Monthly Archives: April 2021

Instant Pot Hamburger Stroganoff

We found this on pinterest and thought it might be good enough to eat. Here goes!

yield: 4 SERVINGS

prep time: 15 MINUTES

cook time: 15 MINUTES

total time: 30 MINUTES


  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 – 10.5 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 3 cups egg noodles, uncooked
  • 1 cup sour cream


1.Spray Instant Pot with nonstick cooking spray.

2.Brown meat, onion, and garlic using the SAUTE function on the Instant Pot. Season with salt & pepper. We were living on the edge and used ground turkey. Spectacular!

3.Add in flour and stir well.

4.Stir in cream of mushroom soup, beef broth, and Worcestershire sauce.

5.Add uncooked noodles and stir.

6.Place lid on Instant Pot and set to 8 minutes on HIGH pressure.

7.Once finished, turn the valve from sealing to venting to Quick Release the pressure.

8.Remove lid and stir in sour cream before serving.

Brought to you by Hip2Save.

Discussion Guide: A Wish in the Dark, by Christina Soontornvat

  1. Pong and Somkit disagree about whether it is worth fighting over a fallen mango. Which do you agree with? How does this shape their character later in the book?


(Pong, who had been ready to fight, eventually becomes someone who plans to run away from troubles. Somkit, who had been ready to forfeit, eventually becomes someone who plans to stay and fight)

  1. “Fruit falls straight down from the tree.” This is a saying used in the book to judge children by the crimes of their parents. What does this reveal about their beliefs?


(Bigotry. The “good” people in this society have clever proverbs to rationalize the injustice of their treatment of the “bad” people)

  1. The author uses prisoner tattoos to make a parallel to another famous story. Which story is this?


(Les Miserables)

  1. In chapter 13, Father Cham states that “we don’t need an official to tell us whether our neighbors are taking good care of one another.” What is he really saying?


(Father Cham is suggesting that there is some self-sufficiency in providing care for our own community. It should be our duty.)

  1. Nok’s family burns good luck candles even though it is against the law. Does the hypocrisy strike them?


(No, they are able to rationalize this minor indiscretion because they have been taught that they are good people.)

  1. Nok is a very ambitious girl who wants to fight for justice. Along the way, she has encounters that open her eyes. How does her interaction with the Governor change her point of view?


(The Governor sees only her father’s flaws in her. Nok is now able to walk a mile in Pong’s shoes. Instead of being grateful that Nok warned him of sabotage, he condemns her, revealing that her real mother was a prisoner. True to form, he shames her, while breaking his own law and sabotaging a plan for peaceful protest.)

  1. What inspires Pong to free Nok from the Governor?


(Pong sees something familiar in Nok. This becomes one of the main themes of this book: mercy)

  1. During his escape, Pong is visited by the ghost of Father Cham who reminds him to think bigger when it comes to finding what you’re looking for. What does Pong come to realize?


(Darkness is everywhere and you can’t escape it. You must shine a light on it)

  1. Nok has always been a bit ashamed and embarrassed by her father. How does their healing come about?


(Her father explains his shameful affair and apologizes to her for making her life so difficult. Nok now understands that her step mother loves her very much. Nok also apologizes for putting a target on her family’s back because of the Governor.)

  1.  In the end, using fire once again becomes the practice. The topic of safety versus freedom is mentioned. In your opinion, is it possible to have an absolute statement about the balance of freedom and safety, or does it more frequently depend on the situation?

Mother’s Day Tea at Home

Mother’s Day Tea at home. 

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (Dried Dill works well also)

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 slices good-quality white bread*

1/3 large English seedless cucumber (about 4 inches), thinly sliced

Iced Tea or Hot Tea in a pretty cup.


In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, fresh dill, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

If using a full loaf, freeze and take out just before assembling.  Cutting the crust off while frozen, makes a nice clean cut with very fresh soft bread. 

Assemble the sandwiches while partially frozen, lay the slices of bread on your work service and distribute the cream cheese evenly among each slice, spreading into a thin layer. Arrange the cucumber slices in rows over 3 slices of the bread and cream cheese mix. Top with the remaining bread, and cut into quarters so there are 4 pieces from each sandwich, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to finish thawing. When table is all set with napkins and pretty little plates and tea, take sandwiches out and set on the table with some home-made flowers from paper, or little clippings from the yard. 

