Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Resources to Keep Kids From Being Bored during Coronavirus Outbreak

Life as we have known has been changing daily if not hourly over the last week.  Last Friday I felt a wave of relief as K-12 schools were dismissed for a minimum of two weeks.  I have a 1st grader that tends to catch everything.  We were told that teachers would spend Monday and Tuesday getting technology up and running to teach online.  Online instruction will start on Wednesday for my elementary, junior high, and high school students.

Mom won in the end.

We survived Day #1 by playing LEGOS, video chatting with our missionary, reading and listening to books, spending time on educational websites, playing Minecraft online with friend (who was playing from their home) communicating via speaker phone, playing Sorry, watching a show, making homemade fries, and barbecuing hot dogs and hamburgers. My three kids that live at home all asked at various times if I was certain that their friends could not come over to play.  Playing with friends will be the thing they miss the most during the next few weeks. I may have heard the word BORED exit one or two of my kids mouths.

I have been scouring social media and the internet searching for activities we can do as we social distance ourselves from others at this critical time and make the most of the situation for two weeks, one month, or two months if necessary.  My friend, Debbie Dujanovic from KSL News Radio, has asked me to call into her show to share what resources that I have found and things that families can do during lockdown.

5 Things to Keep Kids From Being Bored

1. Help your kids connect to their friends and extended family via technology or phone calls or texts. This is not the time for playdates and meeting up at the park with friends.  Google Hangouts, Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp, and many other platforms are available to use to communicate.  Words with Friends and other games can be played with friends via technology.  Find a list here including Pandemic:The Board Game that can be played with friends.

2. Make jobs at home a shared responsibility.  Clean out closets, work on the yard, sanitize the house, bake cookies, or cook a meal together. Home Beautiful shares 33 jobs your children can do to help around the house here. Make a list that can be checked off and give incentives.  "Once we finish the jobs on this list, we can" play a favorite game, watch a favorite movie, go for a bike ride, or do a favorite at home activity.  You can find free printable chore charts here, here, here, and here.

3. Get outside for fresh air.  Take a scenic drive. Play in your yard.  Take a walk or go for a hike while avoiding crowded outdoor areas and staying 6 feet away from others. Go to alltrails.com or download the AllTrails app to find walking paths or trails near you.

4. Enjoy all the free educational resources available online. Choose any of these 20 virtual field trips to take with your kids to famous art museums, zoos (webcams to see animals), aquariums, Ellis Island, and more. Scholastic has released free daily courses with activities for Pre-K through 6 grade kids who are home from school.  New users will need to create a free BookFlix account to access the content. A special username and password has been made public for anyone to use for free, which can be found on the Learn at Home grade level landing pages. Save The Children is also offering resources on how to talk to your kids about the virus, learning activities that can be done from home, list of free educational websites and apps, and more on their website.

5. Have fun together as a family.  Pull out board and card games that haven't been played in a long time, order a puzzle online that you can piece together, and pull out craft/art supplies that have been gathering dust in our cabinets. Watch Frozen 2 on Disney Plus. We have joked about the boys having a Marvel marathon in the basement while we girls have a Hallmark marathon upstairs.

Remember that during this time you are making memories that will last a lifetime. When I was a senior in high school, we experienced 3 weeks without power after an ice storm took down all but one power pole in our county. Schools were cancelled. Roads were closed. I still remember that time spent bonding with my family with laughter and fondness. I keep reminding myself that this will be easy in comparison to what my mother faced. We have power, water, internet, electronics, and multiple ways to cook our food. We can do this!

Comcast is offering their Internet Essential program free to new low-income Americans for 2 months. Xfinity Wifi hotspots across the country will be available to anyone who needs them for free.  More details can be found here.

Disclaimer: I may have stocked up and stashed (in a secure location) chocolate made with stevia and other healthy treats to help me get through the next several weeks (worse case scenerio).  Moms, take time to take a long bath and do some self care.  If the kids start fighting, don't hesitate to check out my "if you have time to fight, you have time to clean" plan here.

* More and more resources are becoming available online every day.  I will add additional items to this post as I learn of them below.


