006 Making Space for Meaning

Carmen Shenk

We are most effective at putting out the wildfires around us when we have prepared our lives for service. In this episode, Carmen explores Why we would minimize the mundane things of life and what we stand to gain when we do.

Watch the entire video here:

Or listen to the podcast here:

006 Making Space for Meaning

This podcast episode brought to you by the good folks at Experience Tiny Homes where Lindsay Wood and her crack design team will personally help you go from tiny house dreamer to dweller.  Pop over and check them out, tell them I sent you.  ExperienceTinyHomes.org

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Transcripts coming in 2021


Carmen Shenk

“Breath” is a message I first presented at a gathering of Mennonite Women in Waynesboro, Virginia. I thought it a fitting message to begin our Faith Friday podcast conversation. When I visited them, I took a number of wool cloths I had woven so they could experience the difference between freshly woven cloth, and cloth that has been felted. And whenever these women are together, the food will be especially good, so it’s no surprise that we spoke of pound cake and buttercream icing!

Watch the entire video here:

Or listen to the podcast here:

005 Breath – the first of the Faith Friday episodes

I twice quoted Rabbi Laura Geller from the book “Preaching in the New Millennium: Celebrating the Tercentennial of Yale University” edited by Frederick J. Streets.

The recipe for classic pound cake:

1 pound butter
1 pound eggs
1 pound flour
1 pound sugar

My secret buttercream recipe:
1 pound of butter
1 pound of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of fine vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses

Verses mentioned include:
“My clan’s the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter” Judges 6:15
“Men like you, each one with the bearing of a prince.” Judges 8:18
‘Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the furture, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38, 39 NIV
Same verse, this time in The Message:
“I’m absolutely convinced that nothing – nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable – absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:38, 39 (Love this version!) MSG
“For in Him we live and move and have our being.” Act 17:28
“For from Him and to Him and through Him are all things.” Romans 11:36

“His love endures forever.” Psalms 136 (same phrase about 26 times in this chapter!) (Maybe that means God loves us.)

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Transcripts coming in 2021

Reverse Engineering Contentment

Culture tells us that we work hard, gain success, and then we will be content… but what if that’s not true? What if we started from a place of contentment? How would that change how we work, and what we chase after?

What you need is based in what you’re used to. Change what you’re used to… and it will change what you need. #simplicity

Watch the entire video here:

Ask yourself 3 questions: What really matters to me? What do I need that I do not have? What do I have that I do not need? #purpose #simplicity #meaning

Or listen to the podcast here:

Episode 2: Reverse Engineering Contentment

This podcast episode brought to you by the good folks at Experience Tiny Homes where Lindsay Wood and her crack design team will personally help you go from tiny house dreamer to dweller.  Pop over and check them out, tell them I sent you.  ExperienceTinyHomes.org

Support my work:


Transcripts coming in 2021

Pain, Pie, Poverty & Purpose

Carmen Shenk & Xaver Wilhelmy

We were working crazy hours and not getting to see each other. We had a “come to Jesus” conversation and put our busy restaurant on the market. It sold almost immediately, and then we bought a tiny house and moved in. The first bit was wonderful, the honeymoon stage. Then I started coming face to face with my own mindset…

What do you want out of life that is worth more to you than living in a great big house? #purpose #destiny #vision

Watch the entire video here:

Episode 3: Pain Pie Poverty & Purpose

Or listen to the podcast here:

Episode 3: Pain Pie Poverty & Purpose

Minimize the mundane things of life in order to make room for purpose.

This podcast episode brought to you by the good folks at Experience Tiny Homes where Lindsay Wood and her crack design team will personally help you go from tiny house dreamer to dweller.  Pop over and check them out, tell them I sent you.  ExperienceTinyHomes.org

Support my work:


Transcripts coming in 2021

What's Your Why? with Felice Cohen

You may remember Felice’s 90 Sq Ft Manhattan apartment from the video that went viral, but you may not know why she made the sacrifice of living so simply. She had a dream of finishing the book about her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor. Her story challenges us all to think about our “Why?” and make whatever short term sacrifices are needed to reach for those larger dreams and goals.

