Many years ago, I discovered the secret of a gratitude journal.

I think I originally heard it while listening to a tape by Tony Robbins. (Yep, I used to run with a cassette player attached to my hip, and those crazy, flimsy headphones covering my ears. Remember that setup?)

Anyway, he talked about using a gratitude journal to help you stay more positive, get more focused, and work towards what you really want in your life.

I was all over that. So I started my own gratitude journal right away. Years later, I still use that concept in every journal entry I create.

It’s quite simple, actually.

Get a journal. Be conscious of what you select. Don’t buy it because it’s cheap. Put effort into this. Buy it because it’s beautiful, or you like the outside saying, or the place you buy it from. (Here’s my current one, in my chair, where I write every day.)

Set aside a time every day to write one page. I get up in the morning, meditate, and then open up my gratitude journal and write. You can do it right before you turn out the light each night; that’ll put positive thoughts in your mind as you go to sleep.

Always, always, always, write three things you’re grateful for. I like “three things” because it gives you structure and accountability, makes you stretch, and yet not too much. And I never write the same things.

You also want to write out why you’re grateful for it.

I popped mine open to a random day, and this was one of mine:

I’m grateful for finding the best tea company in Portland. I love visiting their small retail store and selecting the perfect blends of tea. I smile when I add tea to my favorite mug, and fill it up with hot water. I love the warmth it sends deep inside, reminding me that life is good.

I believe when you start your day out grateful for what you have, focused on good things in your life, you’ll have a happier, more productive day.

This process has worked well for me for years.

Now, I won’t say there aren’t days I don’t have trouble. I’ve spent more than one day sitting for several minutes trying to think of something – anything.

But the point of the process is to change your thinking. To give you a good outlook instead of leaving you brooding or seething.

And if even for just a little while, it’s nice to remember a few of the good things that are happening right now, in your life.

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Summer is concert season here in Portland. There are wonderful, free concerts all over the city. You’ll find us picnicking three or four nights of the week. And now that peaches are at their peak, this salad always makes it into our basket at least once a week.

Summer Panzanella Salad

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 small red onion, diced
Kernels from 2 fresh organic ears of corn
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
18 cherry heirloom tomatoes, sliced in half
3 peaches, pitted and sliced
4 heaping cups of cubed crusty bread
Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pat the chickpeas to remove most of the water, then put in a bowl. Add a tablespoon olive oil and coat. Salt and pepper to taste. Lay out on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, turning halfway through.
  • In a large bowl, combine olive oil, sherry vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper. Add the onion and corn and mix well. Leave this stand while you prep the rest of the salad.
  • To the bowl, add the tomatoes, peaches, and bread. Mix well. Let the salad stand 10 minutes or so for the bread to absorb the juices.
  • Top with baked chickpeas right before serving.

We have a new baker at the farmers market this year who makes the best olive bread. The loaf is enormous – $6 a loaf – but this thing lasts me all week. I use it for salads like this one. I’ve also cubed and baked some of it to make the best croutons. Yum!

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