Strawberry Basil Chicken Salad & the Best Method for Cooking Chicken Breasts

Every summer my Mom would make a big bowl of her chicken salad to keep in the fridge. It was the perfect lunch for busy little kids swimming out by the pool all day. She made this traditional summer dish with chicken breasts, celery, red grapes cut in half and rotini pasta. As we got older it became the perfect lunch to keep in the fridge for busy teenagers and summer schedules of sports, days at the beach and sleepovers. I pretty much grew up with the stuff!

As I got older I started parting ways with the white pasta but man did I love those chilled grapes!

Now I’m meal planning for my own family during a Southern California summer and it seems only right that I make chicken salad for our lunches! Every time this summer that I’ve set out to make the classic grape chicken salad, I always end up getting creative, using different fruits and veggies and veering away from the traditional recipe. Last time it was fresh cherries and corn this time it’s strawberry and basil! One of these days I’ll have to go back to my roots!

For this recipe I tried using a different method for cooking my chicken breast and it’s now my new favorite! Sometimes I’ll boil the chicken breasts, especially if I didn’t plan ahead and defrost them but that usually means missing out on flavor. Most of the time I’ll sauté them but I almost always wind up over cooking the chicken and it ends up dry and chewy. Gross.

This time I slow cooked the chicken at a low temperature and it ended up being the juiciest boneless, skinless chicken breast that I’ve ever had! It was so easy – you just flip it once and walk away!


  • Season your chicken breast and sprinkle both sides with a good dusting of flour while your sauté pan, coated with a little oil, heats up on medium-high.
  • When the pan is hot, throw down your chicken, let it sit for only one minute and then flip.
  • After another minute you immediately turn the heat down to low, throw a cover on your pan and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  • No peeking! After your 10-minute timer goes off you remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 10 more minutes.
  • NOW you can remove the lid – your chicken is perfectly done!

Sure, it takes longer but the good news is that this method frees you up to do all sorts of other kitchen prep like chopping veggies, unloading the dishwasher, setting the table, whatever you need to do. I thought for sure that I would under cook the chicken and I’d need to put it back on the burner for a couple more minutes but I was surprised to cut into this juicy, flavorful, “pink-less” chicken breast for my salad!


The strawberries are delicious this time of year in California so I chopped up a few of those, quartered some persian cucumbers and thinly chopped some fresh basil off of the new plant that Eric’s Mom surprised me with last week!

I also added a handful of chopped arugula to balance the sweetness of the strawberries and basil with a little fresh spice.

Next, I threw in the juice of half a lemon, sea salt, black pepper, a little celery seed (optional) and a little all-natural mayo.

Chicken salad is at it’s best when it’s cold so I like to let it sit in the freezer for a little bit while I clean up and toast my bread.

I love this flavorful and colorful spin-off of the traditional chicken salad recipe! It’s a convenient way to keep some healthy protein options on-hand for a quick lunch!



Baby Prep: DIY Diaper Clutch & Diaper Changing Pad

I keep going back and forth: to cloth diaper or not to cloth diaper? That is the question. With the cost of disposable diapers and the number of kids we want to have I always thought it would be a good investment to be a “cloth diapering family”. My husband, on the other hand, needed some convincing. The “saving money” aspect was attractive but the fact that our other kids would wear their older siblings diapers was not. I told him that you wash them and that they’re clean but his argument was that his brother washes his underwear too – that doesn’t mean they’re going to share!

We have a long road ahead of us before he warms up to the idea! For the first three months of newborn diapers we’ll use disposables just to help as we get into a new-baby routine. After that we’ll evaluate but I’m pretty sure between the money-saving factor and the convenience factor I’ll be able to show him how easy cloth diapering really can be. That’s my hope anyways.

Either way, whether our son sports Pampers or BumGenius, I wanted a cute and organized way to take my diapers, wipes and changing pad on the go.

This will be the last time I do my cutting, piecing and ironing on the floor. I don’t know why I thought this would be a convenient choice but my back clearly thought it to be a bad idea.

I used some black and white striped canvas fabric that I got from IKEA a couple of months ago and some bleached muslin. I cut a rectangular piece of each fabric that was about 12″ wide and 20″ long, pinned the two fabrics, right sides together, and used a plate to guide my rotary cutter around the two top corners to give me even rounded edges.


