Ways to Celebrate Samhain

I am super excited for the Halloween season. It has always been my favorite holiday (yes, even more than Christmas). There is so much magic and mystery in the air. As a child, I would go gun-ho in the spirit of Halloween (no puns intended). I would decorate the house, carve jack-o-lanterns, and of course, dress up! Growing out of the commercialization of this holiday, I have developed a respect and interest in the traditional practices of this holiday…

History lesson! Halloween’s origins date back over 2,000 years ago to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-een). The Celts celebrated this time as the end of their year, since they only had two seasons. It falls halfway between the Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice and was meant as a time for celebration and the end of the harvest and the preparation of winter. painting-large2Other festivals from other cultures and religions fall at this time, such as the Catholic holiday, All Saint’s Day & All Hallow’s Eve, which honors known and unknown saints.  Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday celebrated at this time to honor former relatives.

So instead of Halloween, I am celebrating Samhain this year. It seems more appropriate for me to connect with these ancient energies and celebrate the old ways of this holiday. I’ve been very eager, doing research as to how to celebrate my first Samhain. I have devised a list of ways to commemorate this time and am sharing them with you for your own ideas of how to celebrate!

Ways to Celebrate Samhain

1. Have a Bonfire – Celts would have bonfires to symbolize the sun. They would continuously add wood to the fire, fueling it and representing the sun’s power to continue providing warmth and light through the bleakness of winter.

2. Carve a Jack-o-lantern – In order to prevent harmful spirits from entering a household, people would hollow out pumpkins and gourds, carving scary faces into them and placing them in windowsills or doorsteps, frightening lurking spirits away.

3. Dress up – Another method people would use to avoid evil spirits was to dress in costume and wear masks to disguise themselves whenever they ventured out. This was to trick the spirits.

4. Communicate with Spirits – At this time, the veil between our world and the Spirit & Fae world is thinned, allowing this time for communication with the other side. Heighten your psychic abilities and connect with the spirits through the stones, moonstone, amethyst and quartz.

5. Honor your Ancestors – Since the ability to contact with spirits is very strong at this time, people would take this opportunity to contact and honor their ancestors. Visiting graves, making alters, or simply remembering your pasted on relatives and those memories of them.

6. Divination – Divination rituals were typically practiced during Samhain. Often times, these revolved around future love and romance. One method was to peel an apple into one long piece. When the peel comes off, it was dropped on the floor. The letter it forms was the first initial of that person’s true love’s name. There are many ways to practice divination. For a closure look at divination methods, check out my post, Divination 101.traditional-Halloween-soul-cakes

7. Cook a Feast – Samhain is a celebration, and what celebration wouldn’t be complete without a special meal? Some foods commonly associated with Samhain are pumpkin, apple, root vegetables, hazelnut, and corn. Soul cakes were a popular treat baked and given out in commemoration of the dead. Ciders and ales also were consumed during this time.

Whatever you decide to do this Samhain, I hope you have fun and enjoy the spirit of the holiday!

Life is a Journey, Not a Destination

“Life is a journey, not a destination”. Written on a large river rock, this saying had caught my eye a couple weeks ago while at work. A meaningful quote, yet meaningless to my life at the time, its importance was stored in the back of my mind, waiting until today to reveal its message.

A few words that describe me are competitive and ambitious. Earning a degree in the competitive world of design, I actively pursued internship opportunities and sought chances to advance in my career. My reach was high. I wasn’t one for settling. Having a clear goal for my future, I had revolved my achievements around that.

This was my thought pattern for the past six years of my life: get a cushy job in design, advance in my career, and gain social success. Then when I didn’t get that design job right after college, I began working at the crystal shop, and my consciousness shifted, and I found myself questioning my future plans. The materialistic glamour of contact design had lost its appeal to me, and I discovered I was more interested in holistic healing and helping others in their paths towards peace and harmony. Not wanting to botch my whole design degree (and those wonderful student loans I am still paying off), my new goal for my future is to merge the two—holistic design: creating spaces and selling products that raise our vibrations and heal us through our harmonious environments.