Watch the entire video here:

Or listen to the podcast here:

What’s your Why? with Felice Cohen

This podcast episode brought to you by the good folks at Experience Tiny Homes where Lindsay Wood and her crack design team will personally help you go from tiny house dreamer to dweller. Pop over and check them out. Tell them I sent you. ExperienceTinyHomes.org

Support my work:


Transcripts coming in 2021

Pain Pie Poverty & Purpose

Episode 2: Pain, Pie, Poverty & Purpose

Theme music by Jonathan Crissman.

This podcast episode brought to you by the good folks at Experience Tiny Homes where Lindsay Wood and her crack design team will personally help you go from tiny house dreamer to dweller.  Pop over and check them out, tell them I sent you.  ExperienceTinyHomes.org

Support my work:


See You At The Summit

I’ve brought together 17 experts from the Tiny House Community, artists, authors, builders, dwellers, movers and shakers… each with a story of simplicity. These are the people that have helped shape the landscape for simplifying one’s life. These are the stories that will inform and inspire you to move past overwhelm, kick the clutter, and make room for meaning.

Here’s a portion of one conversation from the upcoming summit.

I can’t help myself… these conversations are So. Much. Fun. Maybe I’ll share…

A few more…

There are loads more interviews to enjoy!

Mark your calendar for this weekend: October 11 – 13, 2019. Clear your schedule to binge watch your favorite tiny house luminaries all together in one convenient place. No standing in lines… no festival tickets… just great conversations with like minded people!

Carmen Shenk

I’m an artist, entrepreneur, and communicator here to help you simplify and upgrade your life. You deserve clarity, confidence, and contentment, and I’m here to help you find it.

All my best!

DIY Organic Citrus Hair Spray

Here is a DIY hairspray that actually provides some hold. It won’t give you prom-queen hair, but it works nicely for me. If you want more hold, I have a pomade recipe coming your way soon. And with this spray, you can still run your fingers through your hair without feeling that plasticy stuck up feeling. It’s pretty remarkable. It is completely natural, non-toxic, cruelty free, zero waste, and super easy to make! I use this when I’m headed somewhere and want to look a little extra put together.

I really love that this recipe is about as zero waste as it gets. The organic orange and lemon come with only the little stickers on them. I purchase the vodka in a large recyclable glass bottle. The essential oil comes in a small recyclable glass bottle. It’s only the distilled water that comes in plastic, and if you have a Berkey water filtration system, then you don’t need that. I love it! I’m not zero waste, but I am working my way in that direction. Every improvement we make, even small ones, is good for the planet!

DIY Zero Waste Hair Spray

Find the 4 oz aluminum spray bottles here.

Follow the directions in the video to make the hairspray.

Your grocery store will have distilled water. You can substitute tap water if you like, especially since this recipe is boiled to reduce and concentrate the recipe.

Find out how to make your own flavored vodka, or vanilla extract.

And here’s where you find that rather spectacular Joy essential oil blend.

Style as usual. SHAKE and then SPRAY on hair.

Young Living is a membership company, so if you don’t have a membership and would like to be able to purchase the Joy essential oil blend, then either of these two videos will help:

I look forward to hearing what you think of this zero waste, non toxic, cruelty free hair spray that is super easy to make! For more recipes and reviews and other helpful information on simplifying your personal care routines, sign up for my email list so that you don’t miss a thing!

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Oh, I almost forgot to mention this…


And here is my VERY FAVORITE leave in hair treatment. It’s also super easy to make – but it’s absolutely lovely!


This pomade recipe will be released on Saturday, but if you use this link you can enjoy it now.

As always, thanks for listening, I really appreciate it!

DIY Radiant Hair Spritz Recipe

I’m delighted to share this recipe with you, and I know you will enjoy it if you try it. I made a number of potions at one time, and I have really gone through this one quickly – and my hair is absolutely growing like crazy and is very healthy. So I am really enjoying this potion a lot! It’s a personal favorite, that’s for sure!