I sewed around the whole clutch except for a 3″ opening on the lower right side. This allowed me to turn my fabric inside out and press the seams properly. Then I used some yellow knit fabric from an old shirt I cut up to sew a pocket onto what would later be the front of the clutch. I wish I would’ve sewn a pocket on the white muslin first before I sewed it to my canvas that way the inside of the clutch could have a little pocket too.


After you’ve added all of the pockets that your little heart desires, you fold the long rectangle up about 8″ or more and pin in place. You can play around with how deep you want your clutch to be compared to how long you want your front flap. When it looks how you like make sure all of your sides are lined up and that the 3″ opening’s seam is ironed in place. Then sew up the right and left side of your clutch.


That’s it! You’re done! Cute little clutch to hold your diaper changing pad, about 4  diapers (cloth or disposable!), pack of travel wipes and a change of little people clothes. Now all I need to do is find a cute button for the front and add a little velcro on the front flap to make sure it stays closed.



I also made this travel diaper changing pad to take along with me. One side is a waterproof fabric and the other side is cotton. I used the fabric I got for 99 cents/yard at IKEA which seems to make it’s way in almost all of my sewing projects. I cut out the fabric to be about 15″ x 24″, faced the right sides together and pinned in place.



I sewed around all of the edges except for the bottom. I turned the fabric inside out, pressed the seams and then folded the fabric of the opening under so I could iron it flat. Then I sewed the opening shut and sewed random lines across the fabric to hold it together. Next time I should send my fabric pieces to Minnesota to have my mom make a quilted diaper changing pad with her fancy quilting machine!





There you have it! A quick and easy diaper changing pad to take with you on the go! My husband thinks that I should’ve put some batting on the inside to make it a little cushy for baby’s bum which is a good point but I love that this isn’t bulky and folds up really thin, taking up hardly any space.

One more project down…many more to go!



You are Shining: Hope in Weakness

I was talking with another mom the other day about how pregnancy has a way of exposing idols that you didn’t even know you had. Idols of the heart in regards to appearance, comfort, expectation, the list goes on and from my understanding it never ends as you enter into the refining realm of childrearing.

This process of refining, in marriage, in friendships, in community, in raising babies is all designed for our good: that our hearts would be stripped of any cruches until our hope is in only Jesus. Peace for my heart and hope for my soul can’t be found in anything apart from him. All of these changes, all of these struggles only make that truth more and more real to my needy heart.

And I am so in need.

This morning I read about how in the beginning Jesus, fully God, was there and all things were made through him. In him was LIFE and this life was LIGHT for us. John writes, “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” This text fills me with so much hope. Not only does Jesus breathe hope and light into the darkness and depravity of my soul, saving me from what I deserve but he brings life even into the “little” dark parts of my day-to-day growing.

Hope springs up from seeing that light shines in my life and my own darkness can’t overcome it.
I can’t snuff it out.
Not my selfishness, not my anxiety, not my pride, nothing is so dark that this light keeps from shining the message of LIFE.

Remembering this is such an encouragement when it feels like the growing-pains of refinement are happening in every area of my life right now. I can trust that God will address the darkness (no matter how big or small it seems) with light. He won’t leave me to sort through my sin and the hurt it brings on my own but he’ll lead me; teaching me, growing me and restoring me.

As I write this I’m reminded of how someone once told me, “God isn’t worried about you. He isn’t concerned that you’re not going to make it; that you’re not going to learn.” Isn’t that true? God, Sovereign God, isn’t wringing his hands up in heaven just hoping that someday the scales will fall off my eyes, just waiting to see how everything turns out. No, he sovereignly ordained each and every spot of darkness for our good and his glory.

This I know that God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.



Baby Prep: Newborn Hats & Mittens

Several years ago, when I moved to Minnesota, I found a keyboard and that took me on a journey of learning piano chords, songwriting and leading worship.
When I moved to California I found a sewing machine!

With the baby on the way and everything changing, I’m trying to be a good steward of the time that I have. I’m getting the opportunity to do things that I only dreamed of during my busy Starbucks life. I finally have the time & schedule availability to join a small group, to meet with other women in the church, to meal plan on a budget (first time I’ve ever had to do that!), to exercise at the start of my day, to support my husband by taking care of all the different odds & ends, work on video & photo projects and…to craft! 

I’ve had so many little ideas here and there throughout the years (and a growing “DIY” Pinterest board) but I didn’t have the time or energy to actually do it myself. Now it feels like I’m “living the dream” as I wait for our baby, work on different projects and adjust to this new life.

