I’m Thankful For…

There really is so much to be thankful for this day (and every day) but I chose to show my thankfulness in a different way this year. Let’s take a little stroll back down memory lane, shall we?…

This time last year was my very first Thanksgiving in my current home. I moved in at the beginning of November 2013 and 26 days later I managed to prepare a nice, filling and yummy (if I must say so myself) holiday meal for my children, myself and a few friends and family that stopped by. This year I wanted to start teaching my children the importance of helping others in need so I signed us up to volunteer at a local shelter.

Wow! I must say that I thought this would be a good experience for them but I now see how I grossly underestimated the impact that this would have not only on my children but also on myself and the people that we were going to serve.
You see, when we got to the shelter, early this afternoon, there were a few people sitting around, watching t.v., so my children and I proceeded to the kitchen to start making their Thanksgiving dinner. Some of the food was already prepared since there was another family who had already volunteered for the kitchen/cooking duties before I signed up. At any rate, we still got a chance to help with the meal prep. Not only did this give my older girls more practice with their cooking but it also gave my younger kiddos an opportunity to practice being helpful and careful in the kitchen.

After we finished preparing the Thanksgiving feast for the residents, we were told that we could go out and sit with the residents (or take a mini-break) since we had a little time before we were allowed to serve the food. So, I went out and sat in the “living room” and I told my children to go and find another child to talk to or play with for the time being. On Tuesday night, we had also put together some little gift bags for the residents. My children graciously handed those out before settling down with a group of kids that I would later find out they felt “drawn to”.

There was a family with a infant baby girl and 3 older children (close to my own children’s ages) and they were sitting at one of the tables waiting for us to begin serving the meal. All I could hear was laughter and the chatter of these children and my children. It definitely put a smile on my face because when we walked into the shelter it was almost like the life had been sucked out of the atmosphere. There was no talking, no laughter, no joy…

It was finally time to serve this meal so I went back into the kitchen and assisted with this. I figured my children were okay and better off continuing to keep their new little friends entertained for their exhausted mommy. Once everyone had come through the line, I got a plate and sat down with my children and the mom of the 3 children that my own children had sought out and started playing with earlier.

She eagerly welcomed me and we started talking. I found out more about her and her situation in less than an hour than I know about some of my closest friends to this day. She expressed some very deep things and it became quite clear to me that we should never judge a book by its cover.

As we spoke, I quickly learned that this was a very intelligent, caring and hardworking young woman who had just had a tough life and gone through some things that I would not wish on my worse enemy but she was still able to stand strong and keep a happy face for her kids, in the midst of everything.

She reminded me a lot of myself and I expressed that to her. I encouraged her to stay strong and that things would get better. She and I exchanged numbers and agreed that we would keep in touch which I have no doubt that we will. So, this day has definitely changed my view of life and hard times and given me so very much to be thankful for. It’s funny how things just end up happening when we least expect it.

What I’m thankful for is having 5 beautiful and healthy children. I’m also thankful for the friends, who have become more like family, that God has placed in my life. I am also very much thankful for ALL of the people that God places along my path every single day because each and every one of those people have changed me, in some way, throughout the years.

So, what are you thankful for this year? How do you show your thankfulness?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope each of you enjoy this day and find some time to reflect on the things that make life worth living. 🙂

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Tour Through Blogland

So, I want to thank my friend Kim for inviting me to be a part of this “Tour Through Blogland”. If this is your first time joining me I hope that something that is said here will inspire, encourage or help you in some way. I will try not to take up too much of your time so let’s dive right in to the questions that have been asked of me.

What are you working on?
Currently, I am working on my first book. It is going to be an autobiography of sorts but with a twist. I will let you all figure out the twist when you buy and read the book. 🙂 I am also learning the tools that I need to take this blog to a whole new level. I envision it becoming so much more than just another blog and I am currently learning what I need to do in order to get this to where I want it to be.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?
I believe that my work differs from others in this genre because each of my experiences are unique and my reactions and views of those experiences are also unique. I don’t believe any blogger is ever truly able to be the same as another one, even if their genre is the same, simply because, as people, we are all unique. This proves even more true when it comes to our writing and other creative work that we each may do.

