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.

  • Last week, we had the pleasure of making handmade pasta (via the internet) with our friends, Deb and Massi, who were in their home kitchen in Italy. ⁣
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You can read all about it, and get the recipe, on our blog. Yep, you guessed it, the link is in our bio. ⁣
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We met Deb and Massi of @italyunfiltered a few years ago when they created an amazing food and wine itinerary for us. We've remained friends and it was so good to see them, even if they were a world away.
  • We were supposed to be in Rochester, Minnesota, this week for Ann to see a cardiac sarcoidosis specialist about some recent issues with her heart. Of course, we did not travel to Rochester for her scans and doctor visits because of the coronavirus outbreak.⁣
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Instead, her cardiologists called her from their homes and her scans and tests will likely be delayed until June or July. We'll keep in close touch with them if anything changes, as well. We are so grateful for all of the healthcare professionals who are continuing to work crazy hours from home as well as in our hospitals around the world.⁣
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This is such an unprecedented and stressful time for all of them. Words will never be enough to convey our gratitude for the roles they are playing in the battle against this deadly virus while caring for those with other diseases and illnesses at the same time. ⁣
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Every healthcare provider we've talked with in the last two weeks has had the same message for those of us who don't have to go to work at a hospital. ⁣
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Just. Stay. Home.
  • Yesterday was Day 16 of social isolation for us. Because of Ann's underlying heart condition and suppressed immune system, we've cooked all our meals at home (no takeout). We've starting to get more and more creative as time has gone by. ⁣
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Last night, we made chicken and shrimp vindaloo and learned online how to make homemade naan.⁣
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It wan't as good as our favorite Indian restaurant, The Oven, but it did satisfy the craving we've had for Indian food. ⁣
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What are you craving these days?
  • We moved our living room furniture around this week and put two swivel chairs near the sliding glass door. Each day, we take time to turn around, rest our minds, enjoy in the view, and just be. #webelieveinhome
  • Our daughter, Meghan, is a cardiac ICU nurse. Despite all of the current uncertainties in healthcare during this pandemic, early this morning she put on her scrubs and went to work a 12+ hour shift. 
She is not alone. Across the country and around the world, healthcare workers are putting the safety of themselves and their families at risk to help others. It's what they do. Every. Single. Day. 
We are incredibly grateful that there are selfless people like this in the world and we pray for them and we hope you'll join us. 
We couldn't sleep this morning, so we wrote instead. Click on the link in our bio to read our morning thoughts and prayers.
  • Trying to decide where we’ll travel this weekend. Covered porch? Living room? 😉
  • We are staying home. 
We've been here for almost a week now because Ann is one of "those people." You know the ones. Those people with an underlying health issue. Those people with a suppressed immune system. One of those people who could become seriously ill, need hospitalization, and even die if exposed to the coronavirus.  Those people need your help to stay safe and live. And all you have to do is stay home when you don’t NEED to be out.

Over the past few days, we’ve seen photos, videos, and witnessed first hand people of all ages (but mostly young people) gathering in groups for what us mid lifers would consider “non essential” reasons: birthday parties, movies, youth sports practices, St. Patty’s Day celebrations at the bar, spring break at the beach, and the like. 
We don’t understand it. 
We try not to judge. 
But just for a time during this worldwide pandemic, could we ask people who are participating in non-essential activities to consider who “those people” most at risk really are?

Those people are already battling serious illnesses.

Those people want to see their grandchildren grow up.

Those people need to do their jobs as nurses and doctors.

Those people are first responders. 
Those people run the grocery store, and the pharmacy, and the gas station. 
Those people pray for you and your generation. 
And what about those other people? 
The ones you know.

Those people who made sacrifices to meet your needs.

Those people who took care of you when you were sick.

Those people who went to your games and cheered you on. 
Those people who taught you in school.

Those people who helped you pay for college.

Those people who cooked your favorite dish for you.

Those people who taught your Sunday School class.

Those people who have forgiven you.

Those people who will always love you unconditionally.

We keep wanting to scream, “It’s not about you, it’s about those people!” But the truth of the matter is, IT IS ABOUT YOU. 
You have the power to help.
You have the power to influence others.
You have the power to flatten the curve.

And by not changing your behaviors, you also have the power to harm. 
How will you choose to use your power?j
  • We’re sharing your postcards and encouraging you to help others and stay positive. 
If you’d like to send us a postcard, mail to: Postcard Jar, PO Box 334, Crete, NE 68333.

Second most popular blog in Pawhuska