A Visit with a Cinematographer!

TH ExpeditionA while back, documentary storytellers Christian Parsons and Alexis DeHart Stephens were coming through the Shenandoah Valley in their tiny house (Tiny House Expedition) and they stayed with us a few days.  We had so much fun hanging out with these interesting people who have been hard at work inspiring & empowering folks to redefine home & rethink housing.  I’m a fan, can you tell?

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Photography by Christian Parsons of Tiny House Expedition

Last week they released a new video on their youtube channel, AND IT’S ABOUT US!  And it’s not about our public faces, so to speak.  They really did a great job of capturing us just being us!  They put us at ease and we had a great time!  Christian has some killer cinematographic skills and Alexis is great at asking great questions and it was interesting to see how they work together.  It was fun to be the subject of their work, and now we are so happy to share their spectacular work with you!  And believe me, Christian had some serious editing to do because when we get talking, we can be a little long winded!  lol!

We made pizza on the grill while they were here.  This is one of my favorite things to make, it’s pretty easy and adding fire into the pizza equation is a really really good idea!  Crispy crust with melted cheese and a few toppings?  Yes please!  Maybe slightly burnt here at there?  Even better!  If memory serves, Xaver also made crepes one morning, and that was also fun.  He’s really great at making crepes and I always know I’m in for a treat when he starts mixing up crepe batter!  Delicious!Pinterest 1

Drop over to YouTube to see the video, and make sure you subscribe to the Tiny House Expedition channel while you are at it.   They release a Tuesday video on where they are currently parked, and a Friday video with lots of great tiny home inspiration.  Thanks so much, Christian and Alexis, for doing such a great job sharing our story!  We really appreciate it!

Watch the Video.

Visit their website. (They have one of the most beautiful websites I’ve ever seen!)  They’ve got tons of helpful resources available for anyone considering going tiny!

They will be doing a tour our of Skoolie soon, so make sure you SUBSCRIBE TO THEIR YOUTUBE CHANNEL so you don’t miss it.  Christian and Alexis are consistantly putting out valuable content!  They are a great resource to the Tiny House Movement and anyone considering going tiny!

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BTW, It is my intention to post a blog post each Thursday morning.  To see that post when I finish it – instead of waiting until Thursday morning – become a member of my Patreon Community.  In addition, you’ll get to go behind the scenes with a published author on the making of a new book!  If you think you might also like to write a book, then you might find it interesting to follow the process.

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Christian and Alexis, I hope our paths cross again soon!

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An Unintentional Manifesto on Simplicity.

product-brandingI’ve been thinking about branding a lot lately.  The advice I got early on was to keep my “brand” very narrow, to just talk about our tiny house experiences and not to talk about our work as Pipe Organ Conservationists, and not to talk about how much I love to write, paint, and weave… etc… because all of that is “Off Brand”.  Here’s the thing… that’s just plain not working for me.  So I’m throwing that advice out the window as well as the idea that I’m here to build a brand.  Ok? I’m replacing that with the reality that I’m just here to talk about our lives.  It’s not a brand – it’s just us.  Period.

I am passionate about helping people navigate the transition to a simple life in a smaller space!  Embracing minimalism for a season is a great way to shake ourselves loose from materialism and consumerism.  It’s also a great way to begin to shake ourselves loose from the idea that we can gain meaning and significance by owning a thing – which is a message that dominant culture sells us that is damaging on every level.  Shaking ourselves free of these things is important self-work because we deserve to be free.

Here’s the thing.  If there is a mountain between here and where you want to be, and you find the tunnel through that mountain… you spend your time and focus on that tunnel for a season.  But if you don’t move on through the tunnel, instead of camping out there, then you’re not going to experience the wide open spaces of the valley beyond.  And that would suck.

tunnelsMinimalism is the tunnel.  Minimizing the mundane things in your life is a really important thing to focus on – for a season – moving through the tunnel.  But at some point we gain traction and something really great begins to happen.  This is the very best part.  All that time and energy we spent on working the job that was required because of the big mortgage… not to mention all the work it took to maintain that big life… when that’s all out of the picture and things are simpler… space opens up.  It’s like coming out of the tunnel into the valley beyond.  Now, I’m not talking about heaven, lol!  I don’t want to misrepresent minimalism as a once-and-done king of thing – because it’s not.  For many of us it’s a path to freedom that we will need to stay on.  What Simplicity offers is the opportunity to spend much less time on mundane things – and that opens up more time for purpose and meaning.  In short – Simplicity is a key to the good life!

