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Hey Loves! I’m Caitlyn the girl behind ChemGradBoom. A blog about taking life with a little salt, a slice of lime and shot of tequila or life of a graduate student, whichever version you prefer!

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Monday, July 16, 2018

First 24 Hours in Your New Home

Welcome to your new home/apartment/townhouse/dorm! Whatever it may be there are some essential things that every home needs and things that should be done within the first 24 hours of calling your new place home!

I recently moved to Portland Oregon into a studio apartment with nothing, literally only 4 suitcases! We had no furniture, no basics, only clothes and memories! So starting from the ground-up is quite literally what I had to do for our new place. Sure I am still on the lookout for a few things like a full-body mirror, artwork, a cute dresser or bookshelf, but I am in love with our new studio apartment and everything that we have added to it so far.

Now, the first day (24 hours) in your new place in intense - there are deliveries, furniture to put together, things to unpack, and furniture placement to figure out but there are still some items/task that will help to ensure that your first 24 hours runs as smoothly as possible in your new home.

Deep Clean

Don't judge me for suggesting that you need to deep clean your new apartment, but still do it. Plus this gives you an opportunity to inspect/take photos of any small things that you need to note down for your move-in inspection. If anything clean the places like door handles, the bathroom and cabinets in the kitchen. 

Basics for each room 

For your first day, there don't expect to have the Pinterest worthy home, you do however want to have a place to sleep, chill, and a few other main things that I found were needed for the first 24 hours in our new place. Below is a list of everything that I think you need for your first day in your new home! 

Bedroom / Living Room (Studio Life)

  • Bed and bed frame
  • Bed Sheets and Pillow Cases 
  • Duvet (Comforter) 
  • Pillows
  • Couch 
  • Throw Blanket and Throw Pillows 
Throw Blanket and Pillows for the couch make a fantastic mid-afternoon crash spot because moving is hard work, so I found it necessary to have these! 


  • Plates / Cups / Coffee Mugs
  • Cutlery
  • Storage Containers
  • Coffee Maker and Coffee (Can not live without this especially during the whole moving process)
  • Paper Towels / Kitchen Towels
  • A cutting board ( I live for snacks including fresh veggies and cheese so a nice solid wood cutting board makes an amazing serving platter)
  •  A good knife (or set of knives)
  • A frying pan and a pot with a lid (I am a firm believer in breakfast in the morning so this was a must for me)
  • Trash Can and Trash Bags
  • Cleaning Supplies - Broom, Mop, Swiffer, All-purpose spray, dish soap and a dish scrub


  • Toilet Brush / Plunger
  • Shower Curtain / Shower Curtain Hooks
  • Towels / Wash Clothes / Hand Towels
  • Shower Mat
  • Toilet Paper
  • Trash Can / Trash Bags
  • Laundry Hamper
  • Hand Soap

Other things

  • Hangers - lots of hangers
  • Storage boxes of all shapes and sizes
  • Notebook to keep track of to-do list, important shopping list, delivery notes
  • Extension cords / surge protectors

Don't Stress

It amazes me how many people seem to think that in one day you can have your home all set-up and perfect! It takes awhile to figure out the best way to organize your kitchen cabinets or remember to buy stain remover for the laundry. While it would be ideal to have everything in your new home set-up, perfected, and ready for Pinterest within the first week, that just won't happen (or at least not as a poor recent graduate adult). It is ok not to have everything in its place or to need to head to the store multiple times throughout a week (we went to Ikea 5 times our first week here) because it takes time and living there to know what you need and what you don't need. 

So my main advice is to just enjoy it all! You will find the perfect throw blanket one day when shopping in Home Goods, or take 2 weeks to find your desk at Target and of course over a month till you realize you need a cheese grater to make your nachos (yes epic fail on my part). Making your new place an actual home takes time, but the best part about taking the time to figure it all out is making sure that it is your home and something that is right for you! 

Any tips that you have for a new home / how to survive the moving process?! Or is there anything that I left off my list?!