Why do you write/create what you do?
I write what I do because I love being able to let people into my life. I really am an open book, that is just who I am and who I want to be. My hope, for anything that I write, is always that it will help someone else in some way, no matter how big or small.

How does your writing/creative process work?
Honestly, I work better under pressure so my writing process (or lack thereof) kind of shows that. I brainstorm from time to time but writing is not that “hard” for me. Many times an idea will just pop in my head or I will read/hear something and I will automatically know that I want/have to write about it. So, unfortunately, if you were looking for more of a “how-to”, you may not be able to get that from me since there is no real formality to my writing/creative process. That is also true for when I write poetry or music. I like to look at this as the proof that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing because I don’t really have to “work” at it but I guess we can all look at that in many different ways.

I’ve enjoyed being your guest on this tour today and letting you peak into my writing/creative/thought process a bit but now I must sign off. I hope to see you all around again soon and would love to have you all continue to join me on my blog journey. Hey, what’s one more blog, right?!? 🙂 Be sure to check out my friend and a phenomenal blogger/writer, in her own rite, Jessica E, as she continues our “Tour Through Blogland” next Monday, December 1st.

Traditions and Drama

drama

I am sure that I am not the first, and won’t be the last, to acknowledge how the holidays sometimes brings out the worse in people. We typically think of the holidays as a special time, heck, even a happy time but that is not always the reality for many of us.

My extended family used to have a tradition of getting together every Thanksgiving at one of our wealthier family members homes and everyone would eat, drink and be merry. However, this tradition was quickly thwarted a few years back when a disgustingly drunk uncle and a self-righteous cousin got into a full blown fight that soon led to things being broken and Thanksgiving being ruined for the rest of us. It was at that time that I decided to start my own Thanksgiving tradition, with my children, and I must say that it seems to be going much better than dealing with the family drama that comes, without fail, every time my extended family gets together.

I should let you know that I am looking forward to Thanksgiving and this entire holiday season, much like I do every year, but it is kind of sad to not be able to be with family due to not knowing if and when a fight will break out. Maybe things will get better as the years go by or maybe we will all eventually settle into our own, individual traditions and the thoughts of coming together as a family will not matter much any longer… Only time will tell. No matter what happens with the traditions that my grandmother started I will always be thankful for the time that I did get to spend with my extended family during past holidays. As far as my family’s Thanksgiving tradition, I pray that it will be something that my children will continue long after I am gone.

Happy Holidays everyone!

A New Direction

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So, lately I have been feeling like I have just been “going through the motions” with this blog and with my writing. I have enjoyed writing about the things that I have recently written about however, these are not really topics that I am passionate about so I am going to try to get back to what I do best and know well and I am going to talk about that. This would include just blogging about my life, family and giving encouragement, in any way that I can, through my own story.

I will still periodically talk about fashion and money and all those other things that I still love but I will talk about it as the need arises and as I am inspired to do so. I have learned a lot about myself since I have started writing again, full-time, and I realize that I am not really a person of structure. I mean, I love to have a plan and I love to have things organized but when it comes to having to write about a particular topic, every single week, especially a topic that I enjoy but am not passionate about, I notice that I tend to slack off and not do well with those types of writing tasks so I am going to be true to myself and not going to force it anymore.

I am going to just be myself, write about my life and hopefully you all will still read what I have to say and join in the comments and discussion, as you see fit. Thank you all for your patience and for your loyalty. Those are definitely not common traits in this day and age so I truly do appreciate you all for sticking it out and continuing on this journey with me.

You guys are the best!

So, here’s to the future of reNewedChick and to the great things that I am sure will come from this blog now that I am not going to try to be someone that I am not.

Holiday Fashion

Christmas gift and baubles on defocused lights background

If you’re looking for some threads for your kids, look no further. You are in the right place! Whether you’re shopping for an infant, toddler, tween or teenager, you are sure to find some items that fit your fashion liking. So sit back, get your pen and paper out and keep reading.