IMG_6054So here is one thing that gives us a sense of meaning:  Xaver (the name is pronounced Xavier, but his name is the German spelling without the “i”) is a Certified Pipe Organ Builder and that means he is able to diagnose a malfunctioning instrument and create solutions – even if they have to be made from scratch.  He’s also trained in piano, guitar, and violin/viola/cello/bass instrument building and restoration. However, we only take on pipe organs and pianos since that is what most interests us.  In the United States we are losing authentic pipe organs to the fake electronic instruments.  Every day we can tune, voice, and restore an authentic instrument to keep it at peek performance is another day the skilled salesmen don’t get to rip another pipe organ out and replace it with a glorified stereo system.  Some days this feels like a rescue operation, some days it’s just simple respect for a remarkable art form.  Pipe organs are amazing, complex machines, and being in the sanctuary where one is being played well can be an incredibly moving experience.  It is for me, as I grew up Mennonite and it is rare to find a pipe organ in a Mennonite church building.  Pipe organs were created to inspire worship and that is our focus and the mission in our work.  This work matters to us, it’s very intentional and important work to us.  It’s not especially lucrative because we keep our prices affordable for the sake of the congregations we serve.  Therefore, Simplicity becomes a key part of the way we live in order to live this dream and do this work that matters so much to us.

Fuchsia Ad 2I have had a dream for many years of being a published author, and living in a tiny home and embracing Simplicity is what made it possible for me to see that dream come true.  And in time, I became a published author.  YAY!  That means the world to me.  I made a list a year or so ago, and there were 25 books on that list of books I want to write.  Twenty five.  That’s crazy, but I’m on it.  Some of them are partially written.  And Simplicity is a key part of the way we live that makes it possible for me to keep writing books and creating resources to help other folks find Simplicity.  This feels missional, since materialism and consumerism have become so dominant in our culture.  I believe we all deserve to be free.  That’s what keeps me writing.

2 UsXaver and I are creatives.  He’s got an amazing inventive engineering mind.  I’m an artist and I love color, yarn, and painting.  These are the things I do to keep a balance in my life.  When I get a little overwhelmed with working with words and crafting messages, then I have to go back to the colors and textures of painting and weaving to recharge.  Being an artist is both self care and self expression for me.  And every time that Xaver gets to create and invent and do something purely for the sake of developing an idea… that’s also energizing for him.

As you follow along with this blog, you’ll see some pipe organ stuff, some creative stuff, and no matter what photos you see on Instagram or whether or not you pick up my book to read it… I want you to know that Simplicity is the tunnel we walked through to find this amazing life that we’re living.  Simplicity is what keeps us working, innovating, and doing restoration work in the world of pianos and pipe organs.  Simplicity is what makes it possible for me to weave, paint, and write books.  We aren’t getting rich doing any of this, but we do enjoy a meaningful life and that’s where it’s at for us.  True wealth is doing the work that matters most to us, when it’s lucrative, and also when it isn’t.

Purposeful Simplicity is the tunnel through the life-constricting mountain of materialism into the valley beyond where we get to live a more meaningful existence.   We have not arrived, I don’t want to even make it sounds like it’s a once and done thing – not at all.  We’re on this journey and we will keep at it.  You are welcome to walk with us on this journey and I have written some resources that will help and you can find them in the “sales” section of this page if you’d like – and if not – you’re still welcome here!!  Simplicity is powerful stuff, Y’all!

Love,

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4 Great Resources to Help You Simplify your Kitchen

Fuchsia Ad 1Back in July when my new book came out, I looked around and thought to myself… “I’m not done.”  Sure, I have other books in the Tiny House Foodie series that I haven’t written yet, so that’s still on my list.  But more than that… I want to create great resources for people who are going tiny, and I’m not finished talking about my favorite part of the home – the kitchen.  Some folks will prefer to learn from a book, others will prefer a video series… and still others will prefer a podcast that they can listen to on their commute.  So I decided to keep going and make more great resources to help you simplify your kitchen.  These are helpful for anyone who is making the transition to a simple life in a smaller space – or anyone who wants to live more comfortably in the space you already enjoy.

In the last few months I’ve created three great workshops in addition to my book and you can find them by hovering over the “Shop” tab, and then choosing “Courses” from the tab above.  I created these classes over at Teachable.com and I really like the set up over there.  While putting together all the information for a class isn’t an easy task, I think it’s really worth it because it makes it so simple for you.  All that info is in one place in a multi-media workshop where part of it is in video, part of it is text, and if I want to throw in a chart, or recipe, or a PDF sheet with reference information for you to download – I can do that.  It really is a one-stop-shop!  I think these workshops are a great resource and I’m really happy to make them available to you!

