Clean Your Laundry With These! Use All Natural, Eco-Friendly ‘Soap Nuts’ and Say Goodbye to Conventional Detergents

There is actually a dry, brown fruit that you can throw in your washing machine to clean your laundry.

“Soap nuts,” also called “soap berries,” are really not a nut at all, but a berry related to lychee. They sort of remind me of dried out dates in appearance and texture. When I first heard about them, I loved the whole idea immediately. Soap that grows on trees?! Yeah! Some soaps may be plant-based, but this soap is literally a plant.

soap berry trees have been used for centuries by native peoples around the world as a natural cleanser. Most soap nuts you find for sale nowadays come from the Sapindus mukorossi tree native to the Himalayas and Northern India. But, varieties of this miraculous tree can be found all over southern Asia. They even have history in North America. Daniel Austin’s Florida Ethnobotany tells us that natives in the southern United States benefited from the fruits of the “Florida Soapberry.”


You place 4-5 “berries” in a small cloth drawstring bag and toss it into the washing machine before running the wash cycle. Let it work its magic, then remove the bag before transferring the clothes to the dryer. Allow the bag of soapnuts to dry when not in use. It’s that simple! One little bag of berries can be used for up to 10 loads of laundry.

They usually have a slightly fruity scent when wet and fresh out of the laundry. If this disappears, chances are the berries need to be retired. The soap berry husks will be brittle and papery when all the soft natural soap in the skin has been used up. You can also run a check by moistening them under running water, squeezing them, and noting whether tiny soap bubbles appear.

If it’s time to replace them, simply throw the old ones away or (even better) compost them. Place fresh berries in the drawstring bag and you’re good to go again.


The outer berry shell contains a natural surfactant called saponin, which breaks the surface tension of the water enabling it to penetrate the fibers of your clothing in the wash. This works to lift the dirt and stains out the fabric so they may be rinsed away!

I have been using them for almost a year now and I’m well satisfied with their cleaning power. At the very least, I have not noticed a difference between conventional detergent and using soap nuts to clean my laundry. My laundry comes out looking and smelling clean–although you do have to get used to your clothes being completely fragrance free!

I also know they are a popular option with moms who cloth diaper their children since soap berries are so gentle on baby skin. I can’t think of a much better endorsement of cleaning power than the fact they are used to clean soiled baby diapers.


The saponin in soapnuts acts as a natural fabric softener by loosening the fabric fibers so they can fluff up in the dryer and become soft. Compare other fabric softeners which usually work by leaving a wax or oil residue on your clothes and textiles. Because this waxy buildup acts as a barrier to moisture, it can affect the breathability of your clothing and the absorbency of your towels and dish clothes. It is also a problem for people washing cloth diapers because the waxy or oily coating can interfere with the liquid absorption that is so essential in diapers. Soap nuts bypass this problem altogether, work without leaving a residue on fabrics, and eradicate the need for additional fabric softeners.


Soap nuts are famously gentle on sensitive skin, making them a very popular alternative for babies or for people with skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, or allergies. The mild soap/surfactant is not as harsh as other detergents often used and there is less likelihood of having a bad reaction to one of the ingredients or fragrances included. Soapnuts are just one, simple, perfume-free ingredient that minimizes the chances of irritation.


Firstly, they are a renewable resource since they can be grown and harvested as a crop. The soap nuts I buy are organic—pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide free. Apparently, the saponin “soap” in the nuts is repellent to insects so they leave them alone. In addition, these hardy trees can grow well in uncultivated soil, further lessening the need for additional sprays and additives which can both add cost and risk damaging the environment (depending on the products used). This makes soap nuts a great sustainable alternative to other laundry soaps.

They are also fine for grey water and septic systems since they lack some of the problematic ingredients added to many conventional laundry products. Most detergents have been manufactured with artificial foaming agents to give the impression that they cleanse more deeply with a thick lather—which is pure illusion. Foaming action does not equal cleansing action. What foam can equal, however, is clogging of the soil, preventing proper drainage and causing septic or grey water systems to fail. In addition, some laundry powders contain fillers which similarly clog the soil. By contrast, soapnuts’ mild plant soap poses no complication for waste water disposal.

Soap nuts are a non-toxic alternative that avoids using harsh chemicals in your home. To be clear, conventional detergents and soap nuts do BOTH contain chemical surfactants, however, soap nuts contain a much more gentle variety than the harsher chemicals used in most laundry detergents. Use soapnuts and avoid dumping these harmful ingredients into the local ecosystem every time you do laundry. And when you do dispose of them, soap nuts are completely biodegradable since they are literally a hunk of plant matter. It doesn’t get much more green than that.