When I first started shopping for holiday outfits for my children, years ago, I thought it was going to be an endless battle, especially when shopping for my son, and it kind of was. I don’t know about you but it seemed (and sometimes still seems) like there is an unlimited supply of cute things for my daughters, however, for my son it is a completely different story. I mean, I would find some good items for him but most of the super affordable places had nothing that I thought looked nice on him. It didn’t, and still doesn’t, help that my son is a little on the husky side already…yep, that’s my football player.

After always needing to go to multiple stores to find something nice for my son, I decided that enough was enough. I was now on a mission to find just one or two stores that I would be able to regularly shop at for my little boy. To my surprise, I found a store that ended up being able to work for both, my sons and my daughters. The main store that I shop at for my son is Crazy 8. The girls also get a lot of stuff from Crazy 8 and Target but I mainly shop at Justice, especially for the two older girls.

So, are you having trouble arranging a good holiday outfit for your kiddos to wear to family events this season and/or for pictures? I have come up with a few styles that I am planning to dress my children in that may also help you out. Take a look…

My Boys:

The grey check button-up shirt paired with the black and grey Argyle sweater vest goes nicely with black corduroy rocker pants. I am going to let him wear some grey and black colorblock high-top sneakers and a grey herringbone cap. Everything came from Crazy 8.

*** I love it when my little guys dress up. I get very few chances throughout the year to get them all nice and “classy” so I take the holidays very seriously and this is usually the only time of year when I can get all of the kids together and looking nice for family photos. So, yes, it is an extra special time of year for us, indeed. ***

This year I am going to let my girls dress differently than they usually have in the past. Throughout the years, I have styled all the kids outfits to be almost exactly the same and the girls have always dressed very much alike for our pictures (don’t judge me; I thought that was cute). Now that they are getting older, they have asked to be able to wear things that are more of their “style” and to be different from each other, so we will see how this works out. We are all still going to be color coordinated (there is no one that will be wearing bright pink and orange while the rest of us wear grey or black, hahaha) but we are all wearing things that are more our own individual styles. With that being said, here is what the girls have decided to wear for our holiday photos.

Oldest Daughter:

My sassy singer’s outfit of choice includes: a grey belted top with a grey jean skirt and black leggings. She is wearing a  black accessories and black Mary Janes. The clothes and accessories came from Justice. The shoes came from Gap.

Middle Daughter:

Miss Free Spirit will be wearing: a grey and black patterned sweater dress with some black tights and black Mary Janes. The clothes and accessories came from Justice. The shoes came from Gap.

Youngest Daughter:

My little princess will be dazzling them in: a grey princess-like dress and black shawl with black tights, grey accessories and grey Michael Kors shoes. The clothes and accessories came from Crazy 8. The shoes came from Macy’s.

Hope this helped with some of your styling needs. Be sure to check back every Friday for more fashion tips, tricks and styles. Happy Friday!

 

A Holiday Favorite

maccheese

What’s a holiday feast without macaroni and cheese? I mean, c’mon… Who doesn’t like mac & cheese, right??? It is almost always mentioned by any child that I have come into contact with as being their favorite food. And I don’t know about you but I happen to love this dish as well. You are sure to be in heaven once you taste this delightful creation. Be sure to save some for your guests! 🙂

Oven-Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 4 tablespoons whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/3 lb shredded sharp Cheddar Cheese ***
  • 1/3 lb shredded Colby Jack ***
  • 1/2 lb Velveeta, cubed ***
  • 1/3 lb shredded mild Cheddar Cheese (for topping) ***
  • 1/3 cup Sour Cream
  • 3 eggs, beaten

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Add 6 cups of water to  a large pot and bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water; for flavoring of the macaroni. Add macaroni noodles to boiling water and cook until soft; about 15-20 minutes. Drain in strainer and run cold water over noodles for a few minutes to bring the temperature down.

