DIY Winter Shea Butter Body Balm Recipe – Scented or Unscented

November 30, 2014

My parents moved to California from the southeast a couple of years ago. Coming to an arid environment from the humidity of the southeast was challenging for my mom’s skin and especially her face, since she spends so much time outside gardening. She struggled with itchy, red, dry skin her first winter here. I formulated this body balm, which she immediately began using, and her skin was completely healed! Now she has all of the ingredients and makes it on her own… I’m so happy to have discovered something that works so well!

This is a thick, silky body balm – ideal for winter. The shea butter adds a superior layer of protection to the skin that you just can’t get from anything else (besides maybe cocoa butter). The coconut oil helps with absorption, and the olive and grapeseed oils add nutrients and more emollients. The beeswax is a skin protector and emulsifier, helping to combine all of the ingredients together. We love this body balm in our family and will be using it all winter long. I even use it on my face when it’s really dry and cold out.

Recipe (with links to ingredients):


  1. Add the shea butter and beeswax to a double boiler on low heat.
  2. Stir until melted. Do NOT allow the oils to boil, so keep the heat low. I like to use a chopstick for stirring.

    Here are the shea butter and beeswax all melted in the double boiler (which is just a glass measuring cup in a pan of water)
  3. Add the coconut, olive, and grapeseed oils.
  4. Stir until melted, then remove from heat.

    All melted down to a beautiful golden yellow.
  5. Add the optional essential oils and/or the optional grapefruit seed extract. Stir until combined.
  6. Pour into a container of your choice, while still in liquid form.
  7. Leave unopened for about an hour, until it solidifies. Then cap it and use it all winter long!


  • If you’re wondering where to buy ingredients, they can all be purchased online. I’ve provided links in the ingredients list for all of the products that I use.
  • Be sure to use this body balm within 4-6 months.
  • You don’t want to boil your oils because heat causes rancidity in oils. The less heat they experience, the longer your oils will last.


All-Purpose Spray Cleaner With Natural Ingredients | Homemade Cleaner

June 25, 2014


My daughter was coming home with headaches after school all year in 1st grade. It didn’t hit me until the last two weeks of school to ask her if anything was being sprayed in her classroom. She confirmed that her teacher was having the students spray and wipe down their desks before leaving school in the afternoons! I knew that this had to be the culprit for the headaches, because she is not accustomed to harsh conventional chemical sprays. We only use water and vinegar in our house to spray down surfaces. After talking to the teacher and confirming that she was using a harsh chemical spray on the desks, we agreed that I would make a more natural spray for the kids to use in class that also smells good (water and vinegar mix doesn’t smell so great for people who are not used to it). I made the spray below, and many of the kids loved the smell. One child went as far as to exclaim to my daughter: “Your mom is awesome! I love how this smells! This is awesome!” That put a smile on my face when I heard about that! And the most important part… my daughter’s post-school headaches were no longer.


  • 16 oz water
  • 2 oz white vinegar
  • 10 drops grapefruit seed extract (not the same as grapefruit essential oil)
  • 15-25 drops grapefruit essential oil
  • 10-15 drops lemon essential oil

Mix them all together in a spray bottle. Shake well before each use. This all-purpose and all-natural citrus scented spray cleaner is perfect for counters, floors, sinks, bathtubs, toilets, and SCHOOL DESKS!


Bulbine Frutescens – African Burn Jelly Plant | Xeriscape Gardening

May 30, 2014

Yesterday I was frying homemade taquitos in very hot oil and, genius that I am, thought I should remove one of the taquitos with my fingers. I missed and ended up dipping two of my fingers straight into the hot oil, about halfway up my fingernails! OUCH. I yelled for my 3 year old daughter to get me some of the “burn jelly plant” from the yard. She knows what it is because she has seen me use it numerous times on other burns. She brought a piece straight back to me, I squished it with my fingers and slathered the juice all over my burning fingertips. In less than 5 minutes, the burning was gone and I actually could not remember which fingers I had dipped in the oil. I have used aloe vera in the past for burns, but this plant is much better at treating them.


This plant rocks, just for its burn healing properties. But wait, there’s more! It also is great for insect bites/stings, sunburn care, and moisturizing. I like to think of it as a more convenient form of aloe vera. You can take a small leaf of burn jelly plant, rather than hacking off a huge aloe leaf.


It is a succulent plant, native to Africa, and it will grow almost anywhere you put it. I like to plant this wherever other plants won’t grow, like in hard clay soil or south slopes that get too much sun. Don’t let its delicate looks fool you… This is one hardy plant! It’s beautiful spiky leaves give a burst of green in places where other small shrubs won’t make it. In the peak of summer, when it is extremely hot here in east county, the plant will shrivel and turn a very dark green color. It is hibernating and looks like it might be dying. As soon as it gets a few hours of rain, it bounces right back! This plant is perfect for xeriscape and rock gardens!