Using humble soap berries can be cost effective as well as eco-friendly. I buy organic Eco Nuts brand soap nuts, and the cost per load works out to 9¢-11¢ per load. Other leading detergent brands, ranging from about $10-$15 a bottle, work out to between 29¢-46¢ per load. And that’s not counting the money you save from not having to buy fabric softeners anymore! I’m sold.



“What Are Soap Nuts?” Eco Nuts Organic Soap Nuts. Accessed Feb 7 2017.

Austin, Daniel F. (2004). Florida Ethnobotany. CRC Press. pp. 601–603.



Echinacea Tea Parties for Sick Days

When Ivy (or anyone really) is feeling a little under the weather, my usual regimen is generally REST and FLUIDS–water, soup, and good herbal tea with echinacea! We make it fun and palatable with a tiny tea set and triangle toast. It makes momma feel better too. 😉

A note about electrolytes: drinking an abundance of fluid can also flush out the essential salts and minerals which keep your body in balance. Replenish them with electrolyte fortified beverages or fruits and veggies rich in various electrolytes, such as lemon juice, coconut water, leafy greens, bananas, etc.

Stay Well!


Nordqvist, Christian. “What Are Electrolytes? What Causes Electrolyte Imbalance?” 24 May 2016. Accessed 10 Feb 2017.

How to Prepare the “Perfect” Wedding Flower Girl 

Come forth, fairy gowns and flower crowns. A little girl has been asked to be a flower girl at a wedding…and you are in charge!

Yay. Both fairies and little girls are notoriously full of mischief and moods. There’s no question they’re cute, but getting a wee one to do the following is a feat of almost mythical proportions:

  1. Walk down a straight path to music
  2. Throw some petals on the floor
  3. While continuing to wear what they were dressed in

So here is some friendly advice borne out from experience. Ivy has been asked to be in two weddings before she was 3-years-old to the delighted mania of I, her mother. It was definitely a lot of fun! I even made the dress she wore (you can find the original sewing pattern here). No, everything did not go perfectly because weddings, like most events, never do. (You’ll notice that the word “perfect” in this post’s title is in ironic quotation marks.) But, she did very well and helped make the occasion a lovely one.



  1. Choose a Simple, Comfortable and Practical Look

Ideally, you want a dress and accessories you can toss on and a hairdo that can be done in a few minutes. This is a kid we’re talking about. It needs to be comfortable so your flower girl is happy. It needs to be simple enough that it still looks straight after she rolls around on the floor—and/or it is easy to readjust. Ivy’s dress was designed with this in mind, hence it was simple and stretchy. Cumbersome looks that take a lot of preparation are an impractical choice. Pick something that both holds up and is easy to quickly fix or redo.

  1. Don’t Forget Yourself

This isn’t just a self-affirming exercise. You are going to end up in a lot of pictures next to your coifed and charismatic child, so have some fun with your hair and clothes too. Since you are still on kid-wrangling duty, use the same advice as when choosing the flower girl’s dress and hairdo, and make sure it’s relatively foolproof and practical as well as elegant.

  1. Flower Girl Training

I had Ivy watch videos of other flower girls marching down the aisle in order to get the idea in advance. Do not wait until the dress rehearsal to teach the flower girl her duties. We practiced at home for a few minutes here and there over a few days and I tried to build it up as a fun activity where one gets to dress up in a “princess dress” and throw things on the ground.

  1. Dress Rehearsal

You should also have her wear the dress at home a few times and do a test run of hair and accessories. If there are issues it is better that they happen at home first. If she refuses to wear that flower crown or thinks the lace is scratchy on her dress, better to know now and alter plans accordingly.

  1. Get Your “Kit” Together

Keeping things in one place and as rummage free as possible on the big day is essential. I preferred to keep my own dress and things separate from the flower girl gear in order to avoid a jumble. So, I’d suggest tidily packing in a single bag or case (Along with the typical diapers, extra clothes, sweaters, etc.):

  • The complete flower girl uniform (including stockings, shoes, etc)
  • A small pouch of hair accessories (pins, clips, brushes and combs)
  • Toys and amusements (like books, dolls, puppets)
  • Snacks and hydration
  • Baby wipes
  • Needle and thread (for repairs)
  • Stain remover (oh the horror)
  1. Don’t Be Too Early

Time your arrival so that you are safely on time, BUT not so safe that you are waiting around forever. You don’t want to get into a “hurry up and wait” situation with a progressively cranky toddler dressed to the nines. Again, bring toys and books.