So here are my three new workshops: thumbnail workshop

A 15 minute demonstration with a helpful PDF download


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Five session workshop, a recipe with five variations, a helpful PDF reference sheet, and more…


Thumbnail Video Series

A comprehensive 24 session video series with additional reading if you want to dive deeper, plus a Facebook group for discussion.

For a limited time

you can get the

Kitchen Gear List Workshop

AND the Remove the Skunky Funk

FREE

when you purchase

Right-Size Your Kitchen

(a $67 value) for only $47! 

Don’t delay! 

This offer won’t last long!


Here’s more info on my brand new:

Introducing a brand new resource to help you manage smells in your tiny house.  By that I mean get rid of them – not cover them up with a chemical smell – because we both know that doesn’t work!  This information will change everything for folks who have been haunted by disgusting smells in their tiny homes!  I’m absolutely convinced that this class will help you breathe easy in your tiny home!


Fuchsia Ad 2And don’t forget Kitchen Simplicity where I packed lots of great information!  It’s partly practical and partly the philosophical things I learned when we closed our 3,000 sq ft restaurant and went tiny in 125 sq ft. in the fall of 2014.  The idea of purposeful simplicity is at the heart of this little book, and it makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE in how it feels to live tiny!  I know this one little idea is worth the price of the book, but that’s not all I packed in there.  lol! I pass along the keys to making tiny house living a joy!

The kindle book is regularly $4.99 but Amazon has it for $2.99 right now and I don’t know how long that will last so pop over there and snag a copy before that price goes away!  And if you’re like me and like the feel of having a book in your hands… here’s the paperback.

Thanks so much for dropping by my website today, I really appreciate it!  And remember, we can go tiny, embrace simplicity, and still eat really well!

Simply,

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24 Steps to a Kitchen that is Exactly Right for You!

Is the chaos in your kitchen on your last nerve?  Don’t even know what all you have in there anymore?  Have you been thinking about simplifying your life?  Isn’t it high time? Since my new book, Kitchen Simplicity (Tiny House Foodie) came out, I have continued to work to expand the resources I have to offer folks who are seeking to downsize or right-size their homes – especially the most challenging room: the kitchen!

Take it from me, a retired chef and restaurant owner who has lived in 125 sq ft for quite a few years now – it’s entirely possible to live tiny very comfortably – without sacrificing flavor or contentment.

A tiny kitchen still cooks – IF you right-size your collection of kitchen gear the right way.  I can help you through this process with a focused strategic process that you can take at your own pace.  It’s important not to waste your resources or get rid of something you’ll just have to replace later.  With that in mind, I’m so happy to announce my brand new 24 session Right-Size Your Kitchen Video Series: putting the Mmm back in Minimalism! Learn more >

Video Series

In 24 detailed sessions I’ll show you the practical steps to right-size every part of your kitchen collection.  You’ll soon be feeling the liberation of living tiny!  Learn more…

Horse Chow

Part of our “going tiny” journey included reading “The Good Life” by Helen (1904-1995) and Scott Nearing (1883-1983) who were the great-grandparents of the simple living movement. They wrote extensively on debt free living and self-reliance. In those days they were considered radicals, and I suppose by modern, consumerist standards – that’s still a fitting word to describe them.

Helen Nearing wrote “Simple Food For the Good Life” in 1980 and it’s a very unusual cookbook. The recipes are in narrative form. For example: “We buy a 50-pound bag of popcorn kernels wholesale, and can use up to two bags a year, as we serve popcorn on any occasion from breakfast to lunch to evening gatherings.” She mentions that she prefers it to cornflakes. Interesting. We also eat a lot of popcorn, but I’ve never popped corn for breakfast, I might have to try that.

I made hot oatmeal for breakfast a few times last winter, on mornings when it was crazy cold. You’ve never seen a grown man get more dramatic than when a steaming bowl of hot “porridge” appeared before my husband for breakfast. Apparently, this is the horror inflicted on the youth of Britain that makes them dream of expanding the Commonwealth – presumably to get better food. Or so I’m told. And by the way, if eating wallpaper paste is frowned upon – why does cooked oatmeal even exist?!

