Five years ago today, we sat in a lounge at the Doubletree Hotel in Rochester, Minnesota, and published our first-ever blog post on postcardjar.com. It was the day before I would undergo a procedure at the Mayo Clinic that would eventually diagnose me with a chronic inflammatory disease. Steve was still working as a middle school principal and we needed a little inspiration distraction in our lives. To date, that post has only been read 290 times. Yet five years later, our blog is garnering tens of thousands of page views each month, we are traveling to places we’ve never been, and we are making the most of midlife, despite my health challenges.

Mayo Clinic

We cannot thank all of our readers enough for following along on our journey and being so engaged with our blog. We love reading your comments, answering your questions, and getting your postcards in the mail. In case you’re new here or missed something along the way, here’s a look back at some of the highlights of our fifth year of blogging.

Our trip to Italy

We spent about a month in Italy and Greece last Summer, learning about wine production, eating pasta and spanakopita, and immersing ourselves in the culture. Steve wrote about his Tuscan food coma and I blogged about a unique wine tasting in the woods and one of our cooking classes there.

Montepulciano, Italy

One of our favorite parts of that trip was our visit with our hosts Deb and Massi to Valdobbiadene, Italy, where Prosecco wine is made. Here are of stories we wrote about it.

Prosecco Road Tip #1 – Hire a driver and guide

Prosecco Road Tip #2 – Stay at an agritourismo

Prosecco Road Tip #3 – Get to know your wine

Prosecco Road Tip #4 – Savor the food

Prosecco Road Tip #5 – Visit Cartizze Hill 

Cooking with The Chef and the Dish

We were thrilled when a Canadian company called The Chef and the Dish called us to ask if we’d be interested in a partnership. As soon as they said they’d like to connect us with and Italian chef via Skype to learn to make dishes featuring Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, we were in. We invited our friends, Jeff and Ciana, to join us for Chef Paola’s lessons on how to make delicious bruschetta, strawberry risotto and poached pears.

Whole meal with The Chef & The Dish

A few months later, they invited Ann and our friend Cyndi (Hyacinth) Kane (aka The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s BFF) to learn to prepare paella with Chef Ana from Spain. Both experiences were unforgettable and we highly recommend trying a class with The Chef and The Dish.

Launching a new website

In late summer, we bit the bullet and hired someone to help us design a new (and improved) website. With the help of Kelly Diekmann and KDesign, we went from 86 categories to 18 (no joke), changed our home page, and added a whole “work with us” section and our Instagram feed. We love the new design and functionality of our site and y’all seem to spend more time here now.

 

An introduction to Iowa

In the fall, we spent a week driving through Iowa and exploring new towns. We found 15 photo-worthy stops in Grinnell and had a fantastic stay at Hotel Grinnell, which was once a junior high school. Pinter’s Gardens and Pumpkins near Decorah provided us with a great place to play, and we tasted a coffee-flavored beer at Pivo Brewery in tiny Calmar.

Our last stop was in Clear Lake, Iowa, where we found all kinds of things to do in the offseason and had lunch at one of our favorite delis, the Starboard Market.

5,000 mile road trip across the south

In January, we escaped the cold of winter in the midwest and headed south for long road trip. We spent more than a month stopping at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Walmart Museum in Bentonville, Ark. We visited Greenville, Miss., where Steve got his start in teaching and had got a seat in the kitchen of the original Doe’s Eat Place.

Doe's Eat Place dinner

We still have lots more to write about this trip, including our visit to the Georgia Aquarium, our time in the Florida Keys, and our cruise aboard the Celebrity Edge, so stay tuned.

A home in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Of course, we wrote several posts about Pawhuska, Oklahoma, home of The Pioneer Woman and now us. Yes, we bought a house there in August and have been fixing it up and spending more and more time there. Steve wrote a blog post about 8 things for men to do while their wives shop at The Mercantile, and we confessed that we’ve slept around Pawhuska, including several nights in The Pioneer Woman Boarding House. We seem to get lots of readers who are searching the internet for things to do in Pawhuska and we’re very proud to have the second most popular blog in in town.

Photograph Room bed

As we look back on year five, we are so grateful for the incredible opportunities we’ve had. Not only have we traveled to great places, tried interesting foods, and had unforgettable experiences, we’ve also been blessed by the people we’ve met along the way. Whether we’ve met in person or over the internet, we are so thankful for each of you. Your continued support and encouragement of our blog is just amazing. We hope you know that you mean the world to us.

