Engagement Shoot: H & J

IMG_1288What a dream couple! It was obvious from the moment they stood in front of the camera, just how much they adored each other.   aYou see, H & J’s love story is one of dedication and perseverance… proving that true love does overcome both distance and time.

IMG_1248H & J initially met in high school, dated despite going to different colleges, lasting through H’s move across country for medical school, before J finally landed in the same city… at last.


I’ve known H ever since our first year of medical school. And to think how we once braved exams, rotations, and even interviews together, to find ourselves now matched into the same specialty!

IMG_1258Unlike me though, H knew from the beginning what she wanted and pursued it wholeheartedly, and it has been an absolute pleasure to see how she is accomplishing her dreams. :)IMG_1320

While I briefly met J first time, four years ago, I heard of him often. So imagine my joy when I found out that they had decided to get married!


 They are giving themselves a little over two months for the wedding planning, which is going to be private and completely do-it-yourself.

It may sound daunting to some, but, if anything, this couple proves to me that you don’t need the fancy proposal, the expensive ring, the silly dress – all you need is that commitment to be together, to love and to hold.

IMG_1343Thank you for allowing me to capture this piece of your story.
cIMG_1424May the coming years be just as beautiful.

How to Score >250 on USMLE Step 2

I’ve written a previous advice post for how to survive third year of medical school, or the first clinical year, that has been well received. Please check it out here.

Please use this as a guide for your studying, and cater it to your own style!

I noticed that when I began to study for the USMLE Step 2, there was an absolute paucity of resources to be found online, especially when compared to Step 1. Everyone’s advice echoed with the same “just do what you did for Step 1, you’re guaranteed at least 10 points higher,” or worse, “it’s an easier exam, don’t worry about it and you’ll do fine.”

Then I realized: I was talking to the people who had done amazingly well on Step 1 and didn’t need to worry about their Step 2. You see, I was on the opposite end. I wasn’t aiming for a score similar to my step 1, I wanted a score at least 20 points higher. I wanted to be a competitive applicant, and while my step 1 may have opened the door, I needed my step 2 to lock it into place.

Thus, if you fall into a similar boat where you are trying to raise your step 2 score, within the allotted two weeks study time, then this post is for you.

I know, I hate numbers’ speak too! But I have to say this post would be especially helpful to those with sub 240 scores on their Step 1, especially in the 220-230+ range. If you are worried about your shelf scores – I also didn’t do too well on them, and may have had a star or two mixed in – so don’t let that stop you from aiming HIGH! For those of you who scored above 240 on Step 1, let me reassure you – you probably don’t need this post and will be fine. Your score reflects the fact that you know how to study, and if you apply those again – you will hit above 250. 

You do NOT need to take an extra vacation month to increase your score! 

My study plan focuses on first, relearning the necessary knowledge before the 2 weeks study period, and then using the 2 weeks to focus, memorize, and hammer in the details, rather than cramming both into 2 weeks.

I also focused primarily on studying medicine because it was important for me to perform one part (which is the majority of Step 2) extremely well, rather than all just mediocre.

Thus, if not already, purchase the Step 2 Q Bank (this will be your #1 resource) and start NOW with questions. I recommend tutor mode as well as beginning a notebook where you write down ALL incorrect question and answers.

Secondly, I recommend scheduling a lighter rotation (i.e. not surgery or ob-gyn if you can help it) during your last six week rotation. This is when you will hanker down on those Q bank questions as well as read your review books (listed below). Divide how many questions you have left by the days in your rotation (5-6 days/week), and that will determine how many questions  you have to complete every night.

QBank is your best friend. Complete it before the 2 weeks of “study-cation.”

My biggest mistake when studying for Step 1 was spreading myself too thin. I owned and read every review book, front to back, but in doing so, I missed the most important part: application. Thus, our goal for step 2 is to complete the q bank before the “actual” study time – that way during your two weeks: 1) you will re-do ALL your incorrect questions (it is imperative you do this… I had around 500 to go through, so you are not alone!), and 2) you will have a chance to repeat the Q bank on random.

Less is more: Read Step up to Medicine and USMLE Step 2: Secrets.