And just in case you missed it… here is my video on the Basics of Clean Hair… if you’ve been wondering about the debate out there about soap vs detergent, this will help. That’s an interesting debate that you may see in internet comment sections all the time, so I thought you might find it helpful to hear some common sense middle-of-the-road conversation on that topic.

Edited Transcript & Recipe Follows:

We’re going to do a hair potion today. I am using a four ounce aluminum spray bottle. I know the spray mist on these are really nice and fine. So that’s where I’m going to start.

I’m starting out with one ounce of Rosewater. Rosewater is made with rose petals and it is a really great place to start for this potion. I love using this in formulas and potions, it’s so lovely. You get the aromatherapy of the rose without the price tag of using rose essential oil.

Then we’re going to add one teaspoon of vodka. If you have seen me do any of these recipes before, you know my vodka has vanilla beans in it. Check out my video on making vanilla extract for more details on that. It’s so easy, but in a blend like this, it adds so much! The vodka doesn’t come like this from the store, it’s just plain when I purchase it. That’s just how mine looks, okay? One teaspoon of vanilla extract or vodka.

Next I’m adding three drops of lime essential oil. I’ve already got the rosewater in there, I’ll add the essential oils, and then add the rest of the water on top. I will be careful because I don’t want to overflow it and lose any of these amazing oils over the side.

Now this is Neroli essential oil. This is a luxury oil and opening it … oh my goodness, the smell is amazing! This has a smell of bitter orange, very complex, very sophisticated. Carefully now, three drops. And in case of an oil like the Neroli where it’s an especially valuable one, this is a really great way to make that investment go a lot further because there are only three drops in this recipe – but it totally holds it’s own in the recipe. And this is a great way to make a little go a very long way. It is difficult to open a bottle and take less than a drop. And so when you are putting it together with a few really wonderful things in a spray bottle, it allows you to make that very special essential oil go a lot further, which I think is fantastic.

All right, Rosemary essential oil, five drops. That one comes out fast, which is great.

Next with opening a bottle of Geranium, naturally a very, very floral smell to this one. We’re going for three drops of Geranium essential oil. On these little essential oil bottles, you’ve got to get the two holes to line up. There’s a hole in the very center of the plastic reducer cap, and then there’s a hole in side of the ring. And when those two line up, then the oil can come out.

We’re gonna finish up this blend with Cedarwood essential oil, I’m looking for six drops. That one took it’s time, but if you’re patient you can coax the more bashful oils to come out just fine.

I haven’t really told you what this various oils do, but rosemary and cedar wood are both really good for hair growth. Lime is a cleansing oil for the hair. Geranium will balance the scalp’s production of oil. Neroli is great for sensitive skin and a remarkable aromatherapy oil that works to support emotional balance and healthy skin.

All right, so we are going to add three ounces of distilled water. Pour carefully here, you don’t want to accidentally overflow the bottle and lose those precious oils!

If you are doing any heat processing of your hair, using a hairdryer or flat iron… use this first. If you are going to use some kind of torture device for your hair, use a little bit of this first. It smells amazing and it’s really good for your hair.

Also: here is a little cheat for you. Put the recipe on the bottom of the sprayer so that you will remember it the next time you’re ready to make more. Just write it on there with a sharpie.

So that is a little hair potion that feels good and promotes hair growth and happy, healthy hair, and come on, let’s face it. It just smells amazing!

Thank you so much for listening. I really appreciate it!

Hair #003: Evaluating Needs

In the first session of this series, you gathered together all of your hair care products in one place. In the second session, we went through those products, weeding out the ones that are toxic. We have all outgrown using toxic products that don’t support our wellness goals!

Today we cover a number of considerations when choosing hair style and hair care routines. First of all, take some time and thoughtfully assess the style you need to be most effective in your calling in this world that is so tuned into external appearances. Then, consider the products that you need to achieve that look – and look for ways you can simplify that collection. Think in terms of choosing better products and fewer of them, think in terms of quality instead of quantity. And the most important goal in this process is that your hair be healthy – anything that doesn’t serve that goal can be removed from your routine. I simply want you to be intentional and effective about taking care of your hair.

