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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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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

North Coast 500 Day 2

The day we planned to wild camp on a secluded beach for our North Coast 500 Roadtrip.

We started off the morning heading down to the only place for food in the village where we stayed in Big Sand, the local campground. The breakfast was delicious. The weather was even better, as the sun was out and not a cloud in sight. A rare sight in Scotland.

Once we finished our breakfast, we headed down to the beach, enjoyed the view and then hopped in the car and headed onto Day Two of our trip.

Inverewe Garden

Our first destination - a tropical garden in Scotland! With possibly the cutest story of its origins -- a father-daughter team made this paradise in the 19th Century from barren land. Now a site that includes plants from China, Nepal and India, Himalayan poppies, Tasmanian eucalyptus, and California redwoods. 

One of the most enjoyable things during our visit here included leisurely strolls around the gardens, you can spend as little time as you would like by taking one of their shorter paths, or explore all the gardens have to offer as we did.

We strolled the gardens for close to three hours, with the final bit including a succubus garden (hello flat inspiration) with the far end of the gardens having fabulous views overlooking the sea.

Bone Caves

With all the driving (which I had been doing) and the beautiful weather, we wanted to stretch our legs and try out one of the hikes I had found when pre-planning. We decided to go on and explore the Bone Caves or at least try to. We managed to head along the route for close to 40-ish minutes with no caves. Now I am slightly impatient and not the most interested hiker, so we turned around to head back. The cave would have been impressive to see, although if anything you can head to the National Museum of Scotland and check out the collection of bones ranging from wolves, bears, lynxes and arctic foxes  that have been unearthed in the cave.

Fun fact about Bone Caves: a 2000-year-old walrus ivory pin was found in one of the caves indicating that people were here by the Iron Age (~700 BC to AD 500)!!!

Smoo Cave

Partially created by the sea and part freshwater also happens to be one of the largest cave entrances in Britain. We were 'fortunate' that we got here and needless to say we were having typical Scottish weather - rain. That meant that we pretty much had the whole cave to ourselves and it was a nice stop to see along the way. 

Important note: Be aware that crossing over the footpath in the cave leads to where the fresh water enters the cave very forcefully - aka you will get sprayed by the water. 

Bettyhill Beach 

Last but not least our campsite for the night - we finally decided to stop when we drove past the beach. A bit secluded, blue water, and amazingly calm as it was kinda hidden away in its own little cove. 

We pitched our tent and cooked out our meal for the night! We had the beach to ourselves (minus the midgies) and had a fantastic time. It was amazing to wake up to the sound of the ocean just outside of the tent door. Even better is we made it through the night with very little rain (a rare and appreciated treat in Scotland). 

The end of Day 2 and halfway through the NC500 road trip! Possibly one of my favourite days as it ended with a secluded beach campsite all to ourselves, there is nothing like falling asleep and waking up to the sound of the ocean!

Have any of you ever tried wild camping? Camping? or do you only stay in hotels?

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Monday, April 9, 2018

90 Day Lifestyle Challenge Update #1

Day 30. Somehow I have managed to make it through 30 days of my own personal lifestyle challenge. Today I review what I originally intended to do, how I have been doing, along with what I want to improve on for the rest of the challenge.

Life Challenge, Goals

My Three Goals are

  1. 30 Minutes of exercise (Going to the gym for a workout or cardio)
  2. Writing / Editing / Revising my thesis (Goal 500 words or 30 minutes of substantial revision)
  3. To ''Try'' every day
I mentioned in the original post that I needed to address these three for various reasons, but mainly because I felt that I was in a slump and 90 days was kinda perfect as it leads into my 10-year anniversary with the BF.

I felt that these three goals would help improve my overall happiness, my overall mood and in all honesty just help me to start some healthy realistic goals in my life. 

So how have I done...

30 Minutes of exercise (Going to the gym for a workout or cardio)

Happy to say this is the one that I have crushed. I have got a 30-minute workout every day over the last 30 days - including having to do an at-home workout during a mini snow storm we had. I have been doing 5 days of weights and 2 days of a full body or cardio routine. 

As for what I plan on changing - not much really. I enjoy weights, the idea of getting strong keeps me going. For cardio, I am going to try and add in two runs per week. I have an idea to run to a bridge and back and keep track of my times, eventually, once I can fully jog there and back add some distance. Side Goal -- Run a 5k

Writing / Editing / Revising my thesis (Goal 500 words or 30 minutes of solid revision)

This was probably the goal that I was the worst at. But no worries another plan that I have in place to get this going. The 100 Day Thesis... 

