April Showers…and May Showers…

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by OXO. I received gardening tools, in exchange for a fair review on the blog. All opinions are 100% my own.

About a month ago, we took a weekend to basically spring-ify everything around the house. I cleaned out the beds, and planted annuals and vegetables/herbs. I also purchased a new blood orange tree. We have a whole mess of citrus trees in the backyard now. :-)

Spring Gardening

I planted cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, poblano peppers, jalapeno peppers, and of course, basil. I’ve found over the years that these plants are no-fail for me. I wanted to plant green bean seeds, but I just haven’t found the time yet. It’ll happen soon, though! I love roasted green beans in the summer months.

In fact, since I planted everything a month ago, I haven’t done anything to the garden. We’ve had quite a bit of rain around here, and so I haven’t really gone in the backyard to give everything a closer look. Well, after rain, rain and more rain, I need to clean everything out again.

Thankfully, OXO sent me a fun package of outdoor gardening tools recently.

Spring Gardening

Included in the package was their trowel, plow, hand rake, outdoor pour & store watering can, cultivator, and bypass pruners.

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Easy Sweet and Salty Party Mix

Disclosure: I was provided with samples of G.H. Cretors products, in exchange for a post. G.H. Cretors is also supplying the prize for the giveaway. All opinions are 100% my own.

Easy Sweet and Salty Party Mix

When I was a kid, I had an adorable wooden, handmade Easter basket. I fondly think about it every year around this time, and it brings back lovely memories of Easter Day. The Easter Bunny 😉 was so creative and thoughtful with our baskets…they would contain our favorite candies, as well as a couple of fun trinkets/toys. They were beautifully wrapped in colorful cellophane, complete with the perfect bow. So much attention to detail…I can only hope my kids one day get that level of creativity in their baskets. :-)

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Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans 10K

Disclosure: I was selected as a Rock ‘n’ Blog ambassador for the Run Rock ‘n’ Roll race series. My race entry was comped, in exchange for social media & blogging. Please consult with a doctor before you start any type of workout program. I’m not a doctor…just some random blogger.  All opinions are 100% my own.

It’s been a while since I participated in a race. The last time was the Mardi Gras Mambo 10K, and I was still sort of recovering a bit from the half marathon a month before.

I found out around Christmas that I was accepted to be a blogger for the Rock ‘n’ Roll race series, and I told myself that even though I’m not trained for it, I just had to get the ball rolling again and do the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans 10K. I registered and told myself, as long as I finish the race, I would consider that to be a huge accomplishment. My sister also decided to do the race with me, so I wouldn’t be doing this alone. :-)

I was pretty darn excited to get back in the swing of things. I was worried that I’d have to buy some new running clothes, due to the weight gain, but thankfully, I kept one pair of larger sized compression capris.


The day before the race, my sister and I headed to the expo. We didn’t have much time to spend there, since I had plans right after to visit family, but it was nice to be in that environment again. We passed by The Louisiana Marathon booth and noticed there was a long line for a game they had. For $1, you spin the wheel for a chance to win discounts or race swag. I thought, why not…I loved that race and worse comes to worst, I’m out a $1.

Imagine my surprise when I spun 50% off race registration! They told me that I was the first person to spin that for the day, AND in addition to the 50% off, they were giving away free “In Training” shirts to anyone who registered that weekend. So, after talking to myself and out loud a bit much, I signed up for the 2016 HALF MARATHON. Yep. I’m doing a half next year! (The same half I did in 2014…) Also, the icing on the cake was that my sister spun the same thing, too! So, we’re doing the half together!


The next day, I woke up at 4am, and drove down to meet my sister at my parents’ house, and we carpooled to the finish line parking. I purchased a premium parking pass, because I absolutely hate stressing about finding parking on race day. $20 well spent. Parking was a breeze! We also purchased shuttle passes that brought us straight to the starting line. That was very efficient as well. We probably waited 5 minutes (at the most) to board a bus!