Generously grease casserole/baking dish with butter or cooking spray. Combine evaporated milk, eggs and sour cream in a mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly. Add cooked macaroni to casserole/baking dish. Stir in evaporated milk, egg and sour cream mixture. Mix thoroughly. Add butter, white and black pepper, Velveeta cubes, sharp and Colby jack cheese. Mix well while adding whole milk. Pack down mixture into casserole dish and top with mild cheddar cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and light brown.

*** If you like your mac & cheese very cheesy you can always add more cheese. Also, you can change the cheese listed here to fit your family’s liking. I have a habit of adding things like: Gouda, Mozzarella and bacon or finely chopped walnuts and breadcrumbs, as well as many other ingredients, to my mac & cheese to give it a different taste or a new “look”; so feel free to make this your own. Cooking can be fun when you let yourself go and try out different things that you may like.

As always Happy Cooking!

Happy Veterans Day

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I wanted to take this time to thank the men and women who have served, presently serve and will serve in the future. This day is often celebrated, in some way, by many different industries. Some people take the day off and some companies, and schools, close to honor this day. Others give away an item or service for free to our veterans and still others have parades or plan other events to show their appreciation to the men and women who have chosen to fight for our country and its freedoms.

There are simply no words to express how thankful I am to each and every one of you that have made the decision to serve. I’m sure the decision was not an easy one and it is surely life-changing. In some cases, the decision may very well have been one that some family members are still trying to cope with. At any rate, this message of thanks is intended for all of you. Yes, even you. To all of those that made the ultimate sacrifice and the families of those fallen and missing military members, you are forever in my prayers and will never be forgotten.

To the families of those who currently serve or have served, I take my hat off to you. No one knows the burden and loneliness that comes with being the spouse or child of a service member. Yet, no one can truly understand the pride that comes from being the family member of a soldier (airman, sailor, marine or coasties), either. It is a life that few choose to live out. It is definitely not for everyone but it is one that brings great honor to those who truly embrace it.

“Thank You” sure does not feel like it is good enough however, “Thank You” is all that I have to give. Be sure to thank a veteran (active duty, reserves, retired, discharged…doesn’t matter) and make a military husband, wife or child feel special today (and every day). Let them know that they are loved, appreciated and will never be forgotten.

Is it for you?

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I was recently walking through the hallways of the University where I work and I overheard a young lady speaking on her cell phone. As I got closer I could clearly hear everything she was saying and then something came out of her mouth that kind of shocked me. “College is not for me…I should have listened to my…”. I will not finish the rest because the rest is irrelevant to what I want to speak about today.

Maybe you can see why this shocked me. I rarely hear this type of conversation but, then again, I am not an Advisor or Counselor so I don’t deal with the young adults who are fearful or still trying to navigate this thing called College. Anyway, this one line made me think about my own children getting to this particular stage in their lives and how I should approach something like this. I mean, college is expensive enough already and so many young people are graduating with tons of student loan and other debt. Not to mention how it’s becoming more and more difficult for those with particular degrees to even find work in their field without first needing to obtain more education or some type of work experience. The last thing I want to do is spend money on a college education, for any of my children, if they feel they may be better off gaining experiences in some other way or they want to do things differently than I have already made up in my mind for them to do.

student-debt

This, in turn, made me wonder how important college really is. I mean, seriously, I work alongside people who have obtained their Masters and Doctorate degrees and even a woman who has an engineering degree from Penn State (an Engineering degree!!!) yet she only makes $15/hour working as a Website Editor. If that is what a college degree will get my sons or daughters, in the future, then I would be okay with them choosing not to attend college, since most people can make this, and do this particular job, even without a college degree.

Sometimes, I wonder why we put so much pressure on our children to get a college education. Although I am an advocate for a good education, I have found that, sometimes, it is not the degree or the credentials that make a person successful but the person themselves and their experiences.