  1. Dress Close to the Ceremony

Dress yourself first, and I’d suggest waiting until it is really getting close to the ceremony before you put your girl’s outfit on. We want to minimize the chances that she’s going to get fed up before the wedding even happens OR some mishap befalls her dress.

  1. Consider Escorting

It just wasn’t feasible for Ivy to walk down the aisle by herself and still stay on track, so I actually walked with her during her flower girl duties. This took a lot of stress out of the process because I knew that an adult would be there to make sure she kept moving and encourage her to scatter her flowers. If you have a shy, clingy, or sporadic kid, this is a very good option that will make everyone’s life easier.

  1. Pre-Aisle Emergency Items

These are some items I wish I had stashed next to us just before she walked down the aisle. It is by no means an exhaustive list. Keep them handy and toss them in a bush or under a chair afterwards if you have to.

  • Hairbrush and comb (for obvious reasons)
  • Hairpins or alligator clips (for errant hairs)
  • Baby wipes or washcloth (for any dirt or stickiness)
  • Water (especially if it’s outdoors and warm)
  • A mirror (to check how I looked too)
  1. Roll With Trouble

Accept that it won’t be a breeze and don’t get upset about it. Trust me, frustration and anger will ruin the moment much more than any other mishap or funky thing your child chooses to do. Keep it light. If the flower girl refuses to budge and has to be carried at the end of the line like a sack of potatoes, OR if she has a meltdown right before walking down the aisle (not that I’d know about that…), it will just add spice to the occasion! Ah spice. Spice is good, right?


Good luck!




Calming Chamomile

chamomile – from Greek roots, meaning “earth apple”

(Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional; this article is purely for informational purposes.)

So familiar is this remedy, most of us know that a hot cup of chamomile tea is soothing and medicinal even if we don’t drink tea. The most common types, Roman and German chamomile, have both been used for thousands of years throughout Europe, western Asia and northern Africa.

German chamomile has been used as a digestive aid as far back as first century CE. The Romans flavored their drinks with it and burned it as incense. The Greeks used it to treat fevers and female disorders. It was sacred to the Egyptians as a powerful medicinal herb and also used cosmetically on the skin. To many cultures, chamomile possessed the mystical power of soothing an unruly nature and warding off evil spirits; it was a common ingredient in potions to attract love and prosperity, particular in the Middle Ages.

To this day people still employ the fragrant apple-scented, daisy-like plant to treat a plethora of ailments, including indigestion, fever, pain, and anxiety.


  • Stomachic (soothes stomach)
  • Mild sedative and analgesic
  • Muscle relaxant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Calming and anti-stress
  • Anti-bacterial & anti-septic

ivydecorsmallACHES & PAINS

  • Digestion issues, such as:
    • Nausea & Vomiting
    • Gas
    • Upset stomach
    • Abdominal swelling
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
    • Colic
  • PMS symptoms and menstrual cramping
  • Headaches
  • Sprains
  • Toothaches
  • Gum inflammation

Chamomile, though not conclusively established in human studies, is often held for its anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties making it useful for alleviating stomach intestinal cramping and irritation (Srivastava). This also makes is great for PMS symptoms. For toothaches, it can soothe swelled gums and its purported anti-septic qualities may help combat infection in the mouth as well. Its ability to release tension aids in soothing bodily discomfort in general and promotes healing.


  • Sore throats
  • Common cold
  • Fever
  • Cardiovascular disease

Again, chamomile’s anti-microbial and anti-septic properties have not been conclusively established, nor is it known whether it acts on infections by direct assault or simply boosting the human immune system (Srivastava). Nevertheless, it is used to treat a variety of illnesses. It has even been linked with benefits for cardiovascular health (Gould).


  • Eczema
  • Minor burns
  • Rashes
  • Acne
  • Abscesses
  • Wounds

Chamomile is a common ingredient in skin soothing oinments and salves and it is also used as an anti-septic and to promote healing in wounds and skin irritations of various kinds. Its mildness makes it a particularly popular component of baby creams.

ivydecorsmallMIND THERAPY

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia and Sleeplessness
  • Depression
  • Restlessness

Chamomile is almost universally used for its calming effects which can soothe a number of aliments related to anxiety including sleeplessness, stomach issues, and stress related pain. And, unlike heavier sleeping drugs, it does not unduly impair concentration required for focused activities. Chamomile’s quieting ability creates a feeling of well-being and a peaceful mood.


