where we’re coming from, and has been super-responsive to all our questions. Knowing we have her as a contact and helping with arrangements has taken away so much trip-planning stress. Massi is Italian, and knows all about the area, history, food, and wine.

Montalcino wine

Wine ages in barrels at a winery in Montalcino.

He knows all the locals and knows where to go to get the experiences their clients want. He’s also a fully licensed tour driver [CLICK HERE], meaning he can take his van to places a rental car isn’t allowed to go and many tourists will never see. And let’s be honest, we’re excited to have a designated driver as we tour Italian wineries.

Massi with his van.

Massi stands next to the van he drives for tours.

Now in their third full year, their business is growing. They offer mostly private tours meaning we won’t be two of 50 crammed on a huge bus full of people, craning our necks, hoping to hear from the back of the crowd. Instead, we’re looking forward to a customized, personal experience built around our interests with ample opportunities to learn about Italian culture, history, food, and wine from real locals. And, after talking with Deb and Massi only a couple of times, we feel like we’ll be enjoying our experience with old friends. We can’t wait to begin our voyage, and share it with you. You can follow on our trip to Italy and all our journeys on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

I mean, just look at this view. Ciao!

Tuscan countryside

A beautiful view of the Italian countryside


All photos used in this post are courtesy of Italy Unfiltered.

Thanks for sharing and pinning! 

Italy Unfiltered with Deb and Massi the Driver

Italy Unfiltered with Deb and Massi the Driver

We’re sharing postcards from our readers!

We’re sharing postcards from our readers!

As the busy travel season gets underway, we thought we take the opportunity to share a whole bunch of the postcards y’all have sent us. In this electronic age, we love going to our post office box and seeing hand written postcards from readers like you who have literally traveled all over the world.

Our readers have sent us postcards from all over the world.

Our readers have sent us postcards from all over the world.

We’ll be posting pictures this summer on our social media outlets (Facebook and Twitter) of some of the more than 150 postcards we’ve received. We hope they give you some ideas of new places to go and things to see and do. And, if you’ve been to one of the places we post about, please let us know what you like to do there.

And we’ll throw in a few of the postcards we’ve sent home to ourselves and displayed in our postcard jar. Yes, we really have a postcard jar that sits on a table in our front entry.

Our postcard jar that sits on a table in our front entry.

Our postcard jar that sits on a table in our front entry.

In case you’re new here, here’s how we our postcard jar began and why we named our blog after it.

Why Postcard Jar?

I read a home decorating blog post on Young House Love about saving postcards from places you visit and displaying them in a glass vase. I loved the idea and from that point on in May of 2011, whenever we traveled together we’d send a postcard back home.

The first postcard we sent home was from the home of our first U.S. President, George Washington. We jotted down highlights from our visit on the postcard, including the view from the rocking chairs on the back porch overlooking the Potomac River and the Maryland shore.

The first postcard we sent home was from Mt. Vernon

The first postcard we sent home was from Mt. Vernon.

Since we got married in 2011, we’ve added more than 100 postcards to the jar which adorns a table in the entryway of our home. Our postcard jar is a constant reminder of where we’ve been and the things we’ve experienced together and we couldn’t think of a more fitting name for our blog.


If you’d like to send us a postcard, you can mail it to: Postcard Jar, P.O. Box 334, Crete, NE 68333.

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www.postcardjar.com is a blog about extraordinary travel for everyday people.

www.postcardjar.com is a blog about extraordinary travel for everyday people.

Fellow travel bloggers publish book about one of our favorite cities — Omaha

Fellow travel bloggers publish book about one of our favorite cities — Omaha

This week, we are helping fellow travel bloggers and friends, Tim and Lisa Trudell of The Walking Tourists celebrate the launch of their new book, 100 Things To Do In Omaha Before You Die. The book is a compilation of 100 vignettes covering a wide variety of things to see and do in Omaha, separated into categories like food and drink, music and entertainment, sports and recreation, and natural beauty.