With all the intensity of race day, I felt like the shuttle bus driver wanted to make everyone laugh a bit. “John Tucker Must Die” was on the bus TVs, and it was on the part where John Tucker climbed outside of the hotel to sneak in a girl’s room (but it ended up being the teacher’s room). I needed that laugh…


Once we got off the bus and I saw the starting line, I got those race day jitters. What if my legs couldn’t do it? What if I injured myself? All of these doubts…after a few minutes, I told myself that I did a half marathon a year ago. I can handle a 10K.


Before we knew it, the 10K started. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect..it was in the mid 40s, perfectly sunny and it was in New Orleans for crying out loud. I love New Orleans! I started by walking a good bit, just to warm my legs up and see how things felt. Just after mile one, however, my left heel started rubbing in my shoes. Surprisingly, jogging felt better than running on my feet, so I started slowly jogging around mile 2.

Around mile 4, I really started feeling pain in my right ankle and calf. I realized with my left heel issues, I was running more on the outside of my feet than usual (to avoid the blister pain), and I was probably putting more pressure on my right leg than my left, because of the pain in my left foot. While I always run in support shoes, with the way I was jogging, there was no way those shoes were going to help me out.

I told my sister to go ahead of me, because while we made pretty decent time in the first 3 miles, I didn’t want to hold her back. Also, in case I was reaching the point of being swept, I wanted her to finish, because she was still feeling great. I pretty much limp jogged/walked the last two miles. All I wanted to do was finish. I could see the cop car behind me a few blocks away, but thankfully, I didn’t get swept. I finished the race with 5 minutes to spare (on the course time limit).


Sadly, by the time I finished the race, they ran out of 10K medals, so I was given a half marathon medal and a Rock ‘n’ Roll medal. Last week, however, I got an email from Rock ‘n’ Roll that my medal will be mailed to be soon. YAY!


While I didn’t have a good race, I have to admit that the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans 10K was a nice race. The course is nice and flat (watch out for potholes, though…it’s New Orleans, after all), and the spectators and volunteers were the best! They had some really funny signs, which helped me smile during those last couple of miles (which I really needed). Also, the bands along the way were awesome. I did the race without headphones and didn’t once miss them. :-) The finish line festival was really awesome as well. City Park is a great place to just chill out and rest after a race.

Next year, I’m hoping to do the half marathon, since I’ll be trained for one the month before anyway. I’d love to get the Louisiana Double Down medal, if they offer it next year! I have some big goals and dreams for 2016, but I know I can do it!

I can’t wait!

Gorton’s/SparkPeople Realistic Resolutions & A Giveaway

Disclosure: I was provided with Gorton’s products, as well as the same items in the prize package, in exchange for a fair and honest review. Gorton’s is also providing the giveaway item. All opinions are 100% my own.

After the holidays, I finally faced the music and realized that I totally need to get back to basics. I started calorie counting again, and while the first few days were a bit of an adjustment, it’s good to finally see the number on the scale going down.

Realistic Resolutions

I’ve been looking for healthier meal options for my husband and I, since we are both calorie counting again, and Gorton’s Simply Bake and Grilled products are a great idea. These products are ridiculously simple to cook, and they already come seasoned for you, which is perfect for week night meals. Just throw them in the oven, make a quick side item or two, and dinner is figured out for you! It’s so great to have something like this in the freezer, because while I love to cook, sometimes a busy work day leaves me too drained to even want to cook a meal. Also, if you want to get creative with their products, Gorton’s has quite a few recipe ideas. Right now, there’s a printable coupon available from Gorton’s to try their products out.

In addition to eating better, I find that it’s great motivation to join challenges. The support of others who are going through the same thing as you is super motivating to keep going, at least for me. One of the challenges I’m doing this month is SparkPeople (in conjunction with Gorton’s) Realistic Resolutions. Joining the challenge gets you daily tips to make the average New Year’s resolution seem a lot more approachable for a healthy lifestyle.

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Our Carnival Dream Adventure – Part 3

Disclosure: Carnival Cruise Lines sent us (my husband and I) on a 7 day cruise aboard the Carnival Dream at no cost to us. (We did pay for all of the excursions on our own.) All opinions in this post are 100% my own.

Towel Animals

After talking about the food, the only logical thing left is to talk about all of the fun we had on our trip! What I love most about Carnival is that you don’t have to stress about your vacation planning once you’re on the cruise ship.