As schools and libraries are closed, kids may need more reading materials. For Amazon Prime members, all e-books in the following lists are free.
Free Prime Reading by Levels (K and Younger) https://api.readu.io/link/l/7vmM7ZiMrA/
Free Prime Reading by Levelsb(1st & 2nd) https://api.readu.io/link/l/5Xg9xxT9mj/
Free Prime Reading by levels (3rd-4th) https://api.readu.io/link/l/0emwQMHNrl/
Free Prime Reading by levels (5th-6th) https://api.readu.io/link/l/o3mJ71fXgX/
Free Prime Reading by levels (6th grade and above) https://api.readu.io/link/l/nBmEvNIbg5/


1)  GIANT LIST OF IDEAS FOR BEING HOME WITH KIDS from the Princess Awesome and Boy Wonder Community can be found here.

2) USA TODAY shared a list of 100 things to do while stuck inside due to a pandemic here.


1) New York Family has released a list of their 10 best free educational online resources here.

2) A comprehensive list of AMAZING EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES can be found here.


A comprehensive list of resources for educators can be found here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

4 Charities in Utah County will Benefit from Orem #LightTheWorld Giving Machines

My husband and I with the Atkinsons

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we serve in a variety of ways in our church.  Typically an invitation to serve in a specific capacity (often referred to as a calling) is extended by a bishop or stake president.  During the fires on the south end of Utah County in 2018, my husband and I were invited by Elder Blake Roney to serve on the Utah County Communication Council for the church.  Our area stretches from Orem on the north all the way to Delta on the south. We are invisible helpers assisting 109 stake presidents, 6 area seventies, and our 5 Utah County Welfare and Self Reliance Service managers with communication needs.

First, I need to share how much I love our calling.  We have met and worked with amazing government, education, nonprofit, and interfaith leaders over the last year.  I love catching glimpses of all the good things going on within the church, in other churches, among nonprofits in our area, and in our schools and universities. I am inspired daily by those with whom I come in contact.

One of the perks of this calling is that you sometimes get exciting information before the public does.  Mid-September I was asked to attend a special meeting with the heads of 4 charities in our area and management from the University Place Mall in Orem where we learned details about an announcement which would be made at the beginning of November.  There would be 10 #LightTheWorld giving machine locations around the world, and Orem would be one of the new locations.

Giving Machine locations and their opening dates are:

  • Manila, Philippines—November 8 (TriNoma Mall)
  • Las Vegas, Nevada—November 14 (Downtown Summerlin)
  • Laie, Oahu, Hawaii—November 20 (Polynesian Cultural Center)
  • Gilbert, Arizona—November 20 (Water Tower Plaza)
  • Salt Lake City, Utah—November 26 (Joseph Smith Memorial Building)
  • Orem, Utah—November 26 (University Place Mall)
  • Denver, Colorado—November 26 (Writer Square)
  • San Jose, California—November 29 (Christmas in the Park)
  • New York, New York—December 3 (Manhattan New York Temple)
  • London, England—December 3 (Hyde Park Visitors’ Centre)
The Orem mission president and UVU/Young Single Adult leaders have been busy coordinating the volunteers that will help staff and stock the machines as needed.  I have been busy sharing about the machines coming to Orem on Social Media and planning an Opening Event. We are all excited about the Giving Machines and the blessing that they will be to those who need help in our area and around the globe.

Our machines in Orem will benefit two global charities and 4 local charities- the United Way of Utah County, Community Action Services and Food Bank, Family Support & Treatment Center, and the Center for Women and Children in Crisis.  The church is covering the administrative costs, so 100% of what you donate will go to those items purchased.  The video below depicts the mission and how the machines work.

Here are some of the things that you can purchase at the Orem Giving Machines for the 6 charities to distribute to people in need. 

We would love to have you come visit the Giving Machines at the University Place Mall during the malls hours open from November 26th- January 1st.  If you google map Los Hermanos in Orem, it will take you right to the entrance of the mall (outside Los Hermanos) which leads you directly to the giving machines.  I will be in and out helping as needed, so you might catch me there during the Christmas season. Help us #LightTheWorld this Christmas season!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Great Grandma's Spudnuts are NOT from Great Grandma

 We use a plastic cup to cut the donuts into perfect circles.