  • Have you always wanted to visit @thepioneerwoman lodge in Oklahoma? We’ve got a new blog post today with 12 tips to make your visit spectacular. Our website link is in our bio. And if the lodge is not open for tours when you can come, no worries! There are plenty of great things to see and do when you @visit_the_osage and @pwmercantile I’m Pawhuska. #pawhuska #pioneerwoman #drummondlodge #ranch #postcardjar #reedrummond
  • This is our first spring in Osage County, Oklahoma, and we are in awe of these trees!! It is a red bud and is the state tree of Oklahoma. They are everywhere around here and we love spotting the bright pinkish purple blooms among the green trees. So much beauty in nature. #redbud @visit_the_osage  @travelok
  • Sitting in our hotel room in Venice, we could look out across the busy canal toward St. Mark's cathedral. The fact that it's an island city makes it different from any other city in the world. Water taxis zoomed around, larger vaporettos chugged past, as well. Occaisionally, a cruise ship would glide past our window. Tourists from all over the world came to take in this spectacle, yet to the locals, who drive boats down tight canals with ease, this is what normal life looks like. The world is indeed a large, interesting place. Have you been to Venice? ⁣
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#veniceitaly #postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #italian_places #ig_italy #visititaly #italytrip #venetodigitale #veneto #goplaces
  • Seeing this photo takes us back to the the cooking class we took last summer on the island of Mykonos in Greece. We went to a woman's home, learned about Greek culture and history, and then prepared a meal using fresh ingredients from the garden in her back yard. Suffice it to say, it was one of the most delicious meals we'd ever had. But perhaps even better are the memories of the warm welcome we received as we entered her home and the glimpse into the lives of real people in another part of the world. ⁣
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#postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #celebritycruises #cruising #seastheday #celebrityreflection #endlesssummer #cruise #sea #beyondborders #humansatsea #cruiseaddict #lifeisbetteratsea #lifeisbeautiful #cruiseship #mykonosisland #mykonostown #cookingclass #greekfood #cruiselife #goplaces
  • Trust us on this: there is nothing that relaxes more than kicking back in a hammock in the shade on a beach in the Caribbean. Except maybe leaving that relaxing spot and getting back on a cruise ship for cocktails and a gourmet dinner. What do you do to relax on vacation? ⁣
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 #postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #cruiselife #cruising #beaches #hammock #royalcaribbean #beachfun #relaxationtime #cruiseship #beachlife #instabeaches #goplaces @royalcaribbean
  • Near Valdobbiadene, in the heart of Italy's Prosecco region, is a bar with no bartender. You simply go inside, take the wine or beer you want from the fridge, and leave your money to pay for it in a box. We weren't sure who the owner of this bar is, or even who keeps it stocked. What we do know from the cards and notes they've left is that people from all over the world have come here and respected the honor system. It's amazing how honest folks will be if you just show a little trust. ⁣
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#postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #ig_italy #visititaly #italian_places #italytrip #italytravel #italy_vacations #foodandwine #italyunfiltered  #Valdobbiandene #bartending #italia365 #goplaces @italyunfiltered @massithedriver @proseccowatch
  • Ahhh...the Piazza del Campo in Siena! We absolutely loved our time here, sitting at a sidewalk cafe, sipping delicious Chianti Clasico wine and savoring the some of the best lasagna and pasta carbonara we'd ever had. While there, we noticed a number of people drinking some kind of orange colored drink. Our waiter explained it was a spritz of some sort. We asked if it were good. She shook her head and said that only the Americans seemed to like it. ⁣
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#postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #tuscany #tuscanygram #siena #piazzadelcampo #italyunfiltered #instatuscany #vacation2018 #ig_toscana #ig_siena #igerssiena #goplaces @aroundsiena @italyunfiltered @massithedriver @chianticlassico #chianticlassico
  • This barn at at @Calamus_Outfitters in @visitnebraska serves as a reminder that this really is a working ranch. The Switzer family has poured their hearts and souls into the land. We think it's pretty neat that they're willing to share this piece of the beautiful Nebraska Sandhills with visitors. Have you been to the Nebraska Sandhills? ⁣
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#visitnebraska #HonestlyNE #CalamusOutfitters #barn #Tanking #postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #cabins #agritourism #ranch #ranching #ranchlife #goplaces

Making the most of midlife.