With this new goal in mind, I am also faced with the worries of any aspiring entrepreneur: Where to start? Will I be successful? Social media keeps reminding me of others who have their own businesses and have achieved success. Even some of my friends have made advancements towards their own future, and right now, I feel stuck in limbo (or a young adult life crisis). I have started doubting myself and how I will make this dream a reality. All my thoughts are envisioning the end result I want to achieve…my destination. These worries swarmed my mind for the past few days and yesterday while on the train, the answer came to me. The saying I’ve been noticing at work, “Life is a journey, not a destination” popped into my head and eased my troubled mind. It’s funny how the universe works that way, I see these words every day and think nothing of it, and then the moment comes where I find myself struggling to understand the lesson life has presented itself to me, they pop into my head, the light bulb comes on, and I learn why I was connecting to this saying.

The future is unknown, plans change, and we may take different paths than the ones we started off on. Life is a journey, full of lessons and experiences that shape us and allow us to grow. I may be very fixated on the end result of my dream, I need to focus on the part that is going to get me there: the journey. This quote also reminds me to not turn life into a competition. I’ve been seeing other’s success and comparing them to my own dreams. Everyone’s journey is different though, and I do not know their trails and experiences that allowed them to grow and achieve their dreams. What I can do right now is focus on my own journey and enjoy the process of getting there, to learn from the experiences I gain from my growth, to remember that everything takes time, and to have fun as well! Plan for the future, but live in the present and see where this journey takes me…

Honey Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad with Cinnamon Walnuts

The weekends are usually when I tend to experiment in the kitchen. Too exhausted when I come home from work during the weekdays, I stick to simple skillet meals, but on the weekends, my creativity flows and I have the opportunity (and the patience) to play around. We had this butternut squash that was just sitting on our counter for a while, and today it looked like it wanted to be used. Note that this meal should be made when you aren’t super hungry, since it takes about an hour to make, though it was worth it to me! It warmed me up, I got my sweet tooth satisfied with the honey roasted butternut squash, and my veggies!

So what makes this meal so healthiful and spectacular? A breakdown of the ingredients:

  • Kale – All hail the mighty kale! This leafy green plant is extremely nutrient dense, having high doses of vitamin A (206%), vitamin K (684%), vitamin C (134%), and many other vitamins and minerals. It also has antioxidants that help remove free-radicals that form cancer in the body. I’d bow down to this powerful plant!
  • Butternut Squash – Due to its orange color, butternut squash is high in vitamin A. It also as anti-inflammatory properties, and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Walnuts – A good source of omega-3 fats, Vitamin E, folate, and melatonin, Walnuts are beneficial for healthy brain functioning. They also support heart health through the amino acid l-arginine.
  • Cinnamon – A wonderful anti-inflammatory, can help lower cholesterol and lower blood sugar levels, this spice is a sweet addition to a meal.
  • Honey – This liquid gold may help prevent cellular damage within the brain. It also helps absorb calcium, which helps our bones stay strong. It is a sweet alternative to refined cane sugar.
  • Sage – Sage has a long history of treating memory loss illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. Research has shown that it has improved cognitive functioning in patients with mild to moderate cases of the disease.

Simple ingredients, rewarding health benefits, what more could you ask for?

Honey Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad with Cinnamon Walnuts

(makes 6 cups)

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Ingredients

  •  1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 – 3 cups of kale, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. While the oven is heating, place butternut squash cubes in a bowl and toss with honey, sage, and salt and pepper.
  3. In another dish, toss cinnamon with walnuts and set aside.
  4. Place squash on a non-stick (or lightly oiled) baking dish and bake for 40 minutes or until soft.
  5. When there are about 5 minutes remaining for the squash, add the walnuts to the baking dish and continue to bake.
  6. Once the squash is done, set out to cool and add the kale. This will soften the kale up without them turning to crunchy kale chips. Let sit for 3-5 minutes before serving.

