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.

  • What a privilege to be in @visitbentonville this weekend to celebrate the opening of @themomentary and our friend, @addie_roanhorse. Addie’s Osage ribbon work- inspired design is featured on this tower at the Momentary and it is just fabulous! 
This new space opens to the public Feb. 22 and general admission is free, thanks to the generosity of the @waltonfamilyfdn.
  • In @visitmasoncityiowa, you'll find the boyhood home of famous composer Meredith Willson. Perhaps best known for his musical, "The Music Man," Willson based the show in large part on his experiences growing up in his hometown.⁣
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Mason City has kept Willson's memory alive through an extensive museum and convention space, which we got to see on our hosted tour of the town, called The Music Man Square. A part of the experience at Music Man Square is a tour through Willson's childhood home.⁣
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Now is the perfect time to head to Mason City for a visit. Hugh Jackman is set to play Professor Harold Hill in a Broadway revival of, "The Music Man." With that show opening in 2020, all eyes will be back on Mason City.⁣
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@thehughjackman @musicmanbway
  • When the @museumofamericanspeed invited us to come for a complimentary visit, we weren't sure what to expect. ⁣
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Yes, the museum is chock-full of race cars, engines, history, and car-related memorabilia. But it also houses other collections like one of old lunch boxes.⁣
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We had so much fun standing and taking in the lunch boxes, looking and trying to find the ones we had when we were kids. Ann had "Charlie's Angels" and Steve had "Super Friends." ⁣
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If you're ever near Lincoln, Nebraska, check out the Museum of American Speed. It's a true hidden treasure in the midwest. ⁣
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What kind of lunch box did you carry to school? Any kids of the 70s and 80s who had the ones we had?
  • Sometimes you find things in your own backyard.⁣
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Just up the road from our home in Crete, Nebraska, we found the National Museum of Roller Skating. Our curiosity piqued, we stopped in and took a look around. There we found the world's largest collection of historical roller skates, costumes, and memorabilia. ⁣
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It took us back to our childhood and spending time at the roller skating rink (do kids even skate anymore?). We remembered crossing over on the turns for the first time and bending at the knees for "Downtown" by Petula Clark. So many great memories. ⁣
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Sometimes, we focus so much on getting away that we forget that we have some really interesting places close to home, as well. The next time you feel a hankering to go somewhere, maybe try going down the street. You never know what treasure you might find and what memories it evoke.
  • This was our Valentine’s Day dessert last year. Chef Kurtess Mortensen at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile created this memorable dish he called “Fat Elvis.” It was a chocolate bread pudding, served alongside banana brûlée and caramelized peanuts then topped with marshmallow cream, homemade peanut butter ice cream, and a candied bacon garnish. We are giddy with anticipation to see what he comes up with tonight! We are budgeting our calories accordingly. 😉
  • “Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.”
– Lewis Carroll
  • It's been a long winter. I need to see flowers again! Are you with me?Let's talk about these flowers. ⁣
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We are often asked about our favorite place we've ever visited. While that question is hard to answer, we almost always mention Tallinn, Estonia, as a contender.⁣
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Estonia has an interesting history. Conquered in 1227 by Denmark, it never again enjoyed independence until  1920. That freedom was short lived, however, as the Soviet Union occupied the country in 1940. Finally, in 1991, Estonia regained its independence and has remained free ever since. The country joined NATO in 2004. ⁣
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Visiting Estonia, we could see the remnants of Soviet control. Large block buildings dominate the landscape. They are of Soviet Communist design: utilitarian in nature with no thought given to design. They look just like the buildings you've seen in movies about the Soviet Union. ⁣
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Now free, Estonians have done what they can to erase the gray days of Soviet control. The Soviet-style buildings are painted bright colors, and flowers abound in the streets. The people are warm, cheerful, friendly, and welcoming. ⁣
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Yes, Estonia is a wonderful country, and we can't wait to return.
  • Each year from late February to early April, hundreds of thousands of Sandhills Cranes migrate through Nebraska on their way north to their breeding grounds. It's considered one of the greatest spectacles in nature, so thousands of people come to experience this incredible time.⁣
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We traveled to Kearney, Nebraska, one of the best cities for crane viewing, last year. Because the best times to view the cranes is sunrise and sunset, we found ourselves with some free time during the day. It turns out that Kearney has a lot to offer in terms of things to do.⁣
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Scroll across our highlights on Instagram, and you'll find the stories highlights we made during our time there. On our blog (link in bio) you'll also find a post we wrote with ideas for 20 things to do in Kearney while you wait on the cranes. ⁣
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Put crane viewing on your bucket list. It really is one of the most amazing experiences we've ever had in nature. And don't worry about being bored between sunrise and sunset--Kearney has too much to offer.

Second most popular blog in Pawhuska