There are so many people that never graduated from college, and those that never attended college to begin with, that did quite well for themselves. People like Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Steve Jobs, who revolutionized how we use technology. People like Adele, Trace Adkins and Mariah Carey who sang us a new tune. People like Christy Walton who changed the way we shop. And people like Russell Simmons, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison and many more who inspired us to dream and renewed the way we live.

Obviously, I am not saying that if you don’t go to college you will have a successful life but it is also not statistically proven that success is guaranteed when one does go to and graduate from college. There is no rule that says my child will experience a fulfilled life if they do or don’t obtain a college degree. Maybe it is something to think about, especially in this day and age, with college costs skyrocketing as they will continue to do. There are many other ways for our children to be productive and to gain very valuable life skills and educational experiences.

A few things you could do while you are still unsure, or somewhat sure of, what you want to do with your life would be to:

  • Enroll in classes at a community college (since costs are significantly lower there. You can then transfer to a 4-year University when you are sure you want to continue working towards your Bachelors degree);
  • Attend Job Corps;
  • Work a part- or full-time job;
  • See if you can Job Shadow with someone who is already in the job or field that you think you would want to eventually work in;
  • Take time to volunteer;
  • Travel;
  • Or join the Peace Corps.

And if you really are unsure of what you want to do or don’t have the money for college, you could join the military. It is definitely not for everyone (and it is something that should be thought about very seriously before signing up) but you can enlist and obtain a college degree while you serve. Even if you decide not to work on a college degree, you will gain very valuable life and work experience in the military. You can even join the reserves instead of going in as an active duty member.

Would it really be so bad to allow our children to take a year off between high school and college to work or think about what they really want to do before “investing” everything into a college education?

This is definitely a time-sensitive conversation to have  with your children, parents and family members. Not only will talking about this subject allow everyone involved to appropriately prepare for the future, it will also possibly allow our young people to have the time they need to discover their true passions, hidden gifts and talents. Who knows what can happen if these things are realized and truly embraced before starting on the path toward a career and a future?

My Top 10 Fashion Must-Haves

Happy Fashion Friday everyone! Yes, it’s that time again. Time to delve on into the world of fashion; or at least my world of fashion. Today, I wanted to do something just a little bit different. Instead of styling an outfit, I have decided that I would give you some of my fashion must-haves. These change from time to time, and definitely from season to season, but the items that I mention here are the ones that I truly feel that I cannot live without (no matter what). So, without further a-do here are my top 10 fashion must-haves…

1. Cardigan

I don’t care what your fashion style is, a cardigan can be paired with just about anything. It’s especially great for those Sunday mornings when you want to wear a sleeveless dress to church but know that your granny will NOT approve you going bare-armed.

2. Scarf

Maybe it’s just me but I happen to love scarves. I think they are the ultimate accessory because they can be paired and look amazing with a variety of different outfits. Depending on your personal style, a scarf could add that extra “umph” to an outfit that nothing else could.

3. Flats

I love heels just like the next female however, there are days when I know I am going to be on my feet all day and heels just don’t look as appealing during those times. Besides, flats are a lot more comfortable and they can look great with jeans, a skirt and a dress.

4. Little Black Dress

Every woman needs, and probably still has, her little black dress. Okay, it doesn’t have to be “little” per se but you know what I mean. A black dress can be the perfect outfit for multiple events: from a date night or an interview to a lunch meeting with a client. The ingenious black dress can cover you on a variety of occasions.

5. Earrings

This is probably the only accessory that you can have some real fun with. Earrings come in a variety of styles: from the stud to the hoop to the dangling ones. Earrings are definitely a great way to add a little bit of fun and flashiness to your outfit.

6. Leggings

I love leggings! I wear them under my sweater dresses in the Fall and Winter and pair them with extra long shirts in the Spring and Summer. I even pair them with a jean skirt, on my little girls, when they want to present a bit of a “hipster” style for school or church.