This week I have also released these three videos that will help you to understand some of the concerns around toxins. If you didn’t have time to watch them so far – take a moment now and catch the ones you missed on out earlier.


Next week I will be sharing some product reviews and DIY hair recipes. Hair comes in a remarkable array of colors, textures, and attributes, and I hope that what you find my product reviews helpful. Since my hair is fine, straight, and also (partly) bleached and color treated, and I have a skin condition that sometimes plays out on my scalp in ultra sensitive skin… that will give you a feel for the context of my reviews and DIY recipes. I’m looking forward to sharing that content with you as you consider the products that you need to make your hair healthy and stylish, and in the process be choosing high quality, non-toxic, zero waste, cruelty free products that work well for you.


Welcome! We’ve been talking about hair for the last two sessions. First we gathered together all of our hair care products in one place and took inventory. Second of all, we talked about toxins and did some very intentional work going through those products, removing some items that were unfortunately too toxic. Today I would invite you to think very intentionally about what you want your hair to be and what you want your hair care routine to look like.

When Xavier and I were restaurant owners, I found out the contrast between when I crawled out of bed and just showed up, and other days when I really make some effort with my self care routines. What I invested in myself in the morning was different, but the service that I provided in our restaurant was the same. Not surprisingly, the results could be quite different. Waiting on people in my own restaurant, I would make one amount of money on a day when I made no effort with my appearance, and on a day when I really made some effort – I would make more money. And the difference was enough for me to take notice. Now I’m not saying that that’s right or wrong, I’m just saying this is how the world works. People respond to us more favorably when we’ve made an effort to present ourselves well.

How much effort is “the right amount” of effort? There’s everything on the continuum from super minimalist hair that requires almost no effort at all, all the way to the YouTube goddess who has gone to extensive effort to get a particular look. And again, this is a judgment free zone. I am not actually suggesting that it’s wrong to wear easy super minimalist hair, and wear very little makeup and to keep it very, super simple. I’m not judging that as wrong. Neither am I saying that if you’re a YouTube goddess and it requires a lot of money and time to achieve your look – that that is necessarily wrong either. I want you to do what you are happy doing, to spend only what you need to spend, no more. And I think it’s simply helpful to be aware that we live in a world that reacts to how we look physically. Sadly, it doesn’t recognize who you are as a person apart from appearance, and that’s not fair. And we can have a whole conversation about the energy we put out into the world, but we’ll talk about that on another day.

On days when I have dressed up, and I come home from work and wash off the makeup and change my clothes… sometimes that can feel a bit like peeling off everything that is attractive about me. Marketing teaches us that we’re not cute or attractive unless we are wearing these products. So when we come home and remove all those layers – are we still attractive then? I think for many of us, that is challenging. It’s hard to feel like that answer is yes, we are lovely without the hair spray, the shape wear and the great shoes. And the more layers we have to peel at the end of the day, the more we are tempted to feel that beauty is only something we wear, and that it is separate from us. Therefore, we are not beautiful. (hogwash.)

I just think that’s really rough. That’s rough on a woman to feel like who she is under all the layers is not acceptable. It’s rough on a woman to think that we’re only acceptable if we’re wearing the whole product line. And that’s not how that should work, you know? That process is not life giving. It actually can be absolutely shame inducing! That idea we’re not beautiful unless we have the whole product line on – that doesn’t work in our favor.

Were are you are on the continuum? Do you have the super simple minimalist hair that requires no effort at all? Or are you on the Instagram or YouTube goddess end of the scale? Where are you? Most of us are somewhere in the middle. Where are you and where do you want to be? Are you ready to kind of dial it down a notch or make some other adjustments?

I think the question that I want you to think about is – where do you need to be on that continuum to be effective in your work? In a culture that puts an inordinate amount of attention on appearance, where do you want to be on the continuum of style and simplicity?

