how we spend our days (+ announcement!)

June 26

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives” (Annie Dillard)

I read the above quote a few years ago, back when I was compiling a 25th anniversary scrapbook for my parents in which people wrote and told of gifts and memories and experiences they’d had with my mom and my dad, and I was reflecting then the way I’ve been reflecting lately, about what are the most meaningful things we do, about what we really want. I’ve been asking myself: How am I spending my days, since that’s how I’m spending my life? And then, is the way I am spending them good?

cherry chocolate ice cream

Of course the easy way to define our days is by our full-time gigs, be it school or work or motherhood or something else that requires most of our time, and I’ve done that before: I’ve sat down to dinner with friends and explained my class load. I’ve called myself a copywriter. I’ve mentally calculated some kind of personal net worth. But the older I get, the more I see those things—while important—are not the only things.

Now when I look at my days, I look instead at harder questions: how am I pursuing things that matter? what am I accomplishing? where’s my passion? whom do I love? how is my life improving someone else’s?

homemade cherry chocolate ice cream

I am convinced and convicted that these are questions we can ask from a cubicle or a kitchen, in our teens or in old age, no matter where we’re working or whom we’re working with. And in my particular case, these are questions that have prompted some pretty major changes.

So. Are you ready for this? Here is my news: as of tomorrow morning, I am self-employed. I have left my job, my regular paycheck, my health insurance for the time being, and after three years of working in an office—managing and copywriting, blogging and editing—I am going to be writing strictly from home. I’ve got one steady client, and I’m eager for more (Need a writer? I’m your girl!), and I’m excited about so many byproducts of this decision, from the opportunity to cook and blog more to possibilities for travel and moving.

Working from home is something I’ve always dreamed of doing, and while I may not do it forever, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to do it now. As my (encouraging, inspiring, always-my-cheerleader) dad told me, Now is the time to do these sort of things. You are young.

cherry chocolate ice cream in bowl

I love him for saying that, for believing this is possible, for pushing me to just do it. Truth is, I don’t want to look back on my life and know I was too scared to step out, too afraid to take what feels like a risk. So I am doing this.

ice cream and blue jeans

In some ways, it feels like my entire world is changing; in others, it’s like things are exactly the same. I have always wanted to spend my days profitably; just now I’ll be doing so in the offices of my bedroom, a random a coffee shop, a library, anywhere I want, maybe wearing blue jeans, maybe eating ice cream. Why not?

Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream
Adapted from Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book, as seen at The Splendid Table

This has truly been a June worth homemade ice cream. In every way.

This version, based off Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia recipe, is tweaked to be a little healthier/more natural, as well as packed with extra cherries and chocolate. But for the strong taste of honey, it has been absolute heaven—you’ll see below about how much honey I used to make the syrup; next time I’d probably leave it out or reduce it, but the choice is yours.

1 (or if you’re like me, 1.5) of those 3.5-ounce very dark chocolate bars (I love the ones by Trader Joe’s checkouts), chopped into fine pieces/shavings
1/2 cup fresh Bing cherries, halved and pitted
1/2 cup Sucanat (or you could use sugar)
1/8 cup honey
1/8 cup sorghum syrup (or you could maybe use maple syrup)
2 large eggs
2 cups organic heavy or whipping cream
1 cup whole milk

Place the shaved chocolate flakes and the cherries in separate bowls. Cover and refrigerate.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine Sucanat, honey and sorghum syrup, letting the mixture thicken into a sweet syrup. Add the cherries as it cooks, so they can infuse the syrup with flavor and to give them a nice glaze. When finished, strain the cherries and put them back in the fridge. Let the syrup cool slightly.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the syrup mixture, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend.

[At this point, you can put the mixture in an ice cream maker and follow its instructions; I chose to go a more traditional route this time.] Transfer the mixture to a freezer-safe container, cover and pop it in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Take it out and blend for five minutes with a hand mixer. Repeat this process three or four times, until the ice cream is the thick, creamy texture you want. Between us, I used no timer with this and popped my ice cream in the freezer for three hours at one interval. This method is forgiving.

After the ice cream is stiffened (about 2 minutes before it is done), add the chocolate and the cherries, then continue freezing until the ice cream is ready. (If it’s too frozen, just set it on the counter to thaw a little before adding the cherries and chocolate, no problem.)


  1. says

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!! You’re amazing, lady! This is so fantastic and I know it’s going to turn out brilliantly for you. It’s my dream to do the same and I’m plotting and figuring out a way to make it happen. You’re an inspiration though. Lots of love and good blessings!

  2. says

    Yay! My heart leaps with joy for you. I think it’s amazing that you’ll be able to have all the Casual Tuesdays you want to, to be working and living on your own terms more than you ever have before. And I’ll certainly be reading along, following this new adventure of yours. :)

  3. says

    Good luck Shannalee! I admire your courage and I’m sure you’ll make this work :) Can’t wait to read more about it!

  4. says

    “Leap and the net will appear.”