We received the book in the mail this week from publisher, Reedy Press, and had a good time thumbing through it, reading about some of our favorite places in Omaha while learning about new ones. Sure, most people have heard of #46 – Talk with the animals at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, but this book has 99 other Omaha gems worth checking out.

Ann could sit and watch these jellyfish for hours at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska.

Ann could sit and watch these jellyfish for hours at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska.

Five of our favorites

#41 – Hit a home run at the Johnny. This vignette is all about Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium and brought back lots of great memories about our first date there. It was encouraging to us to read in the book that while the stadium is no longer there, “Rosenblatt fans still bring their children (to the site) to have them stand at home plate and relive its history or play a pickup game, with the old Rosenblatt sign standing above left field.”

We loved reading about Rosenblatt Stadium, as it was the site of our very first date.

We loved reading about Rosenblatt Stadium, as it was the site of our very first date.

#54 – He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. Boy’s Town began in Omaha and we’ve loved the time we’ve spent touring the campus and learning about its 100-year history. There’s a great audio car tour you can take around the grounds just off Dodge Street in Omaha and we especially like the museum that includes the Academy Award statuette donated by actor Spencer Tracy for his Oscar-winning role as Father Flanagan in the 1938 movie, Boys Town. The visitor center there also houses the world’s largest ball of stamps.

Two Brothers statue, Boys' Town, Omaha, Nebraska

The famous “Two Brothers” statue at Boys’ Town.

#9 – How do you like your steak? Medium rare. Is there any other way? As you may know, we are big fans of Nebraska beef and there are plenty of great places in Omaha to get a good steak. The book lists several of Tim and Lisa’s favorites.

Gorat's steakhouse, whiskey ribeye, Omaha, Nebraska

Steve and Meghan show off their whiskey ribeye steaks from Gorat’s.

#47 – Go on a safari. The Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari is one those places we’d driven by hundreds of times and never stopped. Until last year. And we’re so glad we did! We loved watching all of the wildlife and walking on the trails in this safari, just off Interstate 80 between Lincoln and Omaha.

Elk at Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari

We loved hearing the bugling elk at Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari.

#95 – Smell the flowers. We absolutely love Omaha’s Lauritzen Gardens and since we found it, have been back several times each year.

There's nothing like seeing bright tropical plants to warm up a cold winter day. This is one of many beautiful orchids at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, Nebraska.

There’s nothing like seeing bright tropical plants to warm up a cold winter day. This is one of many beautiful orchids at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, Nebraska.

Spread out over 100 acres (something new we learned in the book), Lauritzen Gardens features nearly 20 gardens, including an English perennial garden, children’s garden, herb garden, and Japanese garden. We especially enjoy visiting the gardens in the winter months and wrote about that in this blog post about 5 things to do in Omaha when it’s freezing.

On our “to do” list

#6 – Eat with the raccoons at the Alpine Inn. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

#49 – Be in two states at one time. That’s right, we’ve never walked across The Bob. Definitely want to get there this year.

#66 – Honor tribal culture. We would love to see the Fort Omaha Intertribal Powwow and let’s be honest … eat fry bread.

The book, which costs about $16, is 143 pages long. I liked that there are lots of white spaces to write our own notes about each destination (yes, I write in books). In addition, there are travel tips and fun facts, like “Triple Crown winner Omaha was buried near the old Aksarben racetrack. A memorial in his honor is located at Stinson Park.”

Love the tips and fun facts.

Love the tips and fun facts.

Authors Tim and Lisa were some of the very first travel bloggers we met and they’ve helped us out several times on our journey as travel influencers. We’ve enjoyed each others’ company at blogger conferences and festivals and we all watched the total solar eclipse together at our place last summer. We are so happy for them and wish them continued  success with the book and their travels.

To get your copy of 100 Things To Do In Omaha Before You Die, click HERE.


Note: We received a complimentary copy of 100 Things To Do in Omaha Before You Die. However, the opinions expressed are our own.