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

August - the festival season in Scotland and while comedy shows and theatre performances are in abundance due to the Fringe Festival, the one thing that marks August to me is the Royal Military Tattoo.

You can always tell when festival season is near, as they start to set up the city for the millions of people that seem to make their way to Edinburgh and of course there is also the change in the castle view, as the Esplanade is now home to a stadium.

What is the Edinburgh Military tattoo?

A performance, filled with performers from all around the world (6 continents and over 45 countries participate) by the armed forces with its roots dating back to the 17th / 18th-century tradition of sending soldiers back to the barracks with the close of the pubs with bagpipes and drums. While there are other military tattoos all around the world, the most famous one is in Edinburgh and just called 'the Tattoo'.

The start of it all...

The Tattoo had its first performance back in 1950 with over 6000 people attending the show held in the Esplanade at the Castle. To this day the show has gone on, without missing one performance (even with the Scottish weather). Now over 200,000 people see the show in person, with MILLIONS also watching it on TV (or online). 

Each year the theme is changed, which means that if you are lucky enough to go more multiple years, you won't see the same show! 

Tips and Tickets

If you are in Edinburgh (or really anywhere nearby) around the time of the Tattoo and are interested in going, I suggest that you buy tickets sooner rather than later. The performances run (just about) the entirety of August, with shows at 9pm from Monday – Friday and 7.30pm and 10.30pm on Saturdays. 

Tickets can be bought online through the Edinburgh Tattoo website. 

As for where to sit - I personally waited a bit too long to buy my tickets (add in the fact that I am a poor grad student) so we ended up closer to the castle than I would have liked. They project different scenes on the castle throughout the show, so the more towards the middle you sit, the better the view. Even though we were closer to the castle, the show was still absolutely amazing and I have no complaints about anything.


If you want to see a fireworks show (even though there are some after every evening show), I suggest you go on a Saturday! There is an extended fireworks show every Saturday! 

Was it worth it?

Tickets to the Tattoo can get pricey ( I am talking over £300) but we paid close to £100(ish) in total for our two tickets for a Saturday night performance! If you are there and have the cash, I would 100% suggest that you see it at least once, even the BF enjoyed it and he is a hard-to-please guy when it comes to shows! 
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Monday, July 9, 2018

Finding your perfect place in a new city

Moving to a new city and finding a place to live is well, to say the least extremely overwhelming... While I claim to have a love for 'adventure', having so many unknowns at one time just lead me to severely hate every moment of not knowing where we were going to live.

We arrived in Portland with 30 days in a corporate apartment to find our new place (thank you BFs fantastic company) but also ran into a few scheduled days where apartment shopping wasn't going to be possible. We had a weekend away planned to Seattle (epic fail of a weekend), followed by my trip to Boston for 4 days and of course the desire to find a place in time for us to have some overlap with the corporate apartment since we had NO FURNITURE.

Given all of this, we knew that we needed to get to apartment shopping ASAP along with figuring out what we wanted in our new place. Now that we have a place and feel somewhat settled, here are some tips for finding your new place, even if it's in a new city!

Make a list

The first thing to do when you're looking for a new place, even if it is in a city you are familiar with is to make your list of non-negotiables, or what your must-haves are for your new home. 
  • Budget 
  • Location
  • In-unit Washer and dryer
  • Spacious
And of course, the things that would be nice to have 
  • One bedroom (large studio / urban studio)
  • Patio / Outdoor Space
  • Apartment Complex amenities: Gym, common area. rooftop lounge

Ask for advice

Given that we were brand new to the city - we had no idea where live - what areas of town to 'avoid' or what areas of town would be ideal for what we wanted. We knew that we wanted to stay within 30 minutes of the BF's job - walking or biking. We also knew that while there were some areas within this distance but after chatting with the people at his work we were told to avoid these areas. This ended up being a significant help because the BF was set on an apartment that we looked at in the area we were told to avoid, even though everything seemed ok at the time we were there. 