  This will help the sandwiches stay fresh and delicious.  Enjoy a special tea with Mom or Grandma or that special person in your life who makes every day important.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day Pop-Up Card

Pop-Up Mother’s Day Card

3D Cat Card DIY

Materials needed:

  • 1 sheet of cardstock in color of choice (background color)
  • Paper in different colors (heavy paper stock better)
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Pens, white-out for reflection in eyes
  • You can use this FREE POP UP CARD PRINTABLE:
  1. Begin by cutting your cardstock length ways in half and fold. (If you are using a library Take-and-Make, this step will already be done for you)
  2. Next cut out your free printable – you need a head, a back body with tail, a front body, middle bit and separate ears. Print out on colored paper, or cut pattern out on white paper and trace out on colored paper. (If you are using a library Take-and-Make, this pre-printed page should be in your packet.)

3. Draw the mouth/nose on the face using pen or marker and glue the eyes onto the face. We cut and glued inner ear pieces using a different color and then glued the ears to the backside of the face. Add the white dots to the eyes using white out or a silver marker and allow to dry completely.

4. Glue the back legs/tail piece on at fold. Really, we should have folded the feet just a tiny bit and glued the tips of the toes below the fold, but this pattern is pretty forgiving, so it worked fine.

5. Next, fold 2 flaps on the rectangular piece so that it looks almost like a box lid. Glue one of those flaps to the back legs as pictured above.

6. Add a line of glue to the facing flap and glue the cat’s front legs. Glue the cat face onto the front legs.

7. Fold the paws up just a little bit, evenly on both paws and dot with glue. Carefully, keeping the cat flat, fold the blue cardstock up and over the cat, adhering the front paws to the blue cardstock. This will allow the cat to fold flat AND to open up in 3-D. 

Check out our final reveal:

Discussion Guide: The Night Diary, by Veera Hiranandani 1

Discussion Guide: The Night Diary, by Veera Hiranandani

  1. Kazi, the family cook, describes Nisha’s parents as brave for what they did. What does he mean?


(Nisha’s father is Hindu but her late mother was Muslim. These two religions have had a long history of being in opposition to one another.)

  1. Can you think of another fiction story where people from opposite cultures fall in love and make waves?


(Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story)

  1. Papa seems to be upset frequently with Nisha’s brother, Amil. Why?


(Amil is dyslexic at a time when this condition was not recognized or understood (1989). Papa may have the impression that Amil doesn’t take his studies seriously, and Papa is a doctor, so he may expect his son to work hard and be successful the way that he is.)

  1. India is gaining its independence from Britain. This is supposed to be a good solution, but it makes everything complicated. How?


(Without Britain’s powerful presence in India, the country starts to become an opportunity for new leadership. The problem now is that there are two main groups that see each other as enemies. Is there any chance that they can peacefully coexist?)

  1. Amil burns his artwork. What does this symbolize?


(The artwork is Amil’s intellectual property and since his father will not permit him to pack his drawings, Amil destroys them so that no one else can have them.)

  1. Nisha wishes Kazi would just dress the Hindu part and just say that he’s Hindu in order to remain with the family. Why doesn’t he go along with this simple solution?


(For Kazi it would be lying and denying who he really is. He would not be standing up for his freedoms, but rather hiding in fear. This would be the opposite of freedom.)

  1. The family walks a dangerous road to the (Muslim) uncle’s house (the late mother’s brother). Was this risky?


(Yes, it was risky. Papa didn’t know if he would be treated like family since his brother-in-law was Muslim and Papa was Hindu.)

  1. Before entering the uncle’s house, Nisha is held at knife point by a man whose family had been killed by Hindus. How does this situation resolve? 


(Amil warns the stranger that Papa and uncle are coming with guns to protect them. This was quick thinking, since it wasn’t true, but did the trick. Papa, seeing how distraught this man is in his grief, forgives him, quoting Gandhi, “An eye for and eye makes the whole world blind.”

  1. Why does the uncle lead such a private life?


(Rashid Uncle has a cleft lip and is self-conscious about people staring at him.)

  1. Is Nisha wrong to make friends with the girl in the back yard? 


(Obviously, the grave danger is the fact they are on territory that is now exclusively Muslim (Papa is Hindu, the children are half Hindu and half Muslim). There is no danger in making friends, but there is real danger in being discovered by anyone who opposes the Hindu half, which is entirely likely to lead to violence. It’s not fair to Nisha, but this is their new reality.)

  1. They manage to board a train to cross the border to safety. Does all go smoothly?


(No. Nisha witnesses much suffering, grief, and violent death. These factors combined with her own personal losses become overwhelming for her. She begins making plans to run away from all of this ugliness.)