Our daughter has been working hard to earn her Young Woman Medallion necklace from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before the program ends in December and she starts the church's new goal setting program in January. One of her 10 hour projects is to learn how to make some of her favorite recipes. This far she has learned how to make dad's crepes and Great Grandma's Spudnuts from my 101 Things to do with a Potato cookbook along with the basics of macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese, and more. Go Emma!

Spudnuts always bring smiles to faces.

As we were making the spudnuts, we wondered which great grandmother had created the recipe.  We assumed it was the potato farming great grandmother.  We decided to call my husband's mom who had shared the original recipe with the family to verify.  She said that the recipe was titled Grandma's Spudnuts and was given to her by a friend after they were married with a young family.  She had tweaked the recipe slightly and is now great grandma to many, so I guess the title of the recipe can remain as is for the generations of Ashcrafts to come in the future. To whoever's great grandmother created the original recipe, we thank you!

Dipping and filling the donuts with pudding is the funnest part.

We love pudding filled spudnuts.  Banana or Chocolate pudding are our favorite flavors to use.  We use our Easy Accent Decorator that I have owned for years from Pampered Chef to fill the donuts.  Instead of using frosting and the flavorings, we dipped the hot fried donuts in powdered sugar or pumpkin spice sugar.  Sometimes we use cinnamon and sugar for dipping spudnuts. 

These donuts are so soft and fluffy. After trying these, store bought donuts won't even look tempting. Invite friends over, because the recipe makes more than an average family can ever consume.  We took extras to two neighboring families. Happy cooking and enjoy the recipe!

Great Grandma's Spudnuts (Idaho Donuts)

2 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast,
1 cup mashed potatoes, unseasoned
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup shortening (I use butter instead.)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups flour
vegetable oil, for frying
1 container (16 ounces) white frosting
chocolate syrup, maple flavor, to taste

Mix yeast, water, potatoes, and milk together.  In a separate bowl, combine shortening, sugar, eggs, and salt.  Stir mashed potato mixture into bowl with egg and shortening mixture.  Stir in flour one cup at a time. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise 45 minutes.

Roll out dough to 3/4-inch thickness and cut with donut cutter (or a cup as seen above). Fry dough in hot oil.  Turn once, making sure donut is golden brown on both sides.

Divide frosting into three small bowls.  Add chocolate syrup to one and maple flavor to another. Dip hot donuts into flavored frostings. For more variety, dip some into a mixture of cinnamon and sugar or powdered sugar.  Makes 12-15 servings.

Friday, October 4, 2019

A Colicky Baby and an Answer to Prayer led to a New York Times Best Seller

Twenty two years ago an answer to prayer followed by the birth of a colicky baby opened up doors of opportunity that I could have never imagined.  After praying about whether or not I should go to work or stay at home with our soon to be born baby, I knew that I needed to say no to the offered dream job. I didn’t know how things would work out financially, but I had the faith that if I followed the revelation that I had received that Heavenly Father would provide a way for my husband to finish his education.  Watch the video to hear more of the story.

The little known story behind the New York Times Best Selling cookbook, 101 Things Do With a Cake Mix. Faith precedes the miracle. Please share the miracles you have experienced after exercising faith in the comments. Follow Stephanie Ashcraft on Facebook or Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/101things/ https://twitter.com/101books Find more information about her books on her Amazon author page: shorturl.at/buNZ4

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Great Cause to Support This Saturday in Southern Arizona

My son's Eagle Scout project/ Diaper Dash 5K 2014 will take place this Saturday, May 3rd. Bring a package or more of unopened diapers to run, walk, or crawl this family friendly 5K in Marana. A pack or more of donated diapers and a signed waiver form enters you into the prize drawing at the end of the race/walk. Prizes include $100 Target Gift Card from United Financial Center, a FREE full tint good for a small 4 door sedan from A Cut Above Auto Glass & Tint (Valued $120), Certificate for 1 month of unlimited jump time at AZ Air Time, $50 Gift Card to your choice of either Olive Garden or Red Lobster, $50 Gift Certificate to Bookmans, QT Gift Cards, dinners for 2 from Chuy's, Texas Roadhouse, and Cracker Barrel, and much much more. We have over 50 prizes with more coming in each day. Two Men and a Truck will be there to transport diapers to the Diaper Bank. There are drop off locations all around the Tucson area for those who can't make it but would still like to help.