Stone Pairing: Poland

Poland-Flag-WallpaperAncestry has been one of the many interests in my life. Tracing my family’s lineage, I not only discover more about them, but myself. My dad was born in central Poland, coming to America when he was only nine. We still have many relatives in Poland, and my dad and Uncle remain in contact with them. My mother’s side has been in the Chicago area for a few generations, but the main ethnicity on her side of the family is Polish as well.

Growing up, I took great pride in my Polish roots, dressing up in traditional attire for holidays, listening to Polka, and eating comfort foods such as perogis and guampki. I was passionate about my cultural background.

So how does this tie into my mystical world of crystals and energy? There are certain stones that have special meanings to different cultures. If you are very in touch with your heritage, these stones may resonate with you more. And visa versa, if you would like to connect more with your roots, stones associated with that culture are a way to do so.

Wanting to honor my Polish ancestry, here are stones that I found work with that energy:

Amber – A soft gentle stone, if you want to call it a stone. Amber is actually resin from trees, fossilized for over 400,000 years. Baltic Amber, found in the Baltic region, is prized for its clarity. Amber helps smooth emotions, removing negativity and stress, and relieving fears and anxiety.

Red Jasper – Associated with the base chakras, Red Jasper assists in rebirthing and cleansing the aura. It strengthens your boundaries and is an excellent stone for courage and inner power. This ties into the qualities of the eagle, Poland’s symbol. Red Jasper also represents the color of the flag.

Sodalite – This blue stone reminds you to stay true to yourself, but also is useful for harmony within groups, stimulating trust and companionship. It Associating with the throat chakra, Sodalite is good for communicating, allowing stories of family and ancestry to be shared.

Dobrywieczur.

Divination 101

When I first got involved in the metaphysical, divination was something that caught my interest, thought I knew very little about. Derived from the Latin word divinare, meaning, “to foresee”, divination is the practice of seeing into the future. Having roots that date back thousands of years, it has been practiced by many cultures throughout the world. Ancient Egyptians would scry or crystal gaze, while some African tribes would use animal bones for divination purposes.

There are many different ways to practice the art of divination. I’ve compiled some common ways that people have used to foretell the future:

Tarot Cards – Tarot cards are a deck of 78 cards, a major arcana and minor arcana consisting of four suits, with specific images on each card. The used of tarot cards started in Europe during the 15th century as a card game.

Runes – Meanings associated with certain symbols are etched onto small pieces wood, bone, or stone and are pulled typically out of a bag or bowl, telling the future. Commonly used by Norse, this method has been around since before the Bronze Age.

Tasseography (Tea Leaves Reading) – This involves interpreting patterns/symbols in used tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediment. The symbols each have different meanings. While tea reading is popular in European cultures, Middle Eastern methods involve coffee grounds.

Pendulum – A pendulum is a long string/chain with some weight (usually a brass or crystal) at the end. Asking the pendulum questions and based on the movement of the swing will decide the future event. It was used as a method for midwives to determine the sex of an unborn child by using the pendulum over a pregnant woman.

Scrying – Commonly known through crystal ball gazing, Scrying is peering into some form of crystal, whether it be a flat disc or ball and obtaining visions. It is one of the oldest forms of divination, being dated to China in 3000 B.C., Egypt in 2500 B.C., and Greece in 2000 B.C.

Numerology – This is the practice that numbers coincide to specific events. This can range from calendar dates to your name and the meanings behind them. This was practiced by ancient Egyptians and Greeks.

Astrology – This is the method of divination based on the alignment of the stars and planets and how they affect us. It ties into the zodiac associates with horoscopes. There is the Western version, which has the twelve zodiac symbols: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc. There is also the Eastern version, which instead of based upon the months, follows the years: Ox, Rat, Pig, etc.

