Five years ago today, I published my very first post here on Annie’s Eats.  Except it wasn’t here exactly, but hosted on a different blogging platform with a boring ol’ template, no character, and no real goal in mind.  To this day, I’m still not entirely sure what it was that prompted me to start a food blog.  People ask me this question all the time and I wish I had some fabulous, fun, witty answer.  The truth is, I enjoyed spending time in the kitchen and I read a lot of food blogs.  That’s pretty much it.  I suppose if anything, I thought it would be a good way for me to catalog the new recipes that I tried.  I never in a million years expected that anyone would actually read this thing.

And now here I sit five years later, and I can say that this blog has been truly life-changing for me in so, so many ways.  Naturally, it resulted in a huge improvement in both my cooking and baking skills.  I used to be afraid to stray even the slightest bit from a recipe, but as they say, practice makes perfect.  I’m nowhere near perfect, but every single kitchen experience teaches me something – success or failure – and now I am capable of developing recipes myself.  Through the natural progression of our journey in food, our family has shifted focus towards eating a more healthy, less processed and more eco-conscious diet and we continue to move in that direction.  Five years ago I was still using frosting from a can, eating boxed cereal for breakfast every day and using an embarrassing number of pre-made salad kits.  How things have changed.

The blog also helped me discover another love, photography.  If you had told me five years ago that I’d be playing with fancy cameras, shooting on manual and switching out lenses like I knew what I was doing, I would have laughed until I cried.  Who knew that I would enjoy the photography aspect of this project almost as much as the food itself?  The joy I get from achieving that perfect shot is a rush.  I’ve attended photography workshops, for crying out loud!  (Actually, I’m leaving one today.  And it was amazing – much more on that later.)  And I became tech savvy in other ways as well.  Well, maybe I didn’t but I found people who are tech savvy to help me out.  The best decision I ever made for the blog was to hire the most talented art director I know.  Ryan made the site look snazzy, but more than that (along with our brilliant helper Joe) gave the site the functionality you all craved.  He continues to dream up ways to help the site meet its full potential, and in the process, he also become one of my best friends.  His wife is one of the kindest people I know, and his daughters are cute on a whole other level.  All kinds of warm fuzzies going on right now.

Most importantly, this blog has allowed me to make other people excited about being in the kitchen and preparing wonderful food, and that is truly amazing.  People – lots of people – are reading the silly things I write, and trying out the recipes!  You guys get excited about things like cooking with dried beans and making your own yogurt right along with me.  Other cool perks include a few shout outs in pretty cool publications such as Better Homes and Gardens, which was especially meaningful to me because it was my mom’s favorite magazine.  I’ve published one cupcake calendar and have another set for release later this fall.

As if the joy of inspiring others weren’t enough, I’ve been able to really connect with so many wonderful readers.  We’ve connected through more than just cooking, of course.  You’ve been with me through some very sad times and some joyous moments as well.  I do wish the last five years had not been so tumultuous on a personal level, but I guess I’ll just hope for a less eventful five to come.  Super sweet commenters leave kind words daily, expressing their appreciation and telling me that I have helped them find joy in the kitchen.  Guys, you just don’t even know how wonderful I think that is.  For example, this is a recent message I received: “I couldn’t think what sparked [my interest in cooking and baking] for the life of me, until I remembered that one standard, run of the mill day, I found your blog through stumble upon and I haven’t stopped baking since. I found your blog about 3 years ago and have been an avid reader ever since. Thank you for inspiring me to try so many new things and for providing such great, reliable recipes for me to impress everyone with!”  No, no, thank you.

There aren’t words to express what all of these messages mean to me.  I’m humbled by your kind words, and I feel truly honored that you take the time to visit, try recipes, and spend time “with” me in the kitchen.  All I can really say is thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I have no idea what the next five years will hold but I’m looking forward to seeing how the blog continues to grow and I hope you will be here to follow along with this journey.

And, though it’s only a small gesture, I have some giveaways this week as a thank you to my awesome readers.  Check back each day this week for a link to the day’s giveaway.  Today I’m giving away two $30 gift cards to Sur La Table – one of my favorite options for awesome kitchen equipment (though I must admit, I don’t think I’ve ever spent less than $30…)  Head on over to the giveaway page to enter!

Mad props to our wonderful friend Bobbi of Bobbi + Mike for the lovely photos.  You know I love you :)