  1. Eventually they reach their destiny and live in a humble one-room flat across the border of safety. Nisha has always experienced difficulty speaking aloud and now does not speak at all. What happens to break this spell?


(Kazi finds his way to them and decides to stay with them forever. Also, Nisha meets a nice girl at school who would like to be friends, and seems quite patient about Nisha’s condition.)

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Discussion Guide: 

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

  1. Why does no one from Ada’s neighborhood help her overcome these clearly abusive circumstances taking place at home?


(Ada’s mom has everyone convinced that Ada is a feeble-minded mental patient/cripple. People have no idea what is really going on, and so they have no reason to question the mother’s decision making. Perhaps the poor tend to be invisible in society?)

  1. What motivates Ada to overcome her handicap?


(fear of losing Jamie. She can’t stand the thought of Jamie going to school. The isolation for her mixed with seeing the promise of his freedom causes her to find her backbone a bit.)

  1. What realization does Ada make when she discovers that she is, in fact, the grubby girl in the mirror?


(she sees how badly she has been neglected. She sees herself through an objective lens.)

  1. What factor causes Ada to stake her claim on Miss Smith’s residence?


(Butter, the horse. Ada had seen a girl riding horseback while on the train, and was immediately enchanted. Now, the opportunity to get up close and personal is more tempting than she can resist.)

  1. Miss Smith makes it clear that she is not a nice person. How does Ada react to this information throughout the book?


(Ada is no stranger to abuse, so she is not concerned. It turns out that Miss Smith uses her unfriendly side to protect the children from many insults and even physical harm, which teaches Ada much more about this character trait)

  1. Why is Ada so self-conscious about not being able to read?


(Ada has learned to be ashamed of her “ugly” foot. Her mother created a snowball effect by not having it fixed and then denying her the opportunity to go to school. As a result, Ada cannot read – plus she is ignorant of everyday experiences and meanings, which makes her feel like she is worthless.)

  1. Ada refuses an invitation to tea with Stephen and the Colonel, yet she craves friendship with Margaret. Why is it harder to be friends with someone you helped versus someone who has helped you?


(everyone wants to be the hero; nobody wants to need one. Needing one is a reminder of our inabilities.)

  1. Mr. Grimes is frustrated with Miss Smith for not properly caring for Butter. Fred asks how she would feel if someone just fed you but didn’t care for you? What is Ada’s response and what does it tell us?


(Ada replies, “I wouldn’t feel hungry.” This indicates that she doesn’t have any experience with being nurtured. Most of the time she doesn’t know how to feel. She is certain that she is Jamie’s primary caregiver but she has had no example of real mothering in her own life.)

  1. Ada now calls Mr. Grimes by his first name, Fred, yet Miss Smith has repeatedly asked to be called Susan. Why does Ada resist one and embrace the other?


(much like Margaret and Stephen, she feels indebted to Miss Smith who is caring for her rather against her will – at least in the beginning. Mr. Grimes treats Ada like a capable helper who has much to offer in the way of work ethic.)

  1. What is it about Bovril  the cat causes Jamie to stop wetting the bed? 


(Jamie needs the cat in order to feel secure enough to ease his nerves.)

  1. Ada concludes that she wants her mother to be like Susan, but doesn’t trust Susan not to be like her mother. What does she mean?


(Ada can’t help but compare these women, and she holds onto hope that her own mother will express love to her if she makes herself worthy enough. She wishes her mother would be as caring as Susan is, but she worries that Susan’s caring is only skin deep and that underneath it all, she resents having to care for Ada and Jamie.)

  1. How does Ada’s green Christmas dress compare to Alice in Wonderland?


(Ada has a violent reaction to her beautiful dress because she is terrified. She sees herself as an undeserving fraud. It becomes excruciating to sort out the truth of her worthiness. She feels as though she has fallen through a rabbit hole and nothing makes sense anymore.)

  1. How does Ada become the hero of her town?


(she reports suspicious activity that results in arresting a German spy.)

  1. How would you describe the feeling that washed over Ada and Jamie when their mother reclaims possession of them and brings them back “home”?


(crestfallen and despairing to find out that Mam only wanted to avoid having to pay the cost for their continued proxy care. She never wanted them and she still doesn’t. They bitterly grieve the loss of their hopes, and resolve to make their way back to their real home.)

  1. Why is Jack grinning as he says “We’ve been shipwrecked?”


(because Susan came and rescued them from a lifetime of abuse in London and all they needed was to survive the war together, no matter where that was. Also ironic that by going to London to retrieve the children, Susan’s life was saved. Now they can live out Swiss Family Robinson together, in a way.)