When you have a sense of mission, when you have a sense that you’ve got a message the world needs (and I think everybody does) then how you present yourself matters. So those are some things to be thinking about when you consider where you want to be on that continuum. There is no wrong answer here. And this is very cultural. Some cultures will do the whole nine yards every single day. And in the subculture that I come from (the Mennonite community) there was no makeup and the hair care was very simple. So it’s extremely cultural. And so again, I’m not coming at this from a place of judgment. I simply suggest that you be intentional about this choice. Where do you want to be on that continuum?

Now that you’ve chosen a style that suits you, what products does it require for you to get that look? Okay, so let’s just say for the sake of the argument that you can go into your hairdresser and you get the look that you want and that they educate you on what products that it requires to achieve that look. Well, let’s say from start to finish for your hair – it takes a specific number of products. Your stylist may have suggestions on how to simplify the products you select based on your hair.

Now that you have assessed what is needed, come back to your collection of hair products. You’ve removed the products that were old and gross in the first session. Then you removed the toxic products in the second session. Today you’ll remove the products that don’t support the fresh new goals you have for your hair. Keep only what is intentional, and necessary.

Go ahead and donate or throw away what you no longer need. Older products that have “water” on the label should be thrown away because of the potential for microbe growth. Recycle containers where possible.

Let me use myself as a case study. The simplest my hair has ever been, has been a super short pixie that was not bleached or colored. It was just a super short Pixie, and I had very healthy hair and it was easy as pie. Super, super short, so much fun. Literally the product that I was using was a bar of handmade soap made by a woman with a booth at the farmer’s market. That was both my shampoo and conditioner. It left my hair to squeaky clean and very healthy and I didn’t use any styling products. I literally didn’t need any because I wasn’t fighting against my hair’s natural tendencies. I didn’t use a hairdryer or a curling iron or anything like that. It just was so simple.

I know this isn’t something that can be done for all hair types, but for me in that season of my life, it was entirely possible for me to have my complete hair care system in one bar of handmade soap and that was it. That to me was utter simplicity and I loved it!

On the other end of the spectrum is the YouTube goddess who is using ALL the products, and lots of time. Where is your chosen to hairstyle in that mix and what does it require to get that style? What happens if you use fewer products, but chose better quality products?

It’s a good idea to use fewer products, first in terms of cost. Secondly, you’re reducing your risk of exposure to toxins. When we layer on five different products, we don’t use much of any of them, but all together maybe they’re creating a toxin problem for us. So that’s why I think it’s really useful to just look at getting rid of some things. And if you’ve got a collection of 10 products and that’s what it takes to do your look, see how you can simplify that collection.

I know it’s possible to simplify dramatically, because I’ve lived it. I know it’s possible. And it won’t look the same for all hair types, but it’s possible for each of us to be intentional and live simply.

Given the work that you do and the mission that you have in your life, what does your hair need to be? The second thing I’m asking you to consider and to be intentional about is simplifying the collection of products it requires to achieve that look. Don’t chose any product that will sacrifice the health of your hair in this process, that’s not self care… that’s something else all together. Let’s take some time to assess these things and make intentional decisions.

Every minute we spend on our hair is an investment. And if you are missional and if you have a message that the world needs, yes, you need to take care of your hair. You do not need to spend one extra penny, one extra minute on your hair because you have a mission in your life and your hair is not it!

This is all about being intentional and dialing it in. I know you can do this. Just take some time and think about it. If making a list helps, that’s fine. If Pinterest helps, that’s also fine. Again, this is a judgment free zone. You don’t need to please me and you don’t need to please the world. We simply need to intentionally be ourselves.

What I would wish for you is that you use products to enhance your best physical features so that when you get to the end of the day, it’s just a matter of cleaning house and giving yourself a fresh, clean slate so you can rest easy. It’s not about taking off these layers of protective gear that made it possible to be acceptable in the eyes of the world, because you’re acceptable as you are. You are loved as you are, who are beautiful as you are. So let’s be intentional about hair care, okay? Thanks so much for listening, I really appreciate it!

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