Palmistry – This is the practice of looking at a person’s palm and seeing the future based on the mounds and lines in their hand. Palmistry has heavy history in Eurasian cultures such as Indian, Persian, Chinese, and Tibetan.

Since divination is tapping into your Third Eye chakra and your own psychic abilities/intuition, find a method that works best for you. For me, I enjoy Tarot cards and have connected strongly to that tool. There is no “right” way to practice divination. Every person’s experience is different, and based on how open your Third Eye is, it could take more time to develop your divination abilities. In all, be patience and have fun!

The Hunter’s Moon: Full Moon of October

The moon has strong impact on our emotions and behaviors. Astrologists knew this, and connected the moon to these characteristics. The phases of the moon cycle also have influence, and different phases represent different experiences within ourselves. The full moon is the time in the moon cycle where we are most sociable, tending to enjoy crowds and gatherings. We have increased energy, especially in the evening. The full moon connects to the Goddess, so we tend to have more sexual energy at this time as well, feeling flirtatious, sexy, and lighthearted.

The Triple Goddess Symbol, representing the three stages of woman.

The Triple Goddess Symbol, representing the three stages of woman.

Full moons are a time for rituals that involve releasing things that no longer benefit you. This could be old habits, unhealthy people, etc. It is also a wonderful time to harness the lunar energy and cleanse your stones and crystals. Place them out in the full moon light overnight to charge them and rid them of old, unwanted energies.

Being associated with the Goddess, full moons are a time to connect to your intuition and psychic abilities. Lucid dreaming is strongest at this time, and the ability to recall dreams is very high. Divination is a ritual that is good to practice during the full moon, and since All Hallow’s Eve/Halloween/Samhain is approaching within the next few days, this full moon is a very heightened time for it. I usually take this time to do my tarot reading for the upcoming month. tumblr_mpy00wd9oe1r0bap0o1_1280Scrying, Runes, Dowsing, and Tea Reading are all good ways to practice divination.

October 27th marks the full moon for this month. Many cultures around the world named the full moons in association to what was happening at that time of year, in order to keep time. Known as the Hunter’s Moon, this was the start of hunting season, preparing for the long winters ahead. It is a good time to align yourself with nature and conducting magical rituals concerning animal issues, such as finding your personal animal guide, totem or relating to your birth totem.

Have a mystical, magical full moon!

Raise the Energy of your Space

Little fact about myself: I graduated with a degree in Interior and Environmental Design. I am not trying to be biased when I say that the places and spaces we come in contact with have significant impacts on our health. During my education, I learned the psychology behind design. Ever wonder why many fast food joints use the color red? Red is a stimulating color, increasing appetite and energy, which is perfect for those grab-and-go restaurants. This is also why their signs/logos are typically red. This way, they catch your attention while driving. Another psychological fact about restaurant design; why do most people prefer booth seating? The reason relates to our primal survival instincts of safety and security. When we sit in booths, we feel more protected as opposed to sitting with our backs exposed at table seating. Fascinating no?

Outside my schooling, through my own learning, I discovered how not only can spaces impact our mental and physical wellbeing, but our energy and souls. Everything is connected. You may have heard of Feng Shui, and how the arrangement of furniture and use of shapes, elements, and color can affect the energy of a space. This ancient practice is one way that helps balance and heighten the Chi, or energy, which in return affects our physical bodies and mind.

While the art of traditional Feng Shui is very extensive, anyone can increase the vibrations of their space. Here are some simple tips and tricks that I have come across for increasing the vibrations and giving balance to one’s space:

1. Declutter: A messy space disrupts the flow of energy, causing mental stress in the process. A tidy space allows the energy to flow smoothly and brings peace of mind.

2. Utilize the five senses: Often times, we focus our attention on visual aspects. While ascetics can raise the vibrations of a space, we shouldn’t forget our other senses. Find and add different textures to stimulate your sense of touch. Have incense, fragrant candles, and/or potpourri to incorporate your sense of smell, and play music to impact your sense of sound. For taste, there isn’t much that can be done, but sometimes our sense of smell affects our tastebuds. They key is to incorporate more of our senses than just sight.

