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Carmen Shenk, the Tiny House Foodie, Returns to Harrisonburg

Carmen Shenk, the Tiny House Foodie grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She and her husband "went tiny" in the fall of 2014, and parked their cute tiny house on wheels in various places in the Shenandoah Valley ever since. They recently sold their first tiny house, and began work on a Skoolie (a bus turned into a home). Tiny houses have been all the rage in Oregon, California, and Colorado for a decade or more, but there haven't been many folks living in tiny houses in the Valley...though perhaps there are more than you might think.

Shenk writes about her experience as a restaurant owner in Staunton, VA, while her husband, Xaver Wilhelmy, is a Certified Pipe Organ Builder with clients as far north as Maryland and DC, and as far south as Winston-Salem. They found each other late in life. "We were both married for 20 years to people who didn't like us," Shenk says with a chuckle. Their intense work schedule and travel kept them apart. Finally, they talked about their life on a gerbil's wheel and agreed that it was time for a change. They sold their 3,000 sq. ft. restaurant, purchased a tiny house of 125 sq. ft., and moved right in. They had yard sales, sold things on Craigslist, and donated truckloads of belongings to their favorite charities.

Shenk says it was easy at first. Their tiny house was cute and cozy; everything was right where it should be, and they were living mortgage free. Before long, though, she began to find parts of tiny house life more confining than cozy. She tells the story of craving apple pie (her own version) at Thanksgiving, and wanting to make one in her tiny kitchen, but struggling with the reality of the small space and inadequate oven. Through her own transition to life in a tiny home, she learned some lessons the hard way. In time, the pair settled into the simplicity of the tiny life and grew to love it intensely. "The transition was tough on me," she says, but considering their new Skoolie project is only 3 sq. ft. larger than their last tiny house, they must have loved it or they wouldn't be building another home so nearly the same size.

Shenk wrote a book about the lessons she learned called "Kitchen Simplicity" released July 4th, 2018 from HD Media Press. The Kindle book (ideal for people who don't have room to store books) quickly became the #1 new release in it's category on Amazon. Shenk calls the book partly practical and partly philosophical, because the mindset needed to live with contentment in 125 sq. ft. is something that doesn't come naturally to many of us. The book is listed in the House & Home: Small Spaces, Self Help: Motivational, and Religion: Christianity - Mennonite categories and reflects Shenk's Mennonite heritage of living simply.

Shenandoah Valley resident Shirley Showalter, author of "Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World" says of Shenk's book:

"Tiny book packs a big whallop: if you want more freedom and less baggage in your life, here's your guide! Do you love inspiring stories of people who took a big risk, tossed out things, made more room for relationships, and now have a powerful story to tell? 'Kitchen Simplicity' is the tiny book for you!"

Shenk quotes Shenandoah Valley resident Myron Augsburger in her book, and recalls a message he preached some 40 years ago:

(quoting from Kitchen Simplicity, page 89) "Pastor Augsburger told the stories of the heroes of the faith and contrasted each of them with Og and his iron bed. Og was the guy who got his name in the pages of a holy book only because of a thing he happened to own. That's it. I was just a kid, but I knew the difference in being known for owning some weird thing (even something as cool as a tiny house) as opposed to making a positive difference in the world."

Myron Augsburger is the author of numerous books, including "Soli Deo Gloria: A Daily Walk Through Romans."

Shenk now travels to tiny house and simple living festivals around the country speaking about navigating the transition to a simple life in a smaller space - especially in the kitchen.

Carmen Shenk is a retired pastry chef and restaurant owner who has lived with her Austrian Pipe Organ Builder, Xaver Wilhelmy, and their cute cuddly dog in 125 sq. ft. since the fall of 2014. In 2018 they sold their tiny haven home and began work on a Skoolie. On her blog, Tiny House Foodie, Carmen demonstrates how cooking can still be a job in a small space. Says she, "Our family jokes that we live in the space of a 'sardine tin,' but we eat like kings!"

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