Every night, your room steward will leave a newsletter on your bed, which shows every single activity that’s available for you to participate in on the boat. There’s several types of activities on the ship. My favorites are the comedy shows, karaoke (watching it…no one should be subjected to my vocal “talents”), the evening shows (which were different themes every night) and mini golf. To name some of the amenities, on our ship there were also a few pools, hot tubs, an adult only deck, water slides, a full-on spa, gym, a casino, a few shops and art gallery.

In addition to ship activities, there are also excursions you can book for when you’re in port (You can do this either online or once you’re on the ship…just keep in mind that some excursions can fill up and they’re first come, first serve.). Our big excursion this year was the dolphin swim/snorkel in Roatan, Honduras. A bit of a background…I have ALWAYS wanted to do this. Always. I love dolphins. So, this year, I think I annoyed my husband with enough “pretty please”s, because he was totally game for it this cruise. Our particular excursion included a dolphin encounter, where you watch them do tricks, you get to pet them, and of course, you get the famous dolphin kiss.

Dolphin Swim
(Images taken by a staff member at St. Anthony’s Key Resort…we purchased the rights to use and print these photos.)

For our excursion, we were put in small groups with a trainer, and the trainer had a dolphin with him. This dolphin’s name is Bailey, and she was the sweetest. Here’s a picture of when she would slowly swim past the group for us to pet her. :-)

Dolphin Swim

After we all took our pictures with the dolphins, the trainers treated us to a few tricks involving multiple dolphins. I’m so in awe of how beautiful these animals are when they’re jumping, skipping, etc.

Dolphin Swim

After the encounter, we were allowed to go into deeper waters and snorkel with them. It was so neat to hear them communicate under water…I absolutely loved it! The trainers showed us a trick with waving sea grass…it would attract the calves to play with the grass! So adorable…their mannerisms reminded me so much of puppies.

Another excursion we did was the Behind the Fun tour. This is an excursion that is on the ship, where you learn about the inner workings of a cruise ship. It’s held on the last sea day of the cruise, and my husband read about this on the cruising forums. You can’t book this online before your cruise, but once you get on the ship, you can go to the shore excursions desk and book it then.

While I have no pictures to share of the tour (they aren’t allowed), I will say that the tour was worth it to us. It lasted a good 3 hours, and just to make you aware, it does require quite a bit of walking and stair climbing. We toured everything from the kitchen, to the storage areas for food, laundry areas and a few crew only areas, to name a few places. I was never bored, and our tour guide made it fun for us. The time really flew by, and when we got back to our room, this nice surprise was waiting for us! :-)

Behind the Fun

I have to say, this was probably the best cruise we’ve been on. Between the excursions, the ship, the crew and of course, this being the first cruise we’ve been on with family, we had a wonderful time. I feel that this is one of the few vacations where you truly feel like you are relaxed afterwards and had a good mental vacation. I know some people aren’t really into cruises (we thought we were those people, by the way), but I’m so glad that we tried a cruise for the first time three years ago, because we are just hooked.

Thank you again, Carnival Cruise Lines for the amazing trip. We had such a wonderful, relaxing time, and we’re already starting to plan our next one!

Caribbean Sunset

(I’ll just leave this little sunset picture here….)

Our Carnival Dream Adventure – Part 2

Disclosure: Carnival Cruise Lines sent us (my husband and I) on a 7 day cruise aboard the Carnival Dream at no cost to us. They also comped our steakhouse visit. (We did pay for the excursions on our own.) All opinions in this post are 100% my own. 

When my husband and I went on our very first cruise, we had no idea what to expect. We knew that the food was included in the cost of the cruise, so our hopes weren’t very high (because where else do you get the food included with your vacation?!). However, we were blown away with the food and the service that was included. Because of that, we never really considered booking any of the premium meal offerings, until this year.

While our steakhouse dinner was generously comped by Carnival, we actually made a reservation with the steakhouse before we found that out. We had heard so many wonderful things on cruising forums, so we figured on our third cruise…why not give it a try? We very rarely go out to eat at fancy restaurants, so we considered this to be an extra special treat.