Here is one of many Bulbines growing on my property, on a sunny south slope

In the winter and spring, an added bonus are the yellow spike flowers that burst up from the plant and sway in the wind. If you dead-head the plant, you’ll get more flowers.


And one last thing. These plants are EASY to propagate, due to their clumping habit. Just remove a clump and replant where you want. If you can get a few roots with the clump, your propagation success is almost guaranteed. Happy xeriscaping!

Homemade Soft Scrub for Healthy Home Cleaning

July 24, 2013

Healthy Home Cleaning - Homemade Soft Scrub Recipe for Kitchens and Baths

When it comes to home cleaning, my cupboard looks very different today than it did 10 years ago.  Back then I had a different cleaner for virtually every surface of my home.  Advertisers had me thinking it was necessary to have one toxic bottle of chemicals for my kitchen counters, another for my bathtub, and yet another for my toilet.  My cleaning supplies today consist mainly of baking soda, Borax, vinegar, a little lemon, and some powerful essential oils for their antibacterial qualities.  Today I’d like to share with you my favorite formula for deep cleaning most surfaces in my home.

This soft scrub is comparable to Ajax or Comet, but without the harsh chemicals and scratching.  It takes me literally 1 minute to make! I like to scent it with a combination of lavender and grapefruit essential oils.  Both of these essential oils also carry some antibacterial qualities.  I use this on kitchen and bath sinks, bath tubs, showers, inside the toilet bowl, on my flat glass stove top, and anywhere else that needs a good cleaning.  I don’t recommend it for wood furniture.


  • 4 cup (or larger) plastic container for storage of your formula
  • 1.5 cup baking soda
  • 1.5 cup Borax (available at Target in the laundry detergent section)
  • 20 drops grapefruit essential oil
  • 12 drops lavender essential oil

Homemade Soft Scrub Recipe for Healthy Home Cleaning

  1. Add your baking soda and borax to your container, cap it, and shake well.
  2. Add 10 drops of the grapefruit essential oil and 6 drops of the lavender essential oil, cap the container, and shake well.
  3. Add the remaining essential oils, cap the container, and shake well.
  4. Dust the formula onto your surface and rub it in with a wet sponge.
  5. Wait 10 minutes and scrub scrub scrub.  A little elbow grease goes a long way!

Homemade All-Natural Bug Repellent Recipe | DIY Bug Repellent

July 21, 2013


Recently, we went camping in the Idyllwild area, a beautiful alpine spot in Southern California.  The pine trees were quite majestic, the air was fresh and woody, and the campground was a perfect place to relax.  A funny habit that my kids – ages 2 and 6 –  have when we’re camping (or any other time we’re in nature, for that matter) is that they like to strip down to their underwear and run around wild and free.  I know that they enjoy this immensely, and I also know that on this trip the mosquitos enjoyed their nakedness immensely as well.  My older child was bitten at least 30 times all over her body before I realized what was going on!  And to my dismay, I had forgotten my homemade all-natural bug repellent, which actually works just as well as the stuff in the stores.  So off my husband went to the nearest grocery store to buy the dreaded OFF spray, which I used for the whole trip with reserved gratitude.  I was grateful that my kids weren’t getting bit, but at the same time I was bummed to be spraying them with poison.

I’m working on creating a camping supplies list, so that this mistake never happens again.  In the meantime, here’s my all-natural bug repellent recipe for all you lovers of the DIY.  It really works at bite prevention, smells wonderful, nourishes your skin, and best of all… you’re not poisoning yourself when you use it.  I must warn you that it works well here in Southern California, where the bugs are not overly voracious.  If you’re somewhere with a serious bug population, be sure to apply liberally and often, and be sure to cover your body with long sleeves, collars, hats, and long pants tucked into your boots.


Homemade All-Natural Bug Repellent Recipe

Combine all ingredients in a dark colored bottle of your choice.  I have never used it in a sprayer, but that could work very well.  Shake well before applying.  Apply liberally and often.

All of the ingredients can be purchased via Amazon from the links above.

Homemade Sunscreen Recipe | DIY Mineral Sunscreen

May 14, 2013

My homemade SPF 15 lavender vanilla mineral sunscreen!

Recently I was in a rush to get some sunscreen, so I stopped by my local Sprouts Market and bought my preferred store-bought brand, Badger, and paid $14 for a tiny 2.9 oz tube!  Granted, I love Badger and all of their products… and I love their business philosophy.  But I can make a very similar sunscreen at home for less than a couple dollars’ worth of high-quality materials.  I know there are much cheaper, more conventional brands of sunscreen out there (Coppertone, Banana Boat, etc), but they are toxic and should really only be used in an emergency.  The toxicity of conventional sunscreens is a whole other subject that I will reserve for another blog post.