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Tiny House Food Storage

In an effort to stem the flow of gelatinous oats, my Austrian husband began extolling the virtues of Muesli. Nevermind. Another cold snap hit and I cooked up another satisfying hot oatmeal breakfast with plenty of butter and raisins. Yum! He’s not one to disappoint, so he told the stories of his youth in the Tyrolian Alps of Austria… where he was subjected to wearing itchy, hand-knit woolen garments… but he was never tortured like this… and here’s where he held up a spoon of cool oatmeal and allowed it to fall back to the bowl with a rather satisfying “splat!”. He offered a clump of it to the dog, and she sniffed at it… but turned away. Et tu, Bitch?

IMG_8560Imagine my surprise when the next time we visited our favorite bulk food store, he stocked up on rolled oatmeal, raisins, and walnuts. Oh boy, what is he up to?! No worries, I was busy picking out avocados and almonds for breakfast. Yum. I also made sure we had enough oil, butter, and honey and wondered how long it had been since I’d made granola. Do I still have the recipe? Have I downsized all the cookie sheets? “What’s Granola?” he asked. How do you explain Granola?

IMG_8565While Xaver and I were in our oatmeal negotiations… I came across Helen Nearing’s recipe for “Horse Chow”. I read aloud to him from her book: “In the early 1930’s, before health foods and granola became household words, I made up a dish we called ‘Horse Chow’. At that time raw oats were not being eaten by humans.” This is where a rather amusing noise emanated from my Austrian. I looked at him. “What?!” he blurted, trying to look innocent.

Shall I continue?” I asked.

This is the simplest granola of all and perhaps one of the earliest. It was dreamed up in the Austrian Tyrol, where we holed up one winter in a village far from supplies with a very slim larder of hit-or-miss articles, but with great appetites.” “Ha!” he said – in triumph! The debate over oatmeal ended there while we giggled about being holed up for an Austrian winter and somehow “arousing” great appetites. LOL!

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Helen Nearing’s recipe for Horse Chow:

4 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned, not the quick cook kind)

½ cup raisins

Juice of 1 lemon

Dash of sea salt

Olive oil or vegetable oil to moisten

Mix all together. We eat it in wooden bowls with wooden spoons.”

IMG_8568That’s how “Horse Chow” became the breakfast of choice around here. Even on mornings when it’s cold outside!

My Austrian’s version:

2 lbs raw rolled oats

¼ lb walnuts

½ lb raisins

1/3 lb sliced almonds

and toasted coconut

Served with homemade yogurt or milk to moisten.

My version:

Two scoops of his mix

2 T raw pumpkin seeds

2 T raw almonds

1 T ground flax seeds

Served with almond milk to moisten and topped with fresh fruit.

 

Horse Chow, our version

We eat it in china bowls with silver spoons.

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Yum.

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For help going tiny without sacrificing flavor or contentment, get my helpful

Super Simple Kitchen Gear List – it’s free!  Learn more…

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Reminding you that we can go tiny, embrace simplicity, and still eat really well!

A New Tool to Help YOU Right-Size Your Kitchen

I’ve created a video course to compliment my new book, Kitchen Simplicity.  This video class shows rather than tells how to right-size your kitchen in a very practical step-by-step approach.  I will take you through the 24 sessions at the pace you choose and finish up by showing you the super simple collection of kitchen gear that I’ll be moving into my new 128 square foot Skoolie when it’s finished.  Xaver and I initially went tiny in the fall of 2014 and we already know that this thoughtfully selected collection of kitchen gear is all we need in our tiny house.  I’ll show you what, how, but most importantly – WHY.  Let me help you right-size your kitchen without sacrificing flavor or contentment!

Right-Size Your Kitchen Video Series

That Time I Hated My Tiny House

There have been some times over our years of living tiny that Xaver and I have faced some really crazy schnitzel together.  Dominant culture tells us that having a lot of stuff equals wealth.  And yet, there I was looking around at my tiny house and realizing that I had a fraction of the stuff I used to have.  So… does that mean I’m poor?  People that knew our living situation sometimes treated us as if we were poor, but were they right to do so?

Culture tells us that a guy with a nice house, a nice yard, and a couple of nice cars is a pretty good guy.  A woman with an expansive collection of shoes and handbags, and a business empire is really something special.  And Billionaires are gods.  They must be smarter, wiser, or maybe they know some secrets the rest of us don’t know or they wouldn’t be wealthy, right?  And yet we’re seeing day-by-day proof in our political arena that wealth does not equal wisdom and human value can’t be measured by the mathematical equation of net worth.  I knew that a wealthy person wasn’t worth more than me in my head, but somehow my heart wasn’t getting the message.