If I had to select one book to recommend, it would be Step up to Medicine. I had taken medicine as my first rotation in third year, and forgotten mostly everything by the end, and used this to refresh my knowledge. Attempt to read and understand 0.5-1 chapter(s) a night during your last block with goal of completion before your two weeks study period.

I also really liked Step 2: Secrets. It’s written in an easy to read question and answer format and can be alternated with Step up to Medicine reading.

Additional books: First aid for Psych is hands down, the best review book for psych. Very quick and easy read, probably in less than a day if you focus on key sections, and will help a lot with the q bank questions.

Books I didn’t like: Master the boards for Step 2 – I heard high recommendations for this book, and have to say I was disappointed because it was more basic than I had expected. I could see one using this as a way to ease back into studying. However, on the plus side – it is also very quick read! I was able to read a few sections a couple nights before my exam to brush up on my ob & surgery knowledge. I am also selling mine for $15 – contact me if you want it! (sold!)

Purchase and take the sample exam 1-2 weeks before your exam date (no closer).

Use this as motivation. I took mine perhaps 10 days before my exam, and scored more than 10 points lower than my desired score. So while your score may be discouraging, try to think: every week is worth a 10 point increase, and work towards it!

Take a break the day before your exam.

Honestly, you deserve it. Enjoy your last day off before your exam, and go rock it! You’re almost done!

Last but not least, schedule for Step 2 CS as early as you can get it. You will not regret it because it feels AMAZING to not have to study for anything at all during fourth year! The CS section will only require brief reading of First aid to Step 2 CS that can be done a day or two before. (The testing center will also provide lunch which was probably the only added bonus. If you are the AM section, you will also finish around 3-4pm which is another plus.)


1) Before the 2 weeks: Finish questions on Qbank and reading Step up to Medicine (and Secrets).

2) During the 2 weeks: Take a practice exam. Re-do all incorrect questions on Qbank. Re-read Step up to Medicine/Secrets. Brush up on the other specialties by at least re-reading Pestana for surgery, etc.

3) Enjoy 4th year! It will be tough initially with applications and interviews, but you can do it! Celebrate by planning an away rotation, or even a Euro-trip. ;)

Recipe: Garbanzo Bean Chocolate Cake (Gluten free!)

GF cake

Who says healthy can’t be delicious?

Welcome to this oil free, dairy free, gluten free chocolate piece of heaven. Another chance to redeem yourself after those failed healthy eating resolutions (don’t tell me I’m the only one!) I couldn’t believe it myself at first – as It satisfies nearly every health food craze out there. Was it going to taste like hummus, but baked? What would the texture be like? I had so many questions, that I had to give it a spin.

And boy, there is no going back after this! The cake is dense, the texture crumbly, and while noticeably different from regular cake, it imparts a distinct lightness without any chickpea flavor. Instead, it is chock full of chocolately goodness (I threw in some pecans for some extra crunch), enough to fulfill any chocolate+nut craving.


There is no need to buy any sort of overpriced nut flours or sugar replacements for this recipe (cough paleo); instead, we use real chocolate, eggs, and sugar. The rest of the cake comes from pureed chickpeas, which are touted for their highly nutritious fiber and protein content. With just one blender (bowl not necessary!) – I double dog dare you to help this creation to come to life


The inspiration for this cake actually came from none other than the two main men in my life recently… Ben and Jerry**. The local grocery store just had to go and have a $2 per pint sale of yes! every flavor! and what’s a girl to do than to resist some good looking delicious men ice cream when they come knocking? Unfortunately, my body can no longer take that eat-evrrythang-diet from my younger years (instead, you find me panting at the gym, making up for that one bite, no, one more bite, wait last bite mantra I find myself facing every time I open the freezer). It was an enticing, yet dangerous relationship, and I realized I needed a healthier way to indulge.

Now, you too can savor multiple bites of cake without the guilt… or those extra laps. Time to get started for that summertime shape, though fingers crossed, hopefully the snow will be gone by then.


Recipe: Gluten Free Chocolate Garbanzo Bean Cake

Adapted from AllRecipes.


