Joanne Fluke books

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder--Hannah Swenson is a cook and the self-employed owner of the The Cookie Jar. She is also her mother's number one project. Her mother desperately wants this daughter married. Hannah prefers life as it is, with her roomie Moishe (a cat).

Hannah winds up first on the scene at a murder. Between solving the murder and creating new recipes, she has her hands full. But she still has to deal with two men now in her life. One is courtesy of her mother, and the other is a new detective in town.

I'm not into murder mysteries or cooking, but this is a fun series. Even the recipes are simple enough for me to try. I enjoyed reading it enough to get more of the series. It has 7 original cookie recipes within book too.

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder--Norman, one of Hannah's boyfriends, just bought a house. He plans on tearing it down to build the dream home they created for a contest. Norman lets Hannah and her mother go through the house, looking for antiques before they tear down. They find a lot of good stuff, plus the previous owner's body! To add to the confusion, money from an old bank robbery starts showing up around town. Is it related to the murder or not?

The tension builds up quite well. It's leavened with Hannah's worries about what her two boyfriends are up to. It switches back and forth between the detective work on the murder, and the worrying of a woman who's afraid of being asked to get married, adding to the fun. There are 9 original recipes, including a pie and a pancake one. Delicious!

Fudge Cupcake Murder--The sheriff's election is the going game in town. Sheriff Grant has been in charge for a very long time. This year he has competition, Bill. Bill is also Hannah's brother-in-law. Grant has a mean streak and doesn't take that well, especially when Bill pulls ahead in the polls.

Grant ends up murdered and Bill is the number one suspect. Hannah starts looking for others, and finds a whole lot more than anyone guessed. There aren't many people who didn't want rid of him. He treated his grandchild and her mother like scum. His wife was furious that her grandchild had to live in poverty because of him.

Some of the other policemen also had reason to hate him. During election years, he always made a big bust to ensure his election. He got the bust by stealing cases from his deputies and claiming them as his own.

This one is very involved. There are so many suspects it takes a lot ingenuity to find the real killer. These books just get better and better. 10 original recipes.

Sugar Cookie Murder--This one is a real soap opera. Everybody's at the annual Christmas buffet for the final testing of recipes. Martin Dubinski is bringing his new wife. Unfortunately, his ex-wife is also going to be there. His secretary, who is also in love with him, is also there.

The ex-wife has been wearing an old coat for three years cause she can't afford a new one. The new wife has a $20,000 new coat of fur. When the new wife is found with a sharp desert knife in her chest, the party gets a little 'dead.' Worse, there's a blizzard going on, trapping them all at the buffet.

The story itself is very short, compared to the size of the book. But it still packs a LOT of detective work inside that story. It's very interesting following the trail with her. There are over 100 original recipes, ranging from appetizers to pies. Even if you don't care for the story, this is a keeper for all the delicious recipes!

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Home, Alternatives

Life is getting scarier and scarier. The younger generation is wondering if they'll ever be able to have their own home, or even keep their job. The cost of a house is outrageous, even now. At least to me. We own our own land and have the house built and paid for. But our daughter still lives with us. It's doubtful she can ever make enough money to move out. That's not her fault, it's the economy. I lost my job, so her helping out is a godsend. It's not fair to her though.

So I started researching alternative housing. I came across some interesting things on my search. I found ecovillages around the USA. These people want to live in a sustainable culture, where they're only dependant on each other within the community. They do allow more people to join, with skill sets to add to the community. I also found house building variations that allow a house to be built costing a lot less than normal. Only you can say what you wish to do, or learn.

I like studying the websites of the ecovillages, I learn so many other ways of doing things that lower our bills right now. You can also visit these places to see what the building variations will look like. They have online tours as well, and they aren't as energy deprived as the Amish. You can get hands on experience at building some of these house types as well. Read on to find out more.

Some alternative housing to consider are earthbags. There is a book called "Sandbag Shelter and Ecovillage: How to Build Your Own With Superadobe/Earth-bag" by Nadir Khalili. The book teaches how to use sandbags and barbed wire to create a shelter/home. Models were constructed and tested at Hesperia, Ca between 1993 and 1996. It passed California building codes. See and click on "Emergency Sandbag Shelter" to get a detailed training guide online and to see what the finished product can look like.