3. Notice the corners: Energy tends to sit and stagnate in the corners of a room when these spaces are empty. Adding an arrangement or furniture to the corners of a space allows the energy to flow freely again.

4. Add some crystals: Crystals give off their own vibrations, which can increase the energy of your space. Different stones give off different energies, such as Amethyst can increase peaceful energies (which would be perfect for a bedroom), while Citrine brings wealth and prosperity in a space (good for a office/work environment). When placing stones in your space, I recommend larger specimens, ideally clusters since they radiate their energy in all directions as opposed to small tumbled stones that are meant more for personal, hand-held use.

Celestite is a high vibrational stone and is great for a meditation room.

Celestite is a high vibrational stone and is great for a meditation room.

5. Add some plants: Like crystals, plants give off energy as well. Studies have shown that plants actually help with mental health, reducing stress and depression. They also help with physical health in a number of ways, from reducing colds to helping with allergies. Acting as air purifiers, they are a wonderful addition to any space.

6. Add a Himalayan Salt Lamp: Our bodies naturally release positive ions in the air, and if unchecked, overtime this can lead to allergens to form in the space, causing respiratory problems. Salt lamps release negative ions, which counteract and balance out the positive ions we emit. Plus, the soft warm glow these lamps produce has very soothing effects as well.himalayan_salt_lamp_mini

7. Decorate: I feel that this tip is a given, but non-the-less, it is important to emphasize how you want to add your personal touch to a space, thus adding your energy. Picture frames, personal knick-knacks, and other accessories that resonate with you can increase the energy of a space. Don’t forget neglected areas, such as adding wall art and rugs.

Be creative and have fun! If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer. Namaste.

Stone Pairing: Stones for Quitting Smoking

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The practice of smoking connects to the elements of fire and air. While smoking has taken place in many spiritual ceremonies, in today’s society, many have become addicted to the habit, causing disharmony within the body, mind, and spirit. Many smokers are stuck in this unhealthy cycle, and while some want to quit, the mental and physical addiction is hard to break. Using stones is a way to help break those addictions on a subconscious level, allowing the energies of the crystals to resonate with your own frequencies. Here is a pairing for those wishing to break their nicotine habit.

Smoky Quartz-Resonating with the element of air, Smoky Quartz is an excellent smoker’s stone, reducing the urge to smoke as well as decreasing the anger and agitation associated with nicotine withdraw. It is one of the most powerful stones for healing the lower chakras, which is where addictions subside.

Dalmatian Stone-This stone strengthens the resolve to quit smoking and provides the determination needed to succeed. A Seeker Transformer crystal, Dalmatian Stone contain a crystal energy structure that works with the natural power of the human mind to find the way to new horizons and new capabilities and enhance the efforts to change our situations, health, and outlooks. A lower vibration stone, Dalmatian Stone should be worn for extended periods of time.

Carnelian-Connected to the element of fire, Carnelian brings forth the courage to overcome difficulties. It provides excellent support for detoxifying substances like drugs and alcohol, and improves overall health.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Garlic Hummus

I love condiments. Okay, I love a lot of things, but spreads, dips, and condiments are my go to for meIMG_6419als. They can turn a blah meal into a delicious dish! Hummus is a wonderful spread, and it is perfect for so many foods. You can use it as a dip with pita or vegetables, you can spread it on a slice of bread for a nice melt or have it be the creamy filling of a sandwich. It’s versatile for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Plus it’s a good source of plant protein (but I’ll get to that bit later). Normal hummus doesn’t quite cut it for me though. Original hummus is fine and dandy, don’t get me wrong, but I like to experiment in my kitchen.
Feeling immersed in the season of fall, I wanted to make an autumn hummus. We had a couple of sweet potatoes still. Paired with roast garlic….wow, talk about a flavorful fall hummus! It took a little more time than a normal hummus, but due to roasting the sweet potatoes and garlic, you can really taste those flavors in the spread.