7. Jeans

This is a must-have for every woman, seriously. Whoever created the first pair of jeans was a genius and will always be fondly thought of by moi. I have a favorite pair of jeans that I still have in my closet but can no longer fit into. I try to reason with myself that I am only keeping them to pass down to my daughters as they get older and may be able to one day fit them but I think I am still secretly keeping them around for myself, with the hope of someday losing that extra pregnancy weight and being able to get back into them. Only time will tell…

8. Sunglasses

I have a confession to make. Please don’t judge me. Have you ever seen one of those people that had on a pair of sunglasses even in the winter? You may even hate those people…right? Well, I am one of them, hahaha. I really don’t mean to be but I am the girl that can, and will, wear a pair of sunglasses all year round. In my defense, there are still some very sunny days even during the Winter. I don’t know what it is that I love about sunglasses…maybe it is because they are able to hide my un-mascara’d eyes and are similar to a mask in some ways, but I digress.

9. Watch

I love being able to tell the time, at a moments notice. I understand I can just get my cell phone out and look at the time on it, which I still do from time to time, but there is something about having a watch on my wrist that gives me peace of mind. Call me old-school but I hate leaving the house without a watch on.

10. Lip Gloss

This is probably the most predictable fashion must-have, especially on a woman’s list. What can I say, I cannot stand for my lips to get chapped. I’m very “girly” in that way. Whether you’re trying to keep your lips moist for your partner or purely for yourself, lip gloss is compact enough and can easily provide the continuous moisture that you need throughout your day.

What are some of your fashion must-haves? Is there anything in particular that you would add or take away from this list? Tell me all about it.

How To Make: Cornbread Dressing

CornbreadDressing

*** Thanks for your patience! I have been dealing with some technical difficulties all night which is why this is coming so late. Sorry! 😦 ***

We are in the holiday season everyone! This is hands down, my favorite time of the year. Okay, okay, I could do without the bad weather and some of the family drama but other than that I absolutely love how magical this season is. Everyone seems to become nice all of a sudden and those frowns are turned upside down. Most of us have no problem getting into the spirit of the season. It is absolutely miraculous!

With the holiday season approaching, I figured I would do more of a holiday theme in the coming weeks on holiday food favorites. So whether you’re looking to make a turkey for the first time or needing some fresh ideas on side dishes to accompany Mr. Turkey, I’ve got you covered. As always, you can refine the recipes here to fit your family’s liking (just try it my way at some point and let me know what you think of it – and please be honest, I’m a big girl, I promise I won’t get mad if you happen to think it’s the worst thing you’ve ever tasted. Not to toot my own horn but I am about 99% certain that will not be the case.).

Today, I am introducing you to one of my favorite side dishes and “comfort foods” during the holiday season…Cornbread Dressing! This dish is sure to get your family and friends talking around the dinner table.

Cornbread Dressing

Ingredients

Dressing:
Cornbread, recipe follows
5 cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing Mix
1 1/4 cup butter, divided
3 cups celery, chopped
1 large onion, diced
7 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh sage (or dried rubbed sage)
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning (optional)
6 eggs, beaten

Cornbread:
3 cups white cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour (use self-rising flour to cut the need for bp/bs)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

*** You can also just make the Jiffy Mix cornbread and follow the directions on the box. If you decide to go this route, be sure to make at least 2 pans of cornbread to ensure you will have more than enough already made when it’s time to combining everything. *** 

Directions

Cornbread:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients first. Slowly stir in the liquid ingredients. Make sure all ingredients are mixed well. Pour batter into a greased baking pan. Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Dressing:

Turn preheated oven down to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine crumbled cornbread and Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing Mix; set aside.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped celery and diced onion and cook until transparent, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Add about a cup of the Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing Mix; cook with the vegetables for about 5 minutes. Pour the vegetable mixture over the cornbread mixture. Add the chicken broth, mix well, taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the sage, poultry seasoning and 1/2 cup of melted butter. Finally, add beaten eggs and mix well.

Pour mixture into a well-greased pan and bake until dressing is cooked through, about 40 minutes. The top of the dressing should be somewhat hardened when it is finished cooking but the middle and bottom with still be soft and moist. Serve warm, with turkey, as a side dish.