  • Do not take if pregnant!
    • Because chamomile can cause mild uterine contractions, pregnant women should never take it for fear of miscarriage.
  • Can interact with other medications
    • It can interact with other supplements and medications, and it is therefore always advisable to take it under the supervision of a healthcare professional to be sure.
    • Sedatives: It has a tendency to make sedatives stronger, such as barbituates, insomnia medication, anti-seizure medication, etc.
    • Blood thinning medications: it may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with blood thinners,
    • High blood pressure medication: it may lower blood pressure too far when taken with meds for high blood pressure.
    • Diabetic medications: it may lower blood sugar too low when taken in combination with other medications designed to lower blood sugar as well.
  • May worsen asthma
    • People with an asthmatic condition should avoid it.
  • Allergies
    • People allergic to asters, daisies, chrysanthemums and ragweed are often also allergic to chamomile.
  • Drowsiness
    • Be aware of its sleep inducing effects if you will be driving and/or operating machinery.
  • Increased risk of bleeding during surgery
    • It has been advised to stop taking doses of chamomile about 2 weeks before dental or other surgery.

ivydecorsmallHOW YOU CAN USE IT

  • Tea
    • For young children under five, the advice for internal consumption is not more than half a cup of chamomile tea per day. Your doctor may recommend alternative amounts.
    • Adults are generally recommended about 3-4 cups of tea per day.
  • Capsule form
    • Adults can try roughly 300-400mg taken 3 times a day or as directed on the bottle.
  • Tincture
    • Adults may try 30-60 drops of tincture (1 part to 5) in hot water 3 times a day.
  • Gargle or mouthwash
    • Try 10-15 drops of German chamomile liquid extract to 100 mL of warm water.
  • Aromatherapy
    • You can try adding a few drops of essential oil to hot water for a soothing steam.
  • Bath
    • Add ¼ dried flowers or 5-10 drops of essential oil to the bathwater.
  • Poultice
    • This is made from ground herbs and warm water and applied to affected area for soothing relief.
  • Infused Oil
    • Place dried chamomile flowers in a glass jar and fill jar with natural oil (such as almond, olive, or grapeseed) until the dried blossoms are all covered. Seal with a lid and set the jar in the sun for about a month. At the end of the month, strain the dried flowers from the oil.
    • NOTE: you can also make infused oils much more quickly using a double-boiler method.
  • Creams and cosmetic products
    • There are a myriad of chamomile containing cosmetic products available, as I’m sure you’ve seen. There are also a great number of recipes for homemade lotions and the like which can utilize chamomile (or other herbs and essential oils of your choice). Adding a few drops of essential oil or infused oil to a base cream is one way you can make custom chamomile lotion.


As you can see, there are many creative ways to incorporate chamomile into your cosmetic, dietary and therapeutic activities. If nothing else, it is a very pleasantly subtle addition to your regimen.



“Chamomile.” MedicinalHerbInfo .org. Accessed July 18, 2016.

“Herbs: Chamomile.” Accessed August 12, 2016.

“German chamomile.” Medical Reference Guide: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide. University of Maryland Medical Center. Accessed August 12, 2016.

Gould L, Reddy CV, Gomprecht RF. “Cardiac effects of chamomile tea.” Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 1973 Nov-Dec; 13(11):475-9.

Srivastava, Janmejai K, Eswar Shankar, & Sanjay Gupta. “Chamomile: An Herbal Medicine With a Bright Future.” Molecular Medicine Report. 2010 Nov 1; 3(6): 895–901.





All the Toys I Brought On Our Cross-Country Trip Fit Into One Little Baby Backpack

Ivy and I just got back home from a month long trip across the country to visit her Nana (Grandma on daddy’s side) in Virginia. I had never been to the East Coast, and it really was breathtaking to be in a completely different part of the country. Nana treated us like princesses, and I miss the lush Virginian forests and dramatic Blue Ridge Mountains already.

This experience came at the price of thousands of miles by plane and hundreds of miles by car, as we toured the countryside. Ivy is an excellent little traveler, but she gets bored like any toddler sitting in one spot for hours.


I brought along a single little baby backpack full of small toys, all very light and compact. I learned from our last big trip that you don’t need to take lots of bulky, heavy toys to keep your child amused. (They usually end up tossing them aside anyway! So why struggle?!!) A handful of small figurines, cars, little activities, and miniature books will keep them just as occupied. I kept everything organized with little plastic baggies. It was easy as pie.