Here are some health benefits of this hummus:

  • Sweet Potato-High in vitamin A, a medium sized sweet potato has 120% your daily intake. Plus 30% your recommended dose of vitamin C. High in potassium as well, these orange delights are great for heart health.
  • Garlic-Possessing antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, garlic is good for fighting infections and boosting your immune system health.
  • Chickpeas-This bean is great for bone health due to its makeup of iron, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K. Chickpeas are a great source of plant protein, each cup containing about 15 grams and have 12.5 grams of fiber.

Yum yum yum! I made mine tahini free as well, and it still came out tasting deliciously hummusy. I spread mine on a slice of bread and topped it with sauteed kale, onions and mushrooms. Breakfast of champions.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Garlic Hummus

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Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes
  • 1 can of cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cloves garlic-peeled
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Once preheated, on a baking dish, place whole sweet potatoes and garlic cloves on and roast for 40 minutes to an hour (or until potatoes are soft).
  2. About 10-20 minutes through, remove the garlic cloves and continue baking the sweet potatoes
  3. Once the potatoes are done, remove and scoop out insides into a blender.
  4. Add garlic, chickpeas, oil, lemon juice and water. Blend until smooth.
  5. Add salt to taste.
  6. Store in a mason jar and enjoy.

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Note: If the hummus is too thick and won’t blend, try adding more water until it is a desired consistency.

Carrot Bars-Vegan and Gluten-Free with no refined sugars

This weekend I was in a meal making frenzy. The weather is cool enough now to use our oven, so I was taking full advantage of that. Plus, I was trying to clean out our fridge without throwing anything away. I am a big repurposer, and I suppose that goes for my food as well. We have an apple tree in our backyard that has produced so many apples. My mom has been canning all last week, making pretty much anything with “apple” in the name: apple butter, apple pie-filling, applesauce, etc. She has so many jars made, that she wanted me to make something that used applesauce. Applesauce is a great replacement for sugar or butter in a recipe because it adds moistness and natural sweetness. I also wanted to use up a zucchini we had, which adds additional moistness, plus sneaking some veggies in!

So with zucchini and applesauce at hand, I decided to make a carrot bar recipe that I found. The recipe (found here) calls for sugar, which I decided to omit, as well as making some other minor alternations. The end product was very moist and was just the right amount of sweetness (all natural too might I add). These bars are perfect for breakfast, snack or just on-the-go!

Here are the some health benefits of the ingredients:

  • Zucchini-The fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium found in this vegetable is good for lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Applesauce-A better alternative than butter or sugar, applesauce contains fiber and vitamin C.
  • Carrot-Full of fiber, vitamin C and A, Beta-Carotene, carrots improve eye and skin health, aid in digestion, and reduce the risk of cancer.
  • Cinnamon-Loaded with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, cinnamon can help protect against cancers and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Oats-Gaining nutritional benefits such as manganese, selenium, phosphorus, fiber, magnesium, and zinc, they are a healthier option than processed white flour, which removes these minerals.
  • Walnuts-Due to it’s special mix of vitamin E, folate, melatonin, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants, studies have shown that walnuts may support brain health. Now there’s a smart idea.

So let’s get baking these good for you bars! Apologies for no pretty picture of the bars…that’s the downfall to baking at night, you don’t get the best pictures!

Carrot Bars

(makes 18 bars)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 2 cups sugar-free applesauce
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup crushed walnuts
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the shredded carrot, zucchini, applesauce, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Mix well.
  3. After the wet ingredients are mixed thoroughly, add in the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Spread the mixture in a 9×13 pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until baked thoroughly.
  5. Let cool for five minutes before slicing into 1 1/2″ x 3″ bars.

Note: Keep in a refrigerator to extend the shelf life of these moist babies! I kept them just on my counter wrapped in foil and within only a few days, they started to mold.