Search multiple places online 

We used a mixture of Zillow, and craigslist while looking for a home. In the end, the apartment we picked was one that I had seen a posting for on Craigslist. We were told by a few apartment complexes that Craigslist is the easiest to update and that at times it can take awhile for updates on apartments to go through on Zillow. Then of course if we did think there was a place that we liked on any of the websites, we would 

Really explore the area 

Being new to the city we wanted to make sure that we decided to live in would be a place that we would be able to explore and be happy in. While we usually would apartment shop during the day if there were a place that was "in the running" we would head back later in the day to check it out. Were there places to eat? Grocery Shop? A Gym nearby? All of these things helped us to figure out if the location of a place would work for us.   

Learn to compromise 

On somethings but probably not your budget! While amazing apartments and views may be 'feasible' at the moment - I find that it is crucial to never break your budget - because having more money to have fun is well worth it, but having an over-priced apartment with no money for fun is just depressing. 

At first, we were told that we should be able to find a one bedroom apartment with a rooftop patio, fitness room, in-unit W/D, in the area we wanted on the lower end of our budget. This was on the second day of us being in the city (and before we started our search) so we were really excited about all of this. Turns out the person who told of all this (while absolutely lovely) must have also been clueless. 

During apartment shopping, we viewed a range of studios, urban studios and one bedroom all around the city. We found a one-bedroom, in our budget, spacious with a massive patio but was in an area that we would have probably hated. We also viewed an urban studio, at the higher end of our budget, in a fantastic location and building but after looking seemed that we would be paying close to $300 more for this one when the same unit on a higher floor available 3 weeks later. 

When you find the place?!?

You should feel like you could live there and call it home. If anything a home for a year - hopefully longer because no one should like moving that often. Also while we had the list of non-negotiables in the end somethings will change. Once you find a place no matter what you said were your non-negotiables may be a bit different than what you planned on. 

Finally, we landed on a studio, on the ground floor, which meant we have an amazing patio - but the building doesn't have a rooftop or gym. In the end, the apartment is spacious, has the in-unit W/D and happens to be one street over from an amazing street filled with restaurants, shops and pubs! 

What are some of your non-negotiables in an apartment? Or tips for finding a new place in a new city?!?

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

A Day in Glasgow

A quick trip from Edinburgh you can find yourself in Glasgow. Filled with less tourist and in all honesty an entirely different feel from Edinburgh, we headed over to Glasgow for a quick trip before moving back to the States.

Sure I have headed over to Glasgow during my time in Scotland but never managed to see many of the city highlights. I knew that given my impending move meant that I needed to explore while I could - so needless to say I dragged the BF on a train ride over to Glasgow and went off to explore some of the sites on my 'Must Visit' list.

For our day in Glasgow, we headed over to the West End. Filled with museums, restaurants and amazing sites, while the city is all pretty walkable we stayed

Glasgow Botanic Garden and Glasshouses

730 Great Western Rd, Glasgow G12 0UE, UK

Head here on a sunny day (rare in Scotland but they do happen) and enjoy a picnic while looking out to the Kibble Palace glasshouse! It is all free to explore and worth at least an hour of your time. The recently renovated glasshouse is filled with a wide variety of plants and flowers (all of which 

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Argyle St, Glasgow G3 8AG, UK

One of the most popular FREE places to visit in Scotland. With 22 galleries ranging from Ancient Egypt (the BF's favourite) to a gallery filled with (weird) hanging faces... We were there over the weekend and were also surprised by our very own Organ recital. So sit down after walking around the gallery, enjoy a coffee and some fantastic music all for free.

University of Glasgow

University Avenue, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

Another beautiful university... There are so many in the UK, and the University of Glasgow does not disappoint. Plus I can't help but feel like strolling through The Cloisters is like my own personal visit to Hogwarts ( I can't help it colossal HP fan here!)

While here also feel free to check out The Hunterian Museum with amazing exhibits and of course a bit of HP related items - with specimens in jars! Welcome to your own little World of Magic! 