    Shanna, this is such wonderful news. I hope to live vicariously through you working in your pyjamas now and again.

  5. says

    Anais Nin wrote, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage”.

    good luck to you sweet girl.

  6. says

    ya know, murdo and i were just talking about risks the other day. the white sox general manager was being interviewed on TV, and he was asked something about taking risks, and he said something along the lines of, “of course i’m taking a risk. does anyone achieve anything truly great without taking risks?” and we liked that.

    good for you, shanna, for taking that risk. you’ve got some great achievements in your future, i can feel it!

  7. says

    Best of luck to you! I always think of the 3rd Indiana Jones movie, where he stands at the abyss with no way across, then glances down at the journal in his hand and declares “It’s a leap of faith.” He swallows hard, steps out and lands on the unseen bridge. The relief that washes over his face never fails to take my breath away. I kind of know how that feels, and how you must feel. I have no doubt that you will succeed.

  8. says

    Wow! Congrats Shanna! On top of the exciting news, this was such a great post! I love the reflection about how we are spending our lives.

  9. Liz says

    Audaces fortuna iuvat: Fortune Favors the bold! Congratulations! I have no doubt that you will get several more clients. Your writing is fantastic….anyone would be lucky to hire you! And thanks for the message about being young and daring…I needed to hear it!

  10. Alicia says

    You really do inspire me. All I can say is that I’m so glad I met you, and I’m so glad we got a chance to talk about our health conditions and our diets and our passion for eating healthy and natural. You’ve helped me in more ways than you know, seriously. I don’t even know how to begin telling you how much you helped, just by listening, and just by understanding and relating when we’d talk about kombucha and fermentation and all those other crazy topics that no one else understands. Ahhh, I”m starting to tear up! And now this blog. I’m really going to try and take on your positive persepective. I know that I am lucky to work from home and it gives me so many opportunities that other people don’t have, and I’m so so so happy for you that you get to do it now too. Just a warning though: it becomes very easy to stay in your PJs all day and miss showers on some days! :) Can’t wait to see what new recipes come from your extra time in the kitchen.

  11. rachel says

    aw! i love you shanna! someday Ill hire you to help me write my foster parenting memoirs :) yeah!!

  12. says

    A big congratulations to you! It’s a big step but so rewarding. Plus it’s so good for one’s own self. Anyone who takes the time to reflect and find out what they want to do before jumping into it knows they are doing the right thing. I wish you all the best in your endeavor and look forward to more of your writing on this blog!

  13. Michele says

    Congrats Shanna. With your talents, no doubt you will be successful whatever you do, wherever you do it, and for whomever you do it. And by the way…your life has improved someone else’s (mine) for a long time now.

  14. says

    Gosh, you’re so brave! Good luck! I’m definitely bookmarking this recipe, it seems pretty low fuss actually! How do you think it would fair using a lower fat milk or half and half for the cream portion? I imagine it would probably affect the creamy consistency?

  15. Celeste says

    Well done Shannalee,
    what a great adventure. I will be praying for you and for more writing jobs to come your way as you begin a new chapter.
    I love reading what you have to say and look forward to future writings from you.

  16. says

    Hiya… lovely post, and lovely idea for your life. I’m looking forward to all the wonderful things you will be doing and all the cooking that you now will have time to do while you write at home! I’m in a similar situation, and just quit my job this week to become self-employed. So, we can toast to each other over the interwebs! :)

  17. Sue says

    I am SO very excited for you, Shanna!! I’m sure you will flourish in this new stage & find lots of new inspirations. :)

  18. says

    Hooray for taking the leap! I’ve been self-employed now for over 5 years and I love it. I was pushed into it because of a lay-off but I love your gumption! Hooray. Did I also mention that your ice cream looks amazing?

  19. says

    brilliant. congratulations, lady. i can only imagine the joy and relief you feel (sans any anxiety you may be feeling).

    Leap and the net will appear.

  20. says

    This is so exciting Shannalee! I wish you all the best in your new self employed life. It is something I have been dreaming of. Maybe one day… Gx

  21. says

    Tim and I are so proud of you Shanna! I know it’s a big risk – but I totally agree with your dad! I think you’ll be great and get plenty of work in no time 😉

    ps- I just bought some cherries and wasn’t sure what to do with them. NOW I do! And thanks for including the method without the ice cream maker -because I don’t have one 😉

  22. says

    Congrats Shannalee! This is so exciting, you’re going to do great! I hope you enjoy every minute of it.

    By the way, this ice cream sounds so good I’m afraid to make it because I’ll eat the whole thing haha

  23. says

    Congratulations, Shannalee! May your leap into the unknown make you happier than you could ever have expected and may clients line up at your door! I’ll certainly keep you in mind when I need to hire copywriters. Let me know if you’ve got another site up with your pro portfolio. 😉

    And the ice cream looks amazing…I’ve made my own (dairy-free) version of Cherry Garcia for a few years now, and this is a wonderful reminder to churn up another batch.