  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (The majority of baking chips from Nestle, Hershey’s, and Ghirardelli are gluten free, but double check on their websites.)
  • 1.5 (15.5 oz) cans of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (I ate the remaining half can while waiting for the cake to bake)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Optional: 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Step by step: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9-inch round or square baking pan.
  2. Melt the chocolate chips using a microwave-safe bowl or double boiler, stirring frequently and taking care not to burn the chocolate.
  3. **Optional: Begin to boil water in another pan. While doing so, unshell all the chickpeas. Place the chickpeas in the boiling water for 5 minutes to help soften them. This will help when puree-ing the chickpeas, and will eliminate any strong flavors. I highly recommend this step if you are using a regular blender instead of a food processor.
  4. Combine the chickpeas and eggs in the bowl of a food processor. If using a blender, make sure to crack the eggs in first, before adding in the chickpeas and blending; the blender will not work until there is enough “liquid.”
  5. Process until smooth. Add the sugar and the baking powder, and pulse to blend. Pour in the melted chocolate and blend until smooth, scraping down the corners to make sure chocolate is completely mixed. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before placing onto a serving plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

**Sooo, I caught a wedding bouquet this weekend. Here’s to hoping that these two names will be replaced in the future? Haha

Recipe: Black Sesame Mantou

sesame mantou

Adapted from The Sweet Spot


  • 260ml lukewarm water
  • 5g instant yeast
  • 500g bread flour
  • 60g powdered sugar
  • 5g vegetable oil
  • 25g sesame powder
  • pinch of salt

Filling, to taste:

  • sesame powder
  • finely shredded coconut
  • powdered sugar

Step by step:

1. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water in a bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. Into the same bowl, pour in flour,  sugar, vegetable oil, black sesame seed powder and salt. Mix and knead the dough for about 10 minutes. It should become smooth surfaced. Shape into a log, cover, and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

2. In the meantime, make the filling by mixing together sesame powder, shredded coconut, and sugar. If you do not have sesame powder, you can lightly blend toasted black sesame seeds and sugar in a food processor. Keep aside.

3. Roll the dough out into a rectangular shape. Visually divide your dough into 3 parts and fold the two outside flaps in. This helps create that layered bun. Roll the dough out again into a rectangular shape (approx. 10 inches by 24-30 inches.) Brush some water on the top surface, then sprinkle the black sesame filling on the surface.


6. Roll into a log shape. Slice into your desired size. Let them sit for 20 minutes until they have risen.


7. Place them into the steamer for about 15-20 minutes. It should increase almost 2 times in size.

8. Drizzle with condensed milk and enjoy! IMG_0605a

Recipe: Chocolate Covered Strawberries


One thing I’ve felt really blessed by this year is my bible study group. Every Tuesday evening, we get together to eat dinner, to catch up, to learn, and to share what has been on our hearts and minds. It’s a great time to fellowship, meet new people, and strengthen friendships.

As a way to give back (seriously, my leaders are the best!), I try to help with the food side of things. And whew – cooking for 20+ people is no small feat! Last time, I made the main dishes, with red curry with chicken and potatoes. This time, I focused on the desserts… =)

This is but one of the desserts I made, inspired by my love for all things chocolate. I have always wanted to combine chocolate with fruit and found this recipe SO incredibly easy that I had to share! Anyone can do it and it requires minimal prep time – just a little patience as you wait for the chocolate to harden. Enjoy!

P.S. This makes a great Valentine’s day gift! Forget shelling out $$$ on Godiva chocolate covered strawberries and other overpriced chocolate. For a fraction of the price, you can make these, and receive not only awe, but also gratitude and love.

Recipe: Chocolate Covered Strawberries (& other fruits)

Adapted from Allrecipes

Instead of using baking chips, I used chocolate bars I had on hand. I also found that 2 giant bars of chocolate was way too much for 1 lb of strawberries, which is why I ended up dipping oranges, bananas, and almonds as well. Next time, I would only use 1 bar + 1 tbs of shortening for the chocolate if only covering 1 lb strawberries. 



  • Assorted fruits: i.e. strawberries, clementines, oranges, bananas, almonds
  • 1 lb chocolate/baking chips (I used 2 Hershey’s Giant 7 oz milk chocolate bars)
  • Shortening (for every 8 oz chocolate – add 1 tbs of shortening; I used 2 tbs)


Step by Step:

  1. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring occasionally until smooth. Try to keep the top pan (if you made your own double boiler set up) above the boiling water.
  2. Meanwhile, line a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper.
  3. Using a fondue fork (or skewer), dip the strawberries into the chocolate mixture.
  4. Place on paper, and set in fridge for 30-40 minutes to harden. (Pictured below is tray 1 of 2)


Europe on a Budget: Itinerary

st_peters_basilica_rome_morning_desktop_1280x960_hd-wallpaper-45072 (1)Omg, someone pinch me… this is really happening!! Ahh!!!!! Flights are booked!!