Ashton Lane

A place that is easily overlooked, but is a cute little stroll that is a must see. I suggest coming here at night and having a drink or a bite to eat. This place is filled with all kinds of pubs to check out, plus the fantastic atmosphere is a place to check out when you are here! 

So there you have it - my last visit to Glasgow filled with some amazing spots all around the West End. The best part is they are all free attractions - which makes a boozy picnic much easier on the wallet!

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Monday, July 2, 2018

Mid Year Update

First off, how is it July already?!? 

I feel like time somehow manages to continually slip away or maybe that is because the last few months have been insane for me. So where to start - I am now writing this post from the West Coast of the US - where my current home is now Portland, Oregon. 

I moved away from the place that I called home for the last 3.5 years after a disappointing visa denial - thanks to the current UK Tier 2 visa system! Although I must say its somewhat refreshing to be back stateside, closer to my family and in a place that has actual seasons (and sunshine)!

I am now settled after spending the last two months closing out my life in Scotland, moving back to the States, including a week-long visit back in home in North Carolina, a week in Ohio and our week-long drive across country. While I loved the three weeks of floating around the country, we finally arrived in Portland to our temporary home and welcomed my (minor) freakouts of where would actually call home. Over the next three weeks, we ventured to Seattle (absolute waste of a trip), I headed over to Boston for a post-doc interview and again headed back to Seattle to welcome my little brother home from his time under-way (he is a navy sub guy). Finally, we found our new home in a lovely studio with a patio- best of all located near a fantastic doughnut, ice-cream and margarita shop (not all together but all so close)! 

To say the last few months have been a bit crazy would be an understatement. Now that I am (semi) settled in our new home - its back to reality or rather a harsh reality of the PhD life writing struggles. I now sit here in my new home with no distractions from the task at hand however incredible that sounds,  the struggle is real and writing can get depressing.

With a new city and a new desk to write out ( and a surprising amount of local coffee shops to try out) its time to set my mid-year goals and focus on accomplishing them. Its time to write and finish my PhD, its time to get back into getting fit, and its time to start figuring out what's next - and of course exploring my new city!

So here's to the last half of the year, a new city and new adventures that are on my horizon! 

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Monday, April 23, 2018

The end of an amazing adventure

Today it's official, or at least the papers have been signed, the tickets are getting booked, and real plans are starting to happen - today is the day that I am sad to announce the end to my time in Edinburgh.

Over the last 3 years, I was fortunate to have a student visa and the opportunity to live abroad. Edinburgh was the first place that I could call home since moving out of my hometown and heading to Wingate University for my undergrad. Edinburgh is a place that opened my eyes to life outside of the US and life as a kinda adult.

I had the pleasure of living here with the BF in our one-bed flat that we have called home for the almost three years. We have explored Scotland, travelled abroad and kinda made life as real adults here. Sure I was (and still am) a student, but the move to Scotland represented a place where home wasn't a quick drive or an easy plane ride away. Scotland was the place that allowed me to figure out what I want in life, that a PhD with all its magnificent plans goes terribly wrong and that I have a love for life anywhere that is new.

It was last Wednesday that the BF told me today was the day that we would find out about the visa, his company offered to keep us here with a Tier 2 visa, keeping my life abroad as an option for a few more years. Well while I never thought about the what-if options, it happened. There was an option to re-apply, requiring us to head back to the States and wait it out, but life in limbo wasn't really something we wanted. Then there was option 2 - he could transfer within the company to either California, or our soon to be new home Portland, Oregon.

So with a little under 3 weeks to go before our time in Scotland is officially over, I am taking in every moment, every view of the castle on the hill, and every cobblestone street that I walk up. Scotland will forever be a place that I am in love with.

As for what's next, all I know is that Portland will be our home for a bit and that I still have my PhD to finish, which also means I get to come back and visit Scotland. With everything that has happened, and the swiftness of figuring out whats next I am kinda in a shock. Sure I felt myself stroll through the gardens just a little bit slower, and I find myself just looking around and observing a tad bit more than usual meaning that I know my time is here is coming to an end, an end that is a bit too early for my liking.

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