  24. says

    You won’t regret it, Shannalee! As one who left her full-time job as an editor a few years ago, I can tell you that it will, almost undoubtedly, be worth the risk. And your father is so right! Now, while you’re younger, is the best time to explore this way of making your living. (And, how fabulous that you have the encouragement of your family in this venture.) Personally, I adore having the ability to structure my own time, to take on freelance jobs as I choose, to work where I want to (and in my jammies if I please), and so on! I am very happy for you and I look forward to hearing about your great adventure as it unfolds. Your writing is always more worth reading, and I predict you’ll find great fulfillment in working on your own. (Not to mention the extra time to bake/cook with more flexibility! Yay!)
    :) Jane

  25. says

    Yayayaya! So exciting. As someone in a similar position, know you have a giant pat on the back from me. Congrats to you – may his blessing surprise and encourage for the rest of this time!

  26. says

    Well, you know how I feel about it. Life is short. We do not get anything out of working for other people most of the time. In the immortal words of Dolly Parton:
    “Working nine to five,
    what a way to make living

    Barely getting by
    it’s all taking and no giving. ”

    She said it best. Congratulations and welcome to the club!

  27. says

    Congratulations on your decision to create your own destiny. It’s kind of scary, but thrilling at the same time, isn’t it? You are responsible for your own success (or failure) but if your blog is any indication, not only do you have the talent, but you have the heart. Hope all goes the way you wish!

  28. Elisabeth says

    Congratulations, Shanna! What a great next step toward utilizing the gifts God has given you and that you have developed! I already have and will continue to pray for you as you continue this new and exciting journey. Thanks for the reminder about how we spend our days. I’m thankful for you and for your writing. I feel that I have known you better and have developed a friendship with you that is closer because of your writing. Its a pleasure to read your thoughts and to be your friend!

  29. says

    Congratulations! I’m sure your courage and faith will be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams. I work for myself. There are several attendant stresses as a result, but they don’t even compare to the drudgery of office life for me. May you be given everything you need (including a windfall of clients!).

  30. says

    woohoo! i work from home too! but im too young and i want a boss i think…. 😛 hey the next step is to leave your country. mhm 😉

    i was reading the post under this one, i bake gluten free for myself because i have to, and i’ve always wanted to cut the sugar, but its hard for me to replace white sugar with things because everything is so damn expensive! even a small jar of honey is a load. dispite the fact that there are sugar cane fields on every side of me, finding raw sugar is not easy and is annoyingly expensive…

  31. says

    That’s exciting! Not sure how I missed this post but I do confess I click the ‘mark as read’ button in my Google reader from time to time when the posts go over 100. Your dad’s advice was spot on; you’re young and now’s the time to give it a go!

    As one who also works from home, I can tell you that just knowing that my drawing board and supplies are ready in the next room at any moment of the night or day really ‘draws’ me in and invites me to ‘work’ (even though it doesn’t really feel like work!) You’ll love the flexibility and freedom!

    Prayers this day for your new venture! May God bless you and keep you and give you a zeal for your work!

  32. says

    Sorry I’m late to commenting but I couldn’t read this post without saying something. Good for you. You are living my dream and what I hope I can figure out to do in these next few months especially. I hope that you find great success! (And if you have any tips on making it work after you make it work I’d love to know how you did it.)

  33. says

    I’ve tried to e-mail you all individually in response, but I’m almost positive I forgot someone, so please please know how much I have appreciated every comment here. You are all too kind. I am so thankful.

  34. Janet says

    Wow! I am so behind on the fabulous news! Congratulations on the path to self employement! I’m so proud of you and what an inspiration as I think one day of pursuing that area though I’m not so sure I’ll be as brave as you. But major kudos and congrats!!!

  35. says

    Sarah, YOU are so kind. Seriously.

    Janet, Thanks so much for the excitement! It is a little freaky but also, hopefully, really good. I’ll keep you posted! : )

  36. says

    WOW! Shanna this is awesome. I am so glad you escaped dead-end jobdom. You are way too talented for that stuff.

    I will say – I’m working toward the same goal!

  37. says

    Hey Shanna,

    I am late in reading this after being away from blog-reading for a while, but congratulations on stepping out and taking a chance! I did notice a midday weekday twitpic of yardwork and wonder what you were doing at home – now it makes sense. I wish you all the best!

  38. Jarrelle says

    Shanna, I just actually got the chance to read through this post. I am so excited for you, words can’t describe the excitement I have for you as you have begun this journey. I always look forward to reading what you have to say, new ideas, new recipes and fun give-a-ways! you have been an inspiration to me personally and encouraging me to start my own blog, even though there are so many more amazing ones out there.
    You are going to do great out there being your own boss. I hope you have enjoyed it so far. I am excited to be on this journey with you and follow you. It is a blessing to have a friend like you in my life and to share the love of food with each other! Best wishes Shanna, love you!

  39. says

    More big thanks to you last four and sorry for the delayed response. All your encouragement really means a lot to me. Thanks for rooting for me in this new season!

    And Jarrelle – you really need to move to Chicago.


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