Now this is a bit longer and in truth adding to this challenge, but I have been reading/listening to how to just get the first (and complete) draft DONE. This is the biggest hurdle because after that there is feedback, revisions, and corrections - but the primary thing is done - the complete draft. 

To ''Try'' every day

I again didn't do the best at this one but am feeling pretty confident where I am headed. I have done a few things - like leaving my naturally curly/wavy hair as my go-to style. This means no more straightening my hair, only to have it up in a ponytail, I just wear my hair down and its natural style. 

I PURGED my closet, with the goal to figure out my own 'Capsule Wardrobe.' 
Now I am nowhere near done and on my way to the stylish Capsule Wardrobe that seems to dominate the blogging world, instead, I am working to figuring out how to wear what I have and make sure that it is not Jeans and a T-shirt every day. 

Overall Day 1-30 

I am pretty excited that I have somewhat stuck with what I set out to achieve, I still have work to do mainly on number 2 & 3, but I am getting there. My main goals over the next 30 days include 
  1. Watching what I eat and add in the run days
  2. REALLY write and track my progress. Start a writing habit (first thing in the morning or a pompadour technique)
  3. 3 days a week (when I am headed to university) try some outfits that I usually wouldn't wear (aka no trainers, jeans and t-shirts my usual go-to outfit.)
Of course, I would love to crush all of these for the next 60 days but I just think that looking at setting up sub-goals to achieve major goals works best for me.

So there it is an honest update, along with what I want to focus on next. Of course, if there is any advice that you have on how you have set out to achieve and succeed your goals, please share! I love hearing what others have done to work on their own goals. 

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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Journey to a 'Capsule' Wardrobe - The Purge

Fascination and my lack of being a put-together stylish person led me to work towards building (purging) to a Capsule Wardrobe. The idea that you can have under 50 pieces in your closet and walk out the door looking put together BLOWS MY MIND. (Probably more so the idea of walking out and looking put together or easily picking something to wear for the day)

There are tons of resources out there that go over the 'why', 'how' and 'what' in terms of a 'Building a Capsule Wardrobe' but I am nowhere near as stylish as all of those people. I have no idea on what works well with what, or how to style '5 pieces 10 Ways', but still I am ready to try.

Last night I managed to go through all most all of my clothes and probably get rid of at least half. I still have my gold glitter pencil skirt that I thrifted over 5 years ago in Chicago and still have yet to wear - but that to me is a 'GOAL' item (aka continue on my workout / get fit streak and rock the shit out of that skirt on a night out piece) along with 5 too many pairs of trousers, but I started.

How did the purge go you may wonder???!?

It included trying on everything and looking in the mirror only to realize all of the oversized sweaters from H&M that I bought actually look like a giant bag on me or that while I firmly will defend my gold glitter pencil skirt, there was no need to keep jeans that were tight in all the wrong places.

That was my start to my 'Capsule Wardrobe' - sure I am not down to 36 (or even 50) pieces, but I did clear out 16 tops, 4 pairs of pants, 2 dresses, 1 cardigan, 2 Jackets, and 3 'Fancy tops'. That is a solid start in my book.

What's Next?!?

I still kinda have no idea, while I have a Pinterest board full of ideas on what makes a 'Stylish Capsule Wardrobe', plus maybe I need to figure out what I need my wardrobe 'for'. The problem is my typical outfit is jeans, a baggy t-shirt and trainers.

I know that needs to change, I need to 'try' maybe a pair of jeans and a fancy shirt with a pair of flats (oh my insanity I know), but that is a goal that I have made for myself, to try (which in turn I believe will help me feel more confident).

While I may be planning to try sooner rather than later - unfortunately today is not the day, as I am currently in jeans, trainers, and my BF's old cosy sweater, what can I say it was rainy out and the sweater is oh so cosy!

So cheers to step one of the 'Journey to a Capsule Wardrobe' - The PURGE. It is a small start, one that feels good to take as holy crap I had a ton of STUFF I never wore. Now onto the next step and figuring out what I have/ my style / what I need / Outfits.

Any advice is apperciated or any Capsule Wardrobe Blogs that you have for a 'style' challenged person! 

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Five Reasons to Study Abroad

I fell in love with the idea of 'studying and travelling' during my undergrad. The university I attended had in place an opportunity during your Junior Year to take a course and then spend two weeks in the country experiencing and getting to visit the country that you focused on.

This international experience was one of the reasons I picked the university I went to, and without a doubt, my visit to Switzerland (FREE OF CHARGE) inspired me to one day have the opportunity to live (or learn) abroad.

I had no idea that 4 years later I would be accepted to study for my PhD in Scotland, and now 3 years here I can genuinely say this will forever be one experience that I would recommend for everyone.

