Luther Burbank Spineless Cactus

Our friends, Nick and Sasha, recently moved in two doors over from us. The house came with a Questionable Shed in the back, as well as a large cactus that was largely rotten (and rotting) from lack of sunlight and too much moisture. The cactus was quite large (much taller than either of us), and nearly spineless. It looked a lot like one of Luther Burbank’s spineless cactus, and with the Luther Burbank Experimental Farm just down the street, we felt fairly confident that is what it is.

The Experimental Farm is interesting to walk through — the boys and I have gone a few times now. The boys like to run along the paths, and I enjoy seeing the variety of variations that Burbank achieved.

One of Burbank’s goals was to increase the world’s food supply by manipulating the characteristics of plants. Burbank developed an improved spineless cactus which could provide forage for livestock in desert regions. During his career, Burbank introduced more than 800 new varieties of plants — including over 200 varieties of fruits, many vegetables, nuts and grains, and hundreds of ornamental flowers.

As we removed the rotten portions of cactus, we took care to try and salvage some of the pads to transplant. There were several, so I was gifted one as a thanks for my assistance with removing the rotten parts.


I followed the meticulous transplant instructions:

Plant the pads in an upright position, burying about one-third of the lower end of each pad in sandy, well-drained soil.  Firm the soil to hold the pads in place, using short sticks to prop them up, if necessary.  Place the pads in a warm, sunny position and protect them from very hot sunlight until they are established.  Do not water the pads until they start to develop new green growth, and then limit watering to infrequent deep soakings that allow the soil to dry thoroughly before more water is applied.  No fertilizer should be necessary.  Plants may be containerized for about a year or so, but should ultimately be given plenty of growing space outdoors in the ground.  Young plants may be damaged by severe frosts, although established specimens are quite cold hardy.

These are directions I can follow: stick in a pot of dirt, ignore. Remember to protect from frost. Eventually put in the ground.


I think I’m doing something right, after several months in the pot of dirt by the front entry, my cactus is showing signs of new growth. Next summer (assuming it doesn’t freeze to death this winter), I’m going to need to find a place for it in the ground.

outdoor entry way and shoe benches

The same friend that gifted us the daybed also gave us some RAST nightstands. They had stacked them on top of each other and were using them for shoe storage inside by their front door, so they were already a bit scuffed up when I got them. I’d been looking for an outdoor bench for some time now — I’d been scouring for the perfect plans to have Gavin modify to fit the space for some time now — and nothing had seemed quite right, and Gavin never seemed to have the time for this particular project.

Then the pre-loved RAST nightstands entered my life. They’d already been used for shoe storage, but the unfinished pine needed a bit of help before it could survive by our front door. Gavin said paint would protect them, so I took the boys to the local paint store — Sandy’s Paints in Sebastopol. Oliver wanted pink and Patrick wanted yellow, so they compromised and I got the color I wanted: fireball orange — to be fair, both pink and yellow went into the mix to make the orange.


A coat of primer and two coats of fireball orange later (and appropriate drying time) they were put out by the front door. I love the “new” benches, they’re perfect for sitting groceries, bins of stuff, or packages while I find my keys. I can put muddy boots outside without them being a trip hazard, and it offers a place for small children to sit and wait out of the driveway.



Eagle-eye viewers (and friends who follow me on Facebook) will have noticed the Serenity pillow on our daybed. Serenity is my answer to the vast array of Live, Laugh, Love, Peace, Joy, Dream, Hope and other “inspirational” pillows that have taken over mass-market home decor. I want to make a giant pile of them and have a bonfire.

Initially I was going to make some pillows that said “cupcakes” and “pizza” and then paint some bricks that said “logic” and “reason” (because those should never be cuddly and soft), but instead I decided to take the warm-fuzzy-inspirational pillow message in the logical direction: Serenity

the state or quality of being serene, calm, or tranquil; sereneness.
In a house filled with little boys, I could regularly use some calm, tranquil time.


There are also times I wouldn’t mind having a spaceship to escape with.


I think this pillow embodies the best of both, and I think that Serenity looks great in a pink-watermelon color.

daybed makeover & slipcover project

Long story short, we inherited a day bed frame and mattress. I really wish I’d taken before pictures, but I didn’t, so you”ll have to imagine what the a white-and-brass accented metal frame looked like before it was coated in layers of Rustoleum Hammered spray paint (in brown).


Our old sofa was peeling (inexpensive bonded “leather” will do that after a while), and after just over 48 hours on the curb with a “free” sign taped to it, I last saw it wheeling down the street balanced precariously on skateboards, with two gleeful looking boys steering it away from parked, and on-coming cars. To their credit, they’d opted not to ride it down our hill, I’m not sure I would’ve used that much restraint.


When the paint had sufficiently dried, we hauled it into the house and started the process of turning it into our new sofa (to see my inspiration ideas, you can check out my Daybed Styling board on Pintrest – yes, I started using Pintrest, my bookmarks were getting unmanagable). Almost all the pillows came out, and I realized that with two little boys I’d need to come up with ways to make things easily washable. Canvas drop cloths to the rescue.

I used canvas drop cloths for Oliver’s quilt, Patrick’s quilt, and some of the leftovers made the boy’s name pendents. Canvas drop cloths are durable fabric, and when it is washed and dried on super-high heat it gets a rather cozy texture. First up, an easy fitted sheet. I didn’t have elastic, so I used rope and made a draw-string.


The pillows did not stay on the daybed long so I decided to slipcover some of them as well – not all of them are washable. I made a few pinch-pleated pillows for some fun texture. All of the slipcovers are envelope-backed for easy removal (and so I didn’t have to deal with sewing zippers).


The new daybed is tall enough to easily store the bin of blocks below it, I may add a dust ruffle at some point, but for now, easy access to the toys stored below it trumps aesthetics.

release the kracken

P requested a “fish” theme for his birthday. In my internet search for inspiration (yes, I’ve started using Pintrest, my bookmarks were a total mess) I came across Almost Unschoolers’ Squidamon Rolls. I was initially considering making these for his party, but no one likes cold cinnamon rolls, so I decided to make them for his birthday breakfast instead.


I modified my favorite cinnamon sticky bun recipe from Simply Recipes — I used lemon instead of orange, and baked them as free-form octopi for 15 minutes at 375*F. I made a frosting/drizzles from lemon juice, powdered sugar and cream cheese. The end results were a huge success.

Note for next time: use chocolate chips for eyes, the raisins fell off.