Boy Scout Dashing For Diapers
Town of Marana Gets Behind Benefit for Local Diaper Bank 

Tucson, AZ, [April 21,2014] The prize at the end of the May 3 finish line at the Diaper Dash 5K at Gladden Farms Park in Marana will be diapers, lots of diapers for thousands for Southern Arizonans in need. The benefit for the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona is the brainchild of Devan Ashcraft, who wanted to do something different for his Eagle Scout project. Devan and his parents took his idea to the Town of Marana and got approval to put together the town’s first Diaper Dash: Run, Walk, Crawl.

"I am hoping that enough people will bring diapers to help meet the huge need in Southern Arizona,” said Devan Ashcraft, he noted that even if people didn’t want to participate in the Dash, he hopes they will still bring diapers. He became aware of how expensive diapers were after his little brother was born and started to wonder how low-income families were able to obtain the diapers and baby supplies they needed for their infants. As he pondered what he could do for his Eagle Scout project these struggling families returned to his mind.

Having participated in benefit runs for the Marana Food Bank, this varsity cross country and track runner, decided that a 5K Diaper Dash would be the answer. With the help of fellow scouts and leaders from Troop 223 and members of his congregation of The Church Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Marana High School freshmen said he hopes this will be a huge success and become an annual event. Registration for the Diaper Dash 5K is from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Saturday, May 3 and the race starts at 8 a.m. at Gladden Farms Community Park, 12250 North Tangerine Road, Marana.

Cost of registration is one or more unopened packages of diapers, particularly in sizes 4, 5, 6, 3T, 4T and adult incontinence pull-up and briefs. Diaper need is a very real social ill that causes physical and emotional problems, including shame and guilt for parents and severe diaper rash and urinary tract infections for babies left in diapers too long. Presently 1 of 3 American mothers report not having an adequate supply of diapers, 48 percent of families report leaving babies in soiled diapers for extended periods of time and 33 percent report reusing soiled diapers. The average cost per child per month is $100 for an adequate supply of diapers. Families report often choosing between buying food and buying diapers.

The Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona distributed almost 650,000 diapers and incontinence supplies through its 50 plus partner agencies last year, however, the need is closer to 1.5 million annually throughout Southern Arizona. To find out more about the Diaper Bank and where to drop off diapers all year long visit www.diaperbank.org If you would like more information about this topic, please email Stephanie Ashcraft at ashcraftsteph@yahoo.com.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rocky Road Brownies: Requested Over and Over Again

I take Rocky Road Brownies to every teacher luncheon or dinner thrown at my kid's elementary and middle schools.  I once made something different, and people asked where the brownies were.  The trick is to not overcook the brownies and let the marshmallows and chocolate chips cool before you cut it.  Otherwise, you get a YUMMY, ooey gooey mess.  

If you don't mind the ooey gooey mess, let them cool for 5-10 minutes to prevent your mouth from getting burned before serve immediately.  Warm from the oven or at room temperature, these brownies are heavenly!  

These brownies are so easy to make that I always hesitate to divulge the recipe.  Toss the flour on your face and just pretend that you spent all day in the kitchen!  Enjoy!

Rocky Road Brownies  from 101 Things To Do With Chocolate

1 (9 x 13-inch family size) brownie mix
ingredients listed on back of box
1 cup salted peanuts
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Make batter according to package directions.  Pour batter into a greased 9 x 13-inch pan.  Bake 23-25 minutes.  Remove brownies from oven.  Sprinkle peanuts, marshmallows, and chocolate chips evenly over top.  Bake an additional 3-5 minutes, or until marshmallows puff up.  Makes 24 brownies.

101 Things To Do With Chocolate can be purchased at Amazon.com for only $8.99.  Amazon also sells the Kindle Version for only $3.82.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Watch My Desserts Made Simple Cooking Segment Online

For those who live outside Tucson or who may have missed my television segment this morning on The Tucson Morning Blend, you can watch it online here.