  • A bag of finger puppets
  • 4 toy cars
  • a few colorfully shaped rubber erasers
  • An assortment of plastic animals that fit into a sandwich bag
  • One larger plastic horse and red rubber alligator
  • A toy police bike
  • 3 mini books
  • A pack of easy-peel stickers (not pictured)
  • One stuffed horse (pictured below)

Were these the only toys I packed? Well, for the most part, yes. To be on the safe side I did keep a few other tricks up my sleeve, such as some larger books tucked into her diaper bag, some paper and crayons, and one or two smaller gadgets to keep her amused. (Nana’s pocket tape measure is a good example of one of these extra “toys”–thanks Nana!)

Honestly, the biggest toy you can pack is yourself really. This humble collection of playthings was more than enough to keep Ivy smiling, especially with mom there to play them with her. If I were to simply toss her these toys, she was done with them in about ten seconds…but if I were to play with her (either with or without the toys), she was engaged for a great deal longer.

ivydecorsmallerAll in all, traveling with a baby was actually fun. When the toys ran out, I pointed the sights out to her as I saw them and we enjoyed seeing and doing new things together. The neat thing about traveling with young children is that it makes you see things from their point of view a little bit more because, in unfamiliar territory, it’s a new world to you too.

Happy Trails!


New Sewing Pattern: Felt Poppy Embellishment

I am pleased to say that we have a new & fun little sewing pattern available in our shop.

It only takes about 20 minutes to make this poppy flower out of felt, in any color you wish. It makes a handsome faux flower bouquet or instantly adds a dash of floral whimsy when sewn onto a hat or outfit in a colorful cluster. Easy, fast, and very sharp looking!

Find it in our Growing Ivy Shop on Etsy.




A Guide to Carpe Diem (or How to Seize the Day)

This week we are visiting my grandpa, and he was able to meet and play with his great granddaughter. As I watch a sweet family memory form before my eyes, it can be a complicated emotion after my husband died earlier this year. My approach to life and living “in the moment” has radically transformed.

IMG_7742 - Version 2Carpe diem. Seize the day. I am sure you have heard this sentiment whispered, shouted, and pasted on the walls of waiting rooms and Facebook. I repeat it again here because truth never becomes cliche. Indeed, don’t waste time. It is not something you get back; none of us can afford to say “in the meantime.”

Last year, my husband was alive, and this year he is gone. This year, my husband was not here when I introduced our baby girl to my own grandfather. Ivy’s daddy no longer exists in that form, and now we must all live differently without him. There is someone missing from this memory, and I feel that with every look. The pain is present, always. But I am still making this memory today with my daughter in the backyard that my mother grew up in–and, what’s more, it is a happy memory.

So, when I say “seize the day” I do not mean it in a crush-your-enemies, win-the-race, captain-of-industry, spend-all-your-money-in-one-place kind of way. I mean it in small and quiet ways as much as I mean the loud, burn-down-the-sky ways. I mean to decide what your life is and do it wholeheartedly, putting off nothing. Study what you want to learn. Travel. Drink a cup of tea. Play piano. Build a home. Found a company. Change a law. Plant a garden. Cook dinner for your family. Above all, search your heart. Find your soul.

And this may be a bubble popped, but sometimes all this will be done in happiness and sometimes it will be in sadness or turmoil. That’s a given. If you spend so much time hunting for the happy times to be happy and productive in, you will be waiting until there is no time left. It is imperative to see beyond the mundane to find steadiness in both good and bad times, centering in an understanding of spiritual values to clarify what is worth your time. “The person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress and is steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation.” (Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Ch. 2: 5) There is peace in that steadiness, and there is ultimate freedom too.

IMG_7732I see two souls in the above picture. One is in a very old body and one is in a very young body. One is ostensibly at the beginning, while the other is nearing the end of a lifetime. One may seem to have plenty of time and the other may appear to have less time. However, that concept is a lie we tell ourselves. Such measurements are meaningless. I do not think human life is so simple as that. The urgency of time is the same for the young as for the old. We don’t have a clue what time will bring, so do not make the mistake of assumptions.

One thing I know with certainty–your entire world can change in an instant. One moment can transform everything. You can lose everything or gain everything in a second. It would be wise to invest each moment as best we can, and once spent, let it peacefully settle into its proper place in our memory so we can best focus on the next one. Every moment is infused with the potential to remove the veil thrown over our consciousness as we stumble forward–and backward. And every one of us is walking through eternity, catching each other at different points. Today, it is a great grandfather tossing a ball back and forth with his great grand baby.

In the end, we are all on either one side or the other of this game of catch. Don’t drop the ball.