The summer is upon us… let’s make some homemade sunscreen, shall we?

IMPORTANT: When using micronized titanium dioxide, you must wear a face mask. The dust particles are very small in size and can be hazardous to your health if inhaled. When mixing the titanium dioxide into the oils, cover your mixing container with a wet towel as much as possible to prevent flyaway particles.

The following recipe is for approximately SPF 15. If you want a higher SPF, you can add more of the oxide powders.

Recipe (with links for buying ingredients):

  1. Melt the beeswax in a double boiler
  2. Add any other solid oil you have and melt (in my case, coconut oil) in the double boiler with the beeswax
  3. Take the mixture off the heat and add the rest of your liquid oils. Reheat if necessary to bring it all to a liquid texture.
    Melted beeswax/coconut oil mixture on left, liquid oils on right
  4. Mix with a stick blender for at least two minutes until all oils and wax are well incorporated with each other
  5. Add titanium dioxide and zinc oxide powders. Be sure to wear a face mask when mixing the micronized titanium dioxide, as the fine particles can be hazardous to your health if inhaled.

  6. Add the lavender essential oil and vanilla extract to suit your scent preferences (I use about 30 drops lavender and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla)
  7. Pour into a beautiful container so no one knows it’s homemade (wink wink)
  8. Allow to cool to room temperature before using
  9. Apply often when in sun


  • For higher SPF, use a larger amount of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.  You could make two batches: one that is SPF 15 for the body and one that is SPF 30 for the face (for SPF 30, you would need around 0.6 oz of each of the oxide powders).
  • Your carrier oils can be at any ratio you like.  You can also use a single carrier oil (almond is easy to find and works well) with no problem at all.  Other suitable carrier oils include soybean, sunflower, jojoba, and light sesame.
  • Use an herb-infused carrier oil for extra nourishment on the skin

Healthy Homemade Crock Pot Refried Beans – No Lard

March 13, 2013

I really had no idea that homemade refried beans were so easy to make until I tried this recipe at 100 Days of Real Food.  I tweaked that recipe enough that it became somewhat different from their recipe, so I thought creating my own recipe was in good order.  Most of the ingredients are the same, but  I changed the amounts to suit my preference for stronger garlic, onion, and salt flavors.  I always figured refried beans only came from a can and that making them at home would be a long laborious process.  Boy, was I wrong!  I’ll never buy another can of refried beans again.  This takes literally 5-10 minutes to prepare and is absolutely more delicious than anything from a can.  Be sure to do this before bed or in the morning before work, because they need 6-8 hours to cook fully.

Put in your crock pot the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups dry pinto beans
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 chopped jalapeno peppers, ribbed and seeded (or leave them in if you like it very spicy)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 6 cups water

Dry ingredients in the crock pot

Cook in your crock pot or slow cooker on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours.  After they are fully cooked, use a ladle to remove about 3/4 of the remaining water.  Mash the mixture with a potato masher and viola! you have healthy, delicious refried beans that are not from a can!  Salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.  They will be a bit runny until they cool some, so don’t worry.

I love to top them with shredded Gruyere cheese and a large spoonful of plain yogurt.   Mmmmmm…..  And a nice way to have them on-hand is to bag them in 2-cup serving sizes in the freezer and defrost when you’re ready to use them.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I imagine they could be defrosted in the crock pot!


Area Spotlight: Mount Laguna

February 18, 2013

Mount Laguna is located in the heart of the Cleveland National Forest about 45 miles east of San Diego, just off the Sunrise Highway (S1).  To San Diego locals who have fallen in love with Mt. Laguna (like us here at Peak PMR), it is a mountain paradise that is just a hop, skip and a jump from east county.

Gregory pine trees in Mt. Laguna after light snowfall

There are endless opportunities for outdoor activities in all of the seasons.  Just a few of the activities we have enjoyed at Mt. Laguna include:

  • Hiking a trail down to a series of hidden waterfalls and swimmable pools with sliding rocks, a perfect cool escape on hot summer days

    Enjoying the waterfall on a hot summer day 
  • Camping in the Burnt Rancheria campground with its majestic oaks and tall pines (and freezing cold nights!)
  • Sledding in the winter months, sometimes with snow depths of 1 foot or more
  • Yoga and meditation in the woods
  • Hiking small parts of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)
  • Looking out to the Anza-Borrego Desert while hiking at an altitude of 6000′ among alpine trees, a striking contrast in topography

Some of the other activities that are available in the Mt. Laguna area include:

  • Cozy, romantic cabin lodging
  • Snowshoeing in the winter
  • Cross country skiing in the Laguna Meadows in the winter
  • Horseback riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Star gazing
  • Hunting

Considered a gem by San Diego locals who know about it (surprisingly, there aren’t many), Mt. Laguna provides everything we rushed city-folk need: peace, tranquility, fresh air, and beauty.  For us here at Peak Property Management & Realty, its convenience to our La Mesa office allows us to take quick mountain escapes on a frequent basis after the summer workday is finished.  Its proximity  to the east county areas of La Mesa, Mt. Helix, El Cajon, Lakeside and Santee make it an ideal short vacation spot for east county residents.  To get to Mt. Laguna, take the 8 freeway eastbound until Sunrise Hwy and make a left.  You enter the Mt. Laguna recreation area in approximately 2-3 miles and get to the little quaint mountain town of Mt. Laguna in about 6 miles. For more information on Mt. Laguna happenings, check out the Laguna Mountain Lodge Facebook page.

Homemade Hand Sanitizer Recipe

November 14, 2012

It’s that time of year…  Everyone is breaking out the hand sanitizer to keep the viruses and bacteria away.  In my daughter’s Kindergarten class, her teachers apply hand sanitizer on the kids’ hands four times a day.  Four times a day!  I almost fell out of my chair when my daughter told me this.  Conventional hand sanitizers contain a plethora of toxins.  Things like fragrance and toluene should not be applied to anyone’s skin, much less a child’s skin.  And four times a day…. well, I just had to do something.  After speaking with my daughter’s teacher and coming to an agreement about the excessive use of hand sanitizer, I pledged to provide the whole class with my homemade hand sanitizer for the entire school year.  I am so relieved that these kids will not be doused with that stuff anymore!

Hand sanitizer for the whole class

My hand sanitizer recipe is made from all-natural ingredients that can be found at any health food store (or online at, and it takes about 3 minutes to make.  We do not use hand sanitizer that much in our household, because hand-washing has been proven to be more effective at combating germs than hand sanitizer.  But since we are not always near a sink and soap, I do carry my own hand sanitizer for those times when it’s needed.   The alcohol, witch hazel, grapefruit seed extract, and essential oils are excellent germ-killers.  The vegetable glycerine is used to help moisturize the skin.  And best of all: none of these ingredients are toxic to the body.  So yes, this stuff can be used four times a day without this mommy falling out of her chair.  This recipe is also quite cheap in the long run; buy the ingredients once, and you have enough to make hand sanitizer for years to come!

Quick and Easy DIY Hand Sanitizer Recipe (with links for where to purchase)

Add the following ingredients to a measuring cup:

Mix ingredients together with a spoon, and pour into a spritz bottle through a funnel.  Shake well before using.  Apply sparingly (1-2 sprays, and rub the hands together).

Enjoy the scent of lavender and grapefruit, without the toxic onslaught of chemicals!

Sore Throat Remedy

June 29, 2012

I found this recipe on and just had to share it.  So far, it has worked very well for two sore throats that I had, and there are testimonials from other people on the Earth Clinic website that say the same. You may have to do this twice to knock out a tough sore throat, but be sure to space it out (once in the morning and once at night). It burns going down, but don’t worry…  The heat dissipates and all you’re left with is a relieved sore throat after about 30 minutes!

1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon maple syrup (see note)
1 tablespoon unfiltered apple cider vinegar (with the “mother” intact, see note below)
2 tablespoons water

Mix well and sip until gone.  Please do NOT down this like a shot, as that could burn immensely.  Sipping is key!

Regarding the maple syrup: Be sure to get real maple syrup, not Aunt Jemimah.

Regarding the apple cider vinegar (ACV): Not all ACV is created equal.  Most of the standard grocery store brands are filtered and pasteurized, resulting in a transparent liquid.  Stay away from those, as their nutritional benefits have been completely stripped.  You can get unfiltered, unpasteurized ACV with the “mother” (a cloudy substance) still intact at Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Vitacost, and most other natural foods stores. You will know that you have the right ACV when you shake it and you see cloudy residue.  The resulting liquid (after shaking) is opaque.

This remedy works very well, and most likely due to the capsaicin content of the cayenne pepper.  Therefore, if you have mouth sores, throat sores, or stomach ulcers, this remedy is not recommended for you.  It could cause burning.  As always, check with your doctor before partaking in any home remedies. This remedy does NOT cure strep throat or any other bacterial or viral infection.  If you have strep throat, the only way to cure it is with antibiotics.  The remedy presented here is simply a way to relieve the pain of a store throat. It will not kill a bacterial infection.

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La Mesa, CA 91942

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