Because this will be my first backpacking experience, I’m going to try to do my best with documenting the planning stages – and the costs. This is going to be a 20 day, 5 city, 4 country tour through Europe, with a total budget of $2000. (Sad to think half of it already disappeared through tickets! The low budget is because while we want to celebrate graduating, we are still in fact, very very poor students.)

We will be going to Istanbul, Athens, Santorini, Rome, and Barcelona. I would also love to see friends along the way – so let me know if you will be in Europe any of those dates! Or if you would like to join at any segment. Otherwise, any backpacking tips would be highly regarded. =)

Already can’t wait to be celebrating my birthday (March 28th) in Istanbul!

27-Mar Thursday Fly to Istanbul from LGA, departing 6:30 pm $670 round trip
28-Mar Friday Arrive 1:15 pm in Istanbul 1
29-Mar Saturday Istanbul 2
30-Mar Sunday Istanbul 3
31-Mar Monday Istanbul 4
1-Apr Tuesday Istanbul to Athens 1, arrival 12 pm $74
2-Apr Wednesday Athens 2
3-Apr Thursday Athens 3, ferry evening to island $51
4-Apr Friday Santorini 1
5-Apr Saturday Santorini 2
6-Apr Sunday Santorini 3 to Rome at 8 pm
7-Apr Monday Rome 1, arrival at 10 am $123
8-Apr Tuesday Rome 2
9-Apr Wednesday Rome 3
10-Apr Thursday Rome 4
11-Apr Friday Rome to Barcelona 1, arrive at 10:25 am $61
12-Apr Saturday Barcelona 2
13-Apr Sunday Barcelona 3
14-Apr Monday Barcelona 4 (mini excursion somewhere?)
15-Apr Tuesday Barcelona 5
16-Apr Wednesday Barcelona to ATL
TOTAL $979

My Guide to Wining and Dining through Philadelphia



Running along the Schuylkill river this past weekend, I was aback by how beautiful Philadelphia was. There are so many things here that I take for granted living in Center City, and in the next two months I have left, I hope to see as much and do as much as I can.

As a way to give back to the city, I’ve created this eating guide for those newly minted Philadelphians and to those foodies seeking for more adventure. I really recommend taking advantage of what this city has to offer; it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The star ratings are based on how much I enjoyed the food at a particular place, and the money sign is added to give value to whether the restaurant is worth trying. For example a * $$ means very bad food, and not worth the price, whereas *** $ means awesome food, and totally worth the price. I think that can come in handy when you’re planning a birthday or a date. I’ve also written more comprehensive reviews on several of the restaurants, and they are hyperlinked below.

I also left out the ***** (five star) rating because honestly, nothing can beat a home cooked meal that comes from the heart. The love, the effort, and the time put into it always makes it priceless. Last but not least, I want to thank my friends for joining me in each of these places, whether it was for a reunion, a wedding, or a birthday; a night out with the girls; a nice evening over drinks.

Ratings Guide:

* = would not recommend
** = good
*** = excellent, would go again
**** = amazing, must go at least once

(Note: all the restaurants are rated. However, the bars/nightlife are fairly similar and only my favorites out of those are rated.)

$ = cheap
$$ = affordable, can frequent multiple times
$$$ = expensive, once in a while treat
$$$$ = very expensive




Bars: $-$$ unless otherwise noted

Alfa restaurant & bar
Alma de Cuba **** $$$
Amis ***
Byblos bar and grill
Devil’s alley
Fado Irish pub
Farmer’s cabinet *** $$
Franklin mortgage company **** $$$
Hop sing laundramat **** $$$
Irish pub
Ladder 15
Marathon bar (closed)
Milkboy ***
Parc *** $$$
Raw sushi and sake lounge
Tavern on the broad
Tria’s ***