If you go to they give other links as well as a very useful explanation. Check out Resources to be able to order a DVD produced by Kelly Hart. It details the construction,and what worked and didn't work in building it. There are more books on how-to build these that are reviewed there as well. --you can sign up to experience a workshop. Learn with your hands, see what the various kinds of alternative housing looks like after being built. has questions and answers about earthbag building. It's a lot of information about various kinds of building materials( not just earthbag), building codes, financial aspects and much more. This has all sorts of house plans, all using natural materials. These are sorted by style, materials you want to use, and what sort of function you want the building to perform (home, studio, greenhouse, doghouse, etc.) It's a companion website of greenhomebuilding. is the website for an ecovillage in northeastern Missouri. You can apply for hands on experience if you want. The Earthbag Dome Work Exchange is building an earthbag dome. These are incredibly cheap house-types that take labor, but one can finish quite quickly.
Natural Building Internship will teach you to master a variety of natural building methods and principles.
Dan's Work Exchange--you will help build a small, passive, solar, strawbale house, and tend an organic garden. This is all according to their website. Go there and check it out.

If you're interested in learning more about other communities like this and how they manage sustainability, go to these sites:
Abundant Dawn--Floyd, VA
Earthhaven--Asheville, NC
Lost Valley--Eugene, OR
Sirius--Shutesbury, MA
Twin Oaks--Central, VA
Sandhill Farm--Northeast Missouri

There are many other links on the Dancing Rabbit site and the others leading to information on just about anything you'd like to know about using natural resources for power. You don't have to join any community to avail yourself of the information to use now.

I wanted to share my research with everyone else who has an adult child in the same fix we are. Or who needs a home but can't afford the prices now. These are all alternatives that I think the world needs to be paying attention to. It's a lot cheaper just buying the land and building one of these affordable houses. I also like the idea of the ecovillage. We sort of have a start on that, except it's just us and our neighbors, 6 people in all. Not enough to be called a village, nor are we sustainable. We live cheaper than most everyone around us, by saving on meat and growing gardens and hunting. But we're not self-sufficient from everyone around us.

Meat, How to Buy

What costs you the most money when it comes to food? I'm betting that it's meat. It was for us. I married a meat and potatoes kind of guy. He used to be a farmer, so I was introduced to the farming way.

If you're willing to invest in a freezer, and buying in bulk, then here's the path we took.

You can find it in the yellow pages under "Meat-Retail" or "Frozen Food Locker Plants." Ask around for references if there are a lot. Others who have bought there can help a lot. OR check with your grocery store. If they have a butcher section, they could very well be able to fulfill the same service. It never hurts to ask!!

Ask if they can get a quarter, half, or full beef. If you only have a small freezer, like ours was, don't ask for more than a quarter. A full size freezer (46L X 27W X 32D) can hold a normal sized (300 pound) beef.

If you already have one, great! Our first one was a small, chest freezer. It was 30 X 30 X 32D. (I'm guessing. It was over 20 years ago!! It held about 300 pounds of meat. If you get steak cuts or roasts, it won't work to hold your full size beef.

His mother gave us half a beef as a wedding present. I, in my non-wisdom, chose to have it all put in ground beef. (You'll tell the locker what cuts you want.) Don't make my mistake. Do you know how long it takes to go through 300 pounds of hamburger??!!! My choice made it all fit inside the freezer, but we were eating it for a LONG time.

The advantages of buying in bulk are enormous savings. Plus it helps the farmers around you besides yourself. Some grocery saving coupons had sirloin steak at 2.99 a pound, top round roast at 3.99 a pound, and ground beef at 2.79 a pound.

Now if you buy a quarter beef (all subsequent pricing taken from website (These prices are just for comparisons. Your prices will depend on the grocery store or locker and your state/county.) you'll either pay 2.09 per pound for a front quarter or 2.14 per pound for a hind quarter.

That's 2.14 per pound, not cut, that comes out of that quarter you buy. This is versus paying 2.99 per pound for just a sirloin steak and 2.79 per pound for just ground beef if you're buying each cut separate.

Yes, there's a large cash output at the beginning. Say for a hind quarter that weighs 145 pounds, you'll be paying $303.05, add to that the processing charge of $42.05 (at 29 cents a pound), and it comes to $345.10. But you'll have (assuming it's a hind quarter) sirloin steaks, T-bones, tenderloins, rump roast, round steak, and ground beef. All for that one amount. Only you can say if it's cost effective for you.

How much do you pay per month? Take that times twelve. A whole beef lasts us (3 people) a year and a half. (If we have a lot of parties. If not, a lot longer.) Would it be worth it to you? It was to us.