I’m not a fan of baby things. When my Mom was asking me about what kind of fabrics I wanted her to use for the baby quilt she’s making, my only rule was “no baby blue”. I’ve never really liked the baby prints or the powder blue (or pink!) color that’s used for blankets, outfits, fabrics…it’s everywhere! When we were registering just last week I was kind of wincing at every other thing my husband pointed out for that reason. Finally he said, “you know we’re having a baby right?”.

So I’m very aware of how ridiculous it might seem that I’m so picky but it’s really just a preference issue that I need to get over since this baby has a whole gang of family members that will be dressing him up and handing down clothes. BUT if you can save money by making your own designs that are more along the style that you prefer, then go for it!





These little hats and mittens were made out of old knit shirts that I had. I figured since I wouldn’t be wearing an XS for the next several months I might as well save the money on buying fabric and put it to good use! I made up my own pattern for both of these after spending lots of time researching different construction methods on Pinterest and combining all that I learned.

Some of the best tutorials I found were here and here. Just find what method works for you, what size you need and then make your own pattern from there. I drew all of my pieces out on wax paper and saved them with my fabrics for future hats. These are so easy (& inexpensive) to make and perfect for little shower gifts for all the little newborns on their way!


Gender Reveal



FINALLY we’ve “officially” announced (because Facebook is the only thing that makes things official anymore, right?) the baby’s gender!

My husband had big plans to have Ruby put together a “Gender Reveal” party! We were going to have the ultrasound tech write the sex on a piece of paper, hide it in an envelope, give it to Ruby for her eyes only & then she’d make a proper color cake. We’d have all of our family over and then Louie would video the party and our reactions for my family in Minnesota. Sounds so cute, right?

So we go into a 4D imaging place that was just right up the street at about 18 weeks. I still hadn’t found a doctor at this point because of how recently we moved and since I wasn’t feeling the baby kick (yet!) we decided to pay the $45 to see the little person.

I was SO nervous! I honestly had visions of us getting into the room and finding out that the baby didn’t have a heartbeat but my body hadn’t reacted yet so I didn’t know that I miscarried and then the tech, who normally has a really exciting job showing parents their unborn babies, would then have to break the news to me. I’d like to blame my dramatic hypothetical scenarios on the pregnancy hormones but I think it goes deeper than that! Oh, I also thought we’d get in there and see TWO babies!

Anyways, we have the ultrasound, everything looks great. I’m surprised to see only one baby but relieved that it’s actually alive & well! The tech goes along with our plan, hiding the DVD and revealing pictures in the envelope, all the while exchanging knowing glances with her co-workers.


I just couldn’t wait! I begged and begged to open the envelope. Eric ended up hiding the envelope from me since I couldn’t be trusted to wait until it got to Ruby. It didn’t take me long to find the envelope and do some more begging. Finally, at the end of the night, we sat up in our room and watched the DVD with our hands over our mouths, nervously waiting for the big…wait, it’s a WHAT?!

I don’t know if my eyes have ever gotten so big! I forgot to mention that while I was convinced of all of these crazy hypothetical situations, I was also convinced that we were having a GIRL! I was so convinced that it felt like we were looking at the wrong DVD. It’s not supposed to say “I’m a BOY!”, is it?

Eric was over the moon since he was holding out for a baby boy named Thor but mostly because I had been so arrogantly confident that it was a girl and was now put in my humbled place.

It took a few weeks for me to readjust my thinking to baby boy mode but now I’m fully aware with the color schemes of fabric filling up my burlap baskets & our constant conversations of indecision around names.

So no gender reveal party, thanks to my impulsiveness & lack of patience but thank God for the gift of a growing and healthy baby boy!



Meeting City Danika for the First Time

We’re going to skip the long paragraph where I talk about how bad I’ve been at consistently blogging in the midst of all the changes with our move, jobs, baby…and the list could go on.

Instead, I wanted to share these sweet moments that I had the privilege of capturing recently!

After our niece, City Danika, was born and her parents had a few quiet nights to themselves, my husband and I took all three of her siblings back home to meet her!

Their Dad brought each of them upstairs — one by one, oldest to youngest — to introduce them to the family’s newest addition. Rock, the oldest, prayed for City and then took his other two sisters by the hand, with their eyes closed and lead them to the edge of the bed where they’d find a new baby!



