"Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are." – Marianne Williamson

I'm writing this from the airplane, on the way down to Florida to see Brandon!! It's been a long month, and I'm so glad that our time apart is over. (And as an added bonus, I'm also looking forward to getting out of NYC for a few days before it snows again!!)

I hope you all aren't sick of hearing about Brené Brown yet – because I've got more for you! This past week was Week 5 in The Gifts of Imperfection e-course and the topic was one that I especially love: "Cultivating Gratitude and Joy (Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark)." Brené explains that in her research, "Wholehearted" people consistently practice gratitude. How interesting - gratitude isn't just a state of mind that you either have or don't have. It's something that has to be actively practiced, like yoga.

Brené compares joy to a string of twinkle lights: "I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration, and faith." Each of these little sparkling moments isn't enough to light a room, but strung together, they create a magical glow. You wouldn't want joy to be a floodlight that shines in your face constantly; it's more subtle than that. But most importantly, joy is found in the ordinary. It's not the milestone achievements, dream trips, or mountaintop moments that bring me the most joy. It's the little things – the afternoon light streaming in the windows of my apartment, a bouquet of tulips, a heart-to-heart talk with a girlfriend, a really great cup of coffee, a sunset jog over the Brooklyn Bridge, seeing Brandon napping on the couch with the cats – that make me realize that life is, indeed good.

So how does one go about practicing gratitude? It's just taking the time to notice and appreciate what you already have, rather than spending your time wishing for what you don't. There are lots of tangible things you can do: put post-it notes on the bathroom mirror, make a gratitude jar (this one's especially great for kids), write in a journal, or simply pray.

I love capturing ordinary moments of joy on my iPhone, so I created the collage above, depicting some of people and things I'm especially thankful for these days. (The list goes from L-R on top: 1,2,3,4, then L-R on bottom: 5,6,7,8.)

1) I am grateful for the gorgeous afternoon light that streams into my apartment. And even more so, I am grateful to live exactly where I live: in my favorite neighborhood in my favorite city, and in an apartment that truly feels like home. I'm also grateful to have the space to fit my yellow table!

2) I am grateful for coffee and toast every morning, and I especially love when it happens to be cranberry-pecan toast with salted butter and apricot jam. This combo equals pure joy!!

3) I'm grateful for sunset strolls or jogs over the Brooklyn Bridge. I feel inspired every time I see the Manhattan skyline looming ahead.

4) I am grateful for community. I had 20 women from church over to my apartment last week for soup and prayer. It was a beautiful evening, and filled me heart with joy to see my apartment full of these beautiful souls.

5) I am grateful for my sweet kitties, Pipa and Nouka. We've had them for 3 years now, and they bring me such incredible joy (especially while Brandon was away!).

6) I am grateful for Signe and Elise, my partners-in-crime on the cookbook project! Their tireless enthusiasm, encouragement, and help has not only gotten me through the past few months, but they've made it really fun!!

7) I am grateful to be get to collaborate with ABC Carpet & Home, and to use their gorgeous kitchenware in this cookbook. Just being in the store inspires me, but even more exciting is some of the projects we're now discussing. (More soon!) I'm pinching myself.

8) Most of all, I'm grateful for my incredibly handsome husband – and that I get to see him TODAY!! I am beyond blessed.

What about you? How do you practice gratitude?