There we were in our tiny house, living out some sort of intentional homelessness.  Sometimes it felt like we were doing something revolutionary.  Screw the system!  Sometimes it felt like we were being naughty because when people don’t understand your steps outside of conformity, they sometimes pull out the disapproval.  But I don’t have to live by their standard.  I have to live by mine.  When we stayed grateful (which wasn’t always) then it was an amazing and liberating experience.  And when I focused on what I didn’t have, it was awful.

Xaver and I have been through some battles that brought us back together at the end of the day feeling like the world had chewed us up and spit us out.  In fact, we had a client with a three million dollar project decide that they didn’t want to pay their bill for the work we’d done for them.  We actually had to take them to court.  It was one of those David and Goliath moments, and believe me, it wasn’t fun.  What made it worse was that “Goliath” was a congregation with the meanest pastor I’ve ever met.  I’m also a person of faith.  Church folk aren’t supposed to act like that!  What made it worse yet was that we had earmarked that money to pay a bill… and since that money didn’t come – our other bill got bigger and bigger.  The legal battle took forever!  We were demoralized, hurt, and angry.  There were times when I looked around at my tiny house, and I looked at our clients with their expansive 3 million dollar church renovation project… I felt very small and very poor.  There were moments in that season where I hated my tiny house.  It was a reminder of what we didn’t have.  And dealing with lawyers and the legal system only accentuated the sense that “justice” was beyond our grasp.

I was stressed out.  We both were.  In that season we created some new habits for ourselves that really helped.  These little habits helped us move from the poverty mindset into purposeful simplicity to make our home a haven.

Turning off the Screens

And we’d turn on the news and it would be some crazy “sky-is-falling” stuff and on top of what we were going through.  It felt like too much!  Twitter or Facebook would be flipping out over this or that new scandalous event.  We turned off the screens. We’d make a great meal, and open a bottle of wine left over from the restaurant.  We’d light a beeswax candle and put on some nice music.  Then we’d pull out the cards and play games for a while.  Without really meaning to, we were changing our focus away from the big bad world beyond the walls of our tiny home and placing our focus on the wealth of love that we shared.  It was amazing how much it helped to enjoy a lovely meal and unwind together.

Rituals

We also have some little rituals that have helped us.  When we’re really feeling low, we go outside and brush the negativity off of each other as if it were dandruff or dog hair.  Sometimes we go inside after a long day and wash our hands to wash away the cares of the day.  We pause to say a prayer before our meal and thank God for getting us through another day.  These were small rituals, but they have helped us make our home a haven.

Connection

In cases where we’re really struggling, but for whatever reason the problems we are facing need to remain closely held, that isolation can become a real challenge.  In fact, tiny houses are a great help it keeping isolation at bay!  I didn’t realize how great tiny houses were at keeping us connected until much later.

In January one year, the host of our favorite AirBNB invited us to stay at his place for a week.  He and his home hold a very special place in our home so of course we were delighted to visit.  I spent some time in the kitchen baking apple pies.  There was a glorious huge TV in the kitchen, so while I baked my pies, I listened to a documentary on minimalism. Do I know how to party or what?! LOL!

Xaver was in the next room, reading a book. Later I mentioned to him something I’d noticed in the documentary, and he didn’t even know I had the television on! In a tiny house, if the TV is on, everyone hears it! In fact, as that week progressed in that huge house, I began to feel more and more isolated. I was surprised how the vast empty spaces of a beautiful home could make me feel so alone. I was so happy to get back home to our tiny cozy space. That reality of being connected and close is one of the things I love about our tiny home. We’re together. We’re connected. We can hear each other without raising our voices. That isolation just can’t hang out with us. We’re close. Literally. The fact that the space is small and cozy really does focus our connection in a way a big house just cant do. This is to our advantage. We stay connected and bring friends and family into that space through hospitality, and isolation doesn’t stand a chance.

The Dove Family

doves

Years ago I heard a guy talking about a family of doves that lived in his porch.  When the family fought, the doves would leave.  When the family lived in peace, the doves would return.  I suppose that’s true no matter what size your home is.

Through a very difficult season of our lives when our tiny house accentuated our sense of poverty, we learned a few things that helped us remember that our choice to go tiny was about purposeful simplicity.  We learned to turn off the screens and enjoy a lovely meal together.  We learned small rituals that had meaning to us.  And we learned to stay close to each other.  In this way our tiny house became our haven-home.  It really is possible to use the tender walls of a tiny home to create space that is sacred, restful, and healing.  

Peace be with you,

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