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,

Carmen Shenk Logo Mini

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


thumbnail remove skunky funk

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,

Carmen Shenk Logo Mini

Kitchen Simplicity

IMG_3744My cute little book is ready for the world today, and I’m so pleased to make it available far and wide. This has been a long time coming! Find your copy on Amazon. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

4 ways to share this book - BIG

The Shareables are here!

And thanks so much to each of you! This sweet little book has been a labor of love for me, and to hear you all responding with such interesting and thoughtful reviews and comments on social media has just been incredibly gratifying! Over and over again I have been moved by the way people respond to this little book and I appreciate all of you so very much!!! <3

All my best,

Signature Tiny House Foodie logo

The Tiny House Foodie visits The Queen Mary

 

The Austrian and I had a lovely time on board the RMS Queen Mary for a foodie fiction event featuring a novel by Patricia V. Davis and a recipe I created called Shrimp Rohini that was inspired by Patricia’s novel.  Todd Henderson, Executive Chef of the RMS Queen Mary, created my recipe for the crowd along with another recipe from sailing days of the Queen Mary.  I enjoyed meeting so many amazing people on the ship and made a lot of new friends.  It was a spectacular event and we enjoyed our travels from here in Virginia to Baltimore out to LA, then down to Long Beach where the QM is docked.  We loved everything about our stateroom and our time aboard this remarkable vessel.  We continued down the coast to San Diego and enjoyed the sand and surf before our flight home.  It was a remarkable trip, one I’d do again in a heartbeat.  The highlight for me was meeting Patricia in person as we’ve been online friends for years.

I’m going to meet the Queen!

Years ago I sailed right past the RMS Queen Mary and thought how fun it would be to get to go aboard and explore.  That little dream from long ago is coming true this month!  I’m going to meet the QUEEN!  The RMS Queen Mary that is.  I’m totally stoked!

I got to know Patricia V. Davis years back on a blog platform and we became long distance friends.  When her latest book Cooking for Ghosts came out, I was so excited to read it.  It’s not every day that you get to read a book written by a good friend and I knew her work well enough to know that it would be an excellent book, and guess what?  It did not disappoint!

Patricia wrote this book with mouth-watering references to delicious food in the (fictional) Secret Spice Cafe and one dish in particular really stood out.  I gave it some thought and did some experimenting and eventually created a recipe for this fictional dish “Shrimp Rohini” and shared it with Patricia.

Fast forward to July, 2017 and I’ll be leaving the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and hoping a flight to Long Beach, California where I will meet Patricia and a number of our mutual friends on the Queen Mary, where the novel is set.  PLUS, the official Chef of the Queen Mary will be creating my recipe for Shrimp Rohini in front of the audience, and we’ll all get to taste it.  PLUS (as if that weren’t enough) Chef will also create one of the dishes from the early days when the RMS Queen Mary was sailing the high seas.  It’s going to be so much fun and I’m ridiculously excited about the whole thing.

Several of our mutual friends will be along for the event as well, so I know it’s going to be an amazing adventure.  I plan to be tweeting along the way, so be sure to look me up on Twitter as Chef Carmen @tinyhousefoodie for all the details.  Our event is part of the Queen Mary Salon Series and if you are in the neighborhood, please drop by and introduce yourself.  Our first 25 quests will get a free copy of the book!  How cool is that?!  Details here.Shrimp Rohini Event Brightened

THF Meets the Author

Stay Tuned,

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