We were beyond blown away. My husband and I agree that the steakhouse is a MUST for every cruise from now on. :-)

Our waiter first brought out an amuse bouche for us to enjoy after we placed our order. My husband got the most adorable little slider I’ve ever seen, and I had a small tomato soup.


At the steakhouse, you get your choice of a starter, salad, entree and dessert. My husband isn’t much of a salad person, so they mentioned that he could have two starters instead.

Both my husband and I had their baked onion soup. I’m a sucker for onion soup, and this one was seriously the BEST onion soup I’ve ever had. It was rich, full of flavor, cheesy…all of the things an onion soup needs to be. My husband agreed…we loved it so much! I wish I knew how to make this soup at home. For my salad, I had a classic caesar salad, and my husband opted for the crab cake starter instead of the salad.  Both were also delicious!


The entrees…whoa. These steaks were fantastic! I ordered the broiled filet mignon and my husband ordered the spice-rubbed prime ribeye steak. I tried a piece of my husband’s, and both steaks were perfectly cooked and delicious. My filet was so tender…I barely needed my knife to cut through it! For the sides, we both got wasabi horseradish potatoes and I had the sautéed mushrooms as well. They also offer sauces for the steaks, and we got a sampler of all three. We both said the wild mushroom was our favorite, although the bearnaise offered a wonderful richness and the three peppercorn was a nice, flavorful sauce as well.


Neither of us really had room for dessert, but um….who are we to refuse dessert? My husband ordered the cheesecake, and I ordered the chocolate sampler. When our waitress brought out the desserts, I had no idea how we were going to finish them. The cheesecake was insanely tall…I have no idea if they even use normal sized springform pans to make theirs…haha! I wish I held something in the picture next to the cheesecake to give you an idea of scale. Let’s just say it was a really tall cheesecake! The chocolate sampler that I had was just perfection. It’s a sampler of four desserts, each topped with ice cream or sorbet. One of the desserts was a banana pannacotta, which was perfect to have a bite of when dessert got to be a little too rich.


I can’t even begin to explain how wonderful this dinner was. It was probably the best dinner of my life, and I was thankful our room was on the same side of the boat as the restaurant, because we seriously went straight to our room and fell asleep. We were so blissfully full, and then swore we would never eat that much for a meal again on the rest of the cruise. (That ended up being a straight-up lie.)

We are absolutely making the steakhouse dinner a tradition for every cruise we go on from now on. We were completely blown away by the food and the impeccable service. Completely.

We actually went on the cruise with some of my husband’s family, and we decided to pay for his parents to dine in the steakhouse a few nights later as a gift to them. That’s how much we loved it…we just had to share the experience with someone, and they were equally impressed!

After the first night, we ended up eating dinner at the main dining room for the rest of the cruise. Since we were with some of his family, we liked using dinnertime as a time to catch-up and talk about how the cruise was going. We had the most unbelievable wait staff in the main dining room (A huge shout-out to our head server Zubin and his staff…they were probably the best main dining room staff we’ve ever had between all of the cruises we’ve been on!). And of course, the food was delicious. I pictured some of my favorites from the cruise below.


Left: Formal night lobster. Oh man…not only do you get lobster, but they also include jumbo tiger shrimp. It’s such a good, classic entree.

Top right: On the second day of the cruise, the steakhouse offered a cooking demonstration where they cooked and gave us recipes to make a few of the steakhouse favorites. We also got to sample whatever they cooked. Pictured is the mushroom cappuccino, which is what they serve on the first formal night of the cruise. We asked if it was served the night we went to the steakhouse (we remembered it from the last cruise’s cooking demonstration…it’s THAT good), but our server said it’s only on formal nights. So good!

Center right: Champagne sorbet. It’s not the easiest to photograph, but this is another steakhouse favorite offered on formal nights. Our maitre d’ mentioned it to us one night, and since we missed out on that too for our steakhouse dinner, she surprised us with some on the second formal night at our table! I loved it so much…I need to make this myself. :-) Wouldn’t that be fun for a celebration?

Bottom right: Warm Melting Chocolate Cake. Another classic…it’s the most popular dessert in the main dining room and for good reason. You just can’t beat the warm melting chocolate cake. I have a copycat recipe on the blog, which is crazy easy to make!