Key, the second oldest, was so funny when Rock brought her into the room. She nervously backed away, step by step, eyes locked on her little sister but afraid to get too close.
Then came Story, the one who used  to be the baby of the family! I was thinking her reaction might be more like Key’s but she walked in all excited and with the highest voice of compassion that you’ve ever heard, looked at her baby sister and said “Oh! She’s so cute Abba!” MELT. MY. HEART.






Seeing how these little ones love City makes me so excited for not just our own baby but for many more after him! And seeing how my husband just lights up around his brother’s kids was one of the “deal-makers” for me when we were dating. There’s something so attractive about guys with “baby fever”! Well…to me, anyways.

It’s easy to imagine how MUCH he’ll love our little guy when I see him with a baby in his arms!

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them”


City Danika Tibayan: April 1, 2013








City Danika Tibayan
April 1, 2013 at 12:54pm
7 lbs 13 oz — 21 in

I had the privilege of photographing the birth of my newest niece at the beginning of April! It was such an incredible experience to be a part of her first few moments in her parents arms.

Now we’re in the hospital waiting for City’s best friend, Jordyn, to make her own entrance into this world!


What an exciting time for our family! Praise God for all of these blessings and new additions!

Nancy + Bill: Wedding Day Morning

It was the morning of their Wedding Day and excitement filled the air as people were coming and going through what seemed like every door of the Bride’s house! The kitchen and the bedrooms were filled with the wedding party members getting their hair and makeup done now that every available table and mirror had been turned into a beauty station.

Nancy, this morning’s Bride, sat calmly downstairs as her makeup artist, Bic, added the finishing touches to her glowing skin. I have never seen a Bride so peaceful and collected as Nancy! One of many sisters, she was very familiar with the “getting ready” routine but this morning was unlike any morning she had ever experienced. On this day, March 30th, she would marry the love of her life, Bill!

PicMonkey Collage

PicMonkey Collage2


















I had the best time spending the day with Nancy, Bill and their families last weekend! I just couldn’t wait to share some of the images from the morning of their wedding! More of their special day is on it’s way!

Turnaround Road Trip: Santa Barbara









From LA to Palm Springs to Santa Barbara, I’m making my rounds in Southern California! Last week Ruby and I decided to take a last minute road trip up past Santa Barbara to pick up a bench for my orchard in her backyard. Yes, my orchard! When we were in the process of moving from Minneapolis to LA we didn’t have any of the details worked out. At the same time her sweet husband, Ben, was tearing apart their backyard to build this extensive orchard. I always said that if worse comes to worst we would always just move to the orchard and live off the land – thus, becoming my orchard.

Really, I think I got the great end of this deal! They spend their Saturdays toiling in the hot sun digging trenches for proper soil moisture and I have a fool-proof way of feeding my growing family in the event of a major economic collapse. Oh and did I mention the super cute bench? 😉

We left at 5 am, beat the traffic, drove up the coast, had brunch at the cutest little cafe and continued on through the mountains and canyons north of Santa Barbara. It was glorious day to explore outside of the city – I had no idea how bright the wildflowers were that covered whole mountainsides!

It really was such a blessing to spend the day together talking about our lives and spurring each other on to love our husbands better. Ruby grew up with my husband so in a lot of ways she knows him better than me so it was good to get her perspective on a lot things. It was also a perfect getaway for me to externally process some big decisions that needed to be made regarding work, baby and ministry.

Since that trip it feels like life hasn’t slowed down one bit so I’m thankful for the time we had to just rest and enjoy the view!

Venice Canals Engagement: Renee + VJ


Last week I had the privilege of second shooting the sweetest couple with Allure Studios. We spent the day exploring the Venice Canals and all of the beautiful architecture and landscape it holds. Renee and VJ are so adorable! From the first moment I met them, I loved how genuine they were. It felt like we were just hanging out with friends as we spent the day talking and laughing – a perfect Sunday afternoon.



This gorgeous couple ties the knot in September.






I love the way Renee’s nose would crinkle when she burst out laughing! Her whole face would just light up with her expression.



This shoot was not only just a great time working up an appetite for sharing our lives over Mexican food after our adventure but it was a great development opportunity. I learned lots of valuable lessons about composition (or lack thereof) like not cutting off a great pair of stilettos from the photo or cropping out the groom-to-be’s hard-earned bicep (above)! Oops!



Still, I was able to walk away from the experience with a whole list of things that I learned, things I enjoyed and things I’d do differently. I’m thankful that Art from Allure Studios, a family friend of ours, was so gracious to bring me along and give me feedback and direction on the fly.

Here’s to lessons learned and progress!