500 degrees *** $
Amada **** $$$
Ariana restaurant *** $
Barbuzzo **** $$
Bobby’s burger palace *** $
Boston market ** $
Brick American eatery ** $$
Buddakan **** $$$
Cheu noodle bar * $$
Chima Brazilian steakhouse *** $$$
Chutney *** $
Cochon byob **** $$$
Continental * $$
Dandelion **** $$
Davio’s Italian steakhouse *** $$
El azteca Mexican restaurant ** $$
El vez *** $$
Fat salmon **** $$$
Federal donuts **** $
Fogo de chao Brazilian steakhouse **** $$$
Garces trading company **** $$
Geno’s cheesesteak * $$
Greek lady ** $
Green garden * $
Green garden * $
Han dynasty **** $$
Hummus grill ** $
International smokeless BBQ *** $
Jamonera *** $$
Kanella **** $$
Koja food truck ** $
Kokopelli restaurant and tequila bar * $$
Landmark Americana * $
Le bec fin * $$$$
Le viet ** $$
Lolita’s byob *** $$
Maggiano’s *** $$
Marathon grill *** $$
Marrakesh *** $$
Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man **** $$
Midtown II diner * $
Mixto’s ** $$
Monk’s **** $
Morimoto *** $$$$
Mumbai bistro ** $
Mushulu **** $$$
Nam phuong *** $
Nom nom ramen ** $$
Oyster bar *** $$
Pattaya Thai cuisine ** $
Percy’s street barbecue *** $$
Portofino (closed) * $$
R2L *** $$$
Rice & mix * $$
Rittenhouse tavern (closed) *** $$$
Rotten Ralph’s * $
Sampan ** $$
Sansom kabob house ** $
Shake shack * $
Sitar India ** $$
Smoking Betty’s *** $$
Square peg (closed) ** $$
Supper *** $$$
The capital grille **** $$$
Vargas **** $$
Vedge **** $$$
Vic’s sushi **** $
Walnut supper club *** $$
Zahav **** $$$
Zavina *** $$

Nan Zhou Hand drawn noodlehouse

Nan Zhou Hand drawn noodlehouse


Chinatown Restaurants: $-$$

Banana leaf BYOB ***
Chinatown Chinese restaurant
David mai lai wah
Dim sum garden ***
Empress garden
Erawan Thai
Imperial inn
Joy tsin lau
Ken’s seafood restaurant
Nan Zhou Hand drawn noodle house ***
Ocean city
Ocean harbor ***
Penang ***
Pho Xue La ***
Q.T. Vietnamese restaurant ***
Rangoon Burmese
Rising tide
Sammy chon’s ktwon BBQ
Sang kee Peking duck house ***
Tai lake
Terakawa ramen
Vietnam palace
Wong wong
Yummy Lan Zhou hand drawn noodle house
Yummy yummy




Cafés: $-$$

Au Bon pain **
Bonte waffles & cafe (closed)
Cake and the beanstalk ****
Chapterhouse cafe and gallery ****
Elixr ***
Good karma cafe ***
La Colombe ***
Nook bakery and coffee bar ***
Tea do ***
Tea talk ***

Green Eggs Cafe

Green Eggs Cafe


Brunch: $$

Green egg cafe ***
Honey’s sit n’ eat *
Le pain quotidien **
Morning glory ****
Sabrina’s ***

Unknown cafe

Unknown cafe



Bassetts ice cream *** $
Beiler’s Bakery **** $
Capogiro gelato **** $$
Crumbs ** $$
Flying monkeys *** $
Franklin fountain *** $$
Kiwi frozen yogurt * $
Phileo yogurt *** $
Philly cupcake ** $$
Red mango ** $
Rita’s water ice ** $
Sugarphilly food truck *** $$
Sweet ending * $
Swiss haus bakery *** $$
The lite choice * $
Tiffany’s bakery * $
Yogorino *** $$


It’s anyone’s best guess where I took this, haha



Brasil’s nightclub ***
Cuba de libre restaurant and rumbar
Field house
G lounge ***
Lucy’s hat shop (closed)
National mechanic ***
Plough and the stars
Public house
Tango karaoke and lounge
Vango lounge and skybar
Whisper ***
Yakitori boy japas ***

Bucket list:

Recommend me somewhere new :)