The wonderful staff on the cruise ship surprised us with a few treats during the cruise! We ended up meeting Allan, the Chef de Cuisine of the entire ship. I was shocked that he took a few minutes to talk to me and my husband’s family at dinner one night. He was such a friendly man (I would be so stressed in his shoes, but he seemed so calm and collected!), and we saw him once again on the Behind the Fun tour (which I’ll talk about in the next post).  Throughout the cruise, he generously sent some treats to our room, which we shared with my husband’s family. :-) We enjoyed so much food on this cruise!

Dessert Collage

Also, if that’s not enough, we did take advantage of the included room service a few times. I loved enjoying coffee and some fruit (you know, to balance things out haha) while sitting out on our balcony. It was the perfect way to start the day. :-)

All in all, the food on the Carnival Dream was just amazing. I won’t mention how much weight we gained after the cruise (even though we walked a ton), but it was SO worth it. Stay tuned for the next post, where I share some of the excursions and other fun we had on our Carnival cruise.

Our Carnival Dream Adventure – Part 1

Disclosure: Carnival Cruise Lines sent us (my husband and I) on a 7 day cruise aboard the Carnival Dream at no cost to us. (We did pay for the excursions on our own.) All opinions in this post are 100% my own. 

Carnival Dream

My husband and I started cruising a couple of years ago. Since New Orleans is a popular port city for cruise lines and is only a short drive away for us, we’ve started to make a Carnival cruise a yearly get-away for us.

We’ve cruised with Carnival twice before (on our own dime), and we’ve always been impressed with them. I find that a cruise is one of the rare vacations where you feel like you really take a good, long break away from everything. Once I’m on the boat, most of my stress melts away. I can turn off my phone for a week, not have to worry about cleaning anything, nap whenever I want (yes, I sleep a LOT on vacation…ask my husband), take in all of the beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea, enjoy some excursions in port, and of course, try all sorts of delicious food without having to step foot in a grocery store!

To me, that’s a vacation!

One of the best views of the trip, in my opinion, is the great sunset view of New Orleans. The city just looks so calm and serene. It’s the perfect backdrop for the start of our vacation.

Carnival Farewell New Orleans

Since we’ve cruised twice before, we decided to make this trip full of firsts. I can’t wait to share those with y’all, but here’s one of our biggest firsts: swimming with dolphins. What an experience!

Dolphin Swim
(Images taken by a staff member at St. Anthony’s Key Resort…we purchased the rights to use and print these photos.)

::sigh:: These Caribbean sunsets never get old. One of my favorite things is to just sit on the balcony with a cup of coffee and just stare at this. I also really, really enjoy taking pictures of the sunsets. The pictures never do them justice, though.

Carnival Sunset

I also love the little touches that Carnival provides to every cruiser. Every single night, they’d place chocolates and a towel animal on our bed. We had a new animal every night, which was so fun! Since I love them so much, I would carefully move them to our sofa in the room so they could stay intact throughout the cruise. After a couple of nights of doing this, our room steward took notice and left them for us to enjoy. We had a nice little collection at the end of the cruise!

Towel Animals

Don’t judge me… 😛

And of course, there was plenty of delicious food. Plenty….here’s a sneak peek of some of the desserts we got to enjoy! I can’t wait to share with y’all some of the amazing food that we got to enjoy on this cruise! Stay tuned!

Dessert Collage

Pairing Desserts with Coffee (+ GIVEAWAY)

Disclosure: I was sent a sampler of Community Coffee single serve cups, in exchange for a post that included their products. Community Coffee is also providing the giveaway item. All opinions are 100% my own.

Happy Christmas Eve, y’all! I’m so excited that Christmas is tomorrow. :-)

One of the biggest things about tomorrow (besides seeing family, of course) is the meal. While I know that the biggest tradition for Christmas is usually a beef roast, our family sticks to making turkey and ham. In fact this year (for the first time ever), I’m responsible for the ham. ::fingers crossed it doesn’t end up overcooked::

Along with dinner of course, are the desserts. My family is known for making desserts. Everything from pralines to ooey gooey bars to cheesecake to cobbler to macarons…it’s just a whole ‘nother feast. We have some amazing dessert makers in the family. :-) One thing that I hardly ever think about is pairing dessert with the perfect cup of coffee. Now, coffee is a MUST with desserts for me, but I usually just go with a darker roast coffee.

The folks at Community Coffee came out with a dessert pairing guide that will help you figure out what type of coffee goes best with the dessert you’re having.

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Favorite Gifts for the Host (+ GIVEAWAY)

Disclosure: I was sent a sampler of Orchard Choice fig spread, in exchange for a post that included their products, by Valley Fig Growers (made possible by KitchenPLAY). Valley Fig Growers is also providing the giveaway item. All opinions are 100% my own.


With Christmas in a couple of short days, I’m sure that quite a few of y’all (myself included) are hosting or going to holiday meals with loved ones. One of the few things I often forget to do is to thank the host/hostess with a small gift. Quite a few people like to bring a bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers, but I much prefer bringing something food related. It can be anything from a homemade food gift to a fun food product that I think is worth sharing with others.

Here’s some of my favorites:

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Peppermint Bark Brown Sugar Lip Scrub (+ GIVEAWAY)

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Dixie Crystals. I received products in exchange for this post. They also supplied the items for the giveaway. All opinions are my own.

Peppermint Bark Brown Sugar Lip Scrub

This past week, I started wrapping Christmas gifts to place under the tree. The day after Thanksgiving, my husband took down the gift wrapping boxes from the attic, and I just had a wrapping spree. Gift wrapping takes me a while, because I try to make the packaging as pretty as possible, just because I enjoy the heck out of it. Wire ribbons, festive paper, gift tags…so fun! When I was younger, I remember watching my mom meticulously wrap presents for others. She would make these gorgeous bows, to where they were almost too pretty to unwrap. She is so skilled at it…she can wrap nearly anything. I’m pretty sure that she would put mall gift wrappers to shame. 😛

When I wrap gifts, I like to add a fun little gift on the outside, whether it’s a candy cane, lip gloss or a mini ornament. It just adds a little something to the gift, and it’s easy to tie or tape on. This year, these brown sugar lip scrubs are going to be part of our gifts. The chocolate and mint are just a perfect combination for the holidays, and with brown sugar, along with coconut oil, they not only exfoliate, they also moisturize like crazy!

Dixie Crystals has so many great homemade sugar scrub recipes, and since I gifted peppermint sugar scrub as a gift last year, I wanted to go with a lip scrub this year. With the winter as crazy cold as it’s been so far (it reached the 20s a couple of weeks ago), this lip scrub is definitely needed.

Peppermint Bark Brown Sugar Lip Scrub

I placed the lip scrub in these mini (food-safe) glass jars that I found at a craft store. I then placed them in these large, ornament shaped plastic balls that you can pop open, and on the inside, I added thin, red tinsel and this leafy looking pipe cleaner with the lip scrub jar. Festive, right?

This brown sugar lip scrub couldn’t be easier to make. You just throw the ingredients in a bowl, mix and add to clean, food-safe jars of your choice.

Peppermint Bark Brown Sugar Lip Scrub
Source: slightly adapted from Dixie Crystals


  • 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups Dixie Crystals packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. mint extract
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled


  1. Mix all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, until everything is combined well.
  2. Place in containers, and gift! They keep for 2 months, when kept in a cool, dry place.
  3. To use, place a small amount on the lips and gently swirl around in a circular motion for at least a minute. When done, rinse the scrub off in cool water or if you want a sugar-y treat, you can lick this off, too.

The generous folks at Dixie Crystals are offering a lucky reader of The Nifty Foodie the ultimate sugar prize package! :-) As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of Dixie Crystals’ products, so this is perfect if you enjoy baking!

The prize includes:

  • Five 4-lb. bags of Dixie Crystals granulated sugar
  • Six 2-lb. bags of Dixie Crystals light brown sugar
  • Six 2-lb. bags of Dixie Crystals dark brown sugar
  • Six 2-lb. bags of Dixie Crystals powdered sugar

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: This giveaway is supplied by Dixie Crystals and is open to readers in the continental US only. Entries will be accepted until December 11th, 2014 at 11:59am (central standard time). Winner will be emailed (make sure you leave an email address in the form), and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.