Here are my top reasons for considering studying abroad! No matter the time frame - 2 weeks, a semester, a year or three years - living and studying abroad is indeed a life-changing experience!

Studying & Travelling 

You're already in school, why not take the opportunity to study and travel. While a semester is the most common study abroad time frame - in Europe that gives you plenty of time to explore. There are cheap train tickets and even cheaper flights to some of the most amazing sites in the world. (My flight from Edinburgh to Rome cost under $50 Return)


I went to a small university about 2 hours away from home. I was dependent (no matter what anyone says) on the fact that I had my family and support system so close to me. Now 5 time zones away and one costly flight - I have been able to stand on my own and challenge what I can do without my family so close. 

Seeing the world

Again, I got the travel bug from Switzerland, so one key thing that makes studying abroad so amazing is the ability to see the world. I knew people from where I did my Masters that hadn't left the State (in fact never went more than an hour from where they grew up). I have been able to visit, see, and experience cities, festivals, and sites that I would have never thought of visiting before - all of this because I am studying abroad. 

For your CV

Believe it or not - showing that you did a study abroad can help when applying for jobs. Knowing that you were able to go out on your own, into a new culture, and a new country shows that you can adapt and face challenges! 

Breaking out of your comfort zone

I am a person of comfort, and I HATE going out as the 'new person' - I suck at making friends - and am even worse at just having a good time with new people around. That has slightly changed while being here (although I still need to work on this a bit more). When I first got here, I moved in with two girls that introduced me to their friend group, invited me to nights out and was there for anything I needed. Being ALONE in a new country forces you to get out and live, something I could avoid if I would have stayed in the US. 

Overall I would recommend that EVERYONE who has the opportunity to study abroad to do it! I have been able to explore and experience numerous countries and cultures during my time here, which is something that I probably couldn't have done without living abroad. 

Interested in studying abroad? Just do it. 

If you have studied abroad what were your favourite things that you took away from your time abroad? 

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Isle of Arran - Day Trip

One problem with not having a car in Scotland is getting to unusual places which are shall we say ''difficult'' without your own set of wheels. Lucky for me, possibly not so fortunate for the people I tag along with, is the ability to set out on a day trip to see some sites, while they are usually busy working. Such can be said for this trip to the Isle of Arran - although I did have a friend tag along with me as well!

The sad bit about having so many fantastic sites around Scotland is that many of them go undiscovered until I am lucky enough to go and visit them. The Isle of Arran happens to be one of these places that I am grateful to visit and want to go back to!

Getting to the Isle of Arran

The easiest way to get to the Isle of Arran is by Ferry. For our journey we  Ardrossan to Brodick journey which cost us just about £15 (probably less) for a return ticket the same day. The ferry takes only about an hour - leaving plenty of time to take in a view on the observation deck or grab a hot breakfast and coffee!

How to get around the island?!? 

Without a car - as we were just there for the day - we relied on the local transportation. As it is a rather small island there were a few options, we decided to head directly across to the west side of the island and then head north toward the distillery. Overall renting a car would probably have been the best option, even if we only had it for 6 hours, it would have allowed us to see more and do more without worrying about missing the last bus back to the Ferry. 

What we did while there for approx. 5 hours

As I said he hopped on the bus and headed west, I had dreams of seeing the Machrie Moor Standing Stones, but due to time constraints that didn't happen. Our first was the end of 'The String' bus line at Blackwaterfoot. The view was amazing, the rain cleared up, and we had a lovely little walkabout while waiting for the bus to head up to our next stop at Lochranza to explore the castle and the distillery. After a nice lunch at the distillery and some whiskey, we headed back to the Ferry - ending our day on the Isle of Arran.

Top sites to see 

Isle of Arran Distillery

You cant have a visit to an isle with its own distillery without a stop - in fact it was possibly one of the best breaks in our adventure filled the day. We had a light lunch, some whiskey and dessert all to finish out the day before heading back to the ferry!

Machrie Moor Standing Stones

The central part of Arran has more stone circles per square meter than anywhere else in Scotland.  Machrie Moor date around 1800 to 1600 BC with evidence of much earlier use, with their usage endures as a mystery.

Kildonan Beach and Castle

While I love the fact that there are castle ruins right off the beach, there is also the sandy beach with a view overlooking the Pladda lighthouse (dating back to 1790)

King’s Cave  

Rumoured to be the cave Robert the Bruce is said to have had his famed encounter with a spider. This circular heads down to explore a dramatic section of coastline with a series of caves. Total time for the hike: 1.5 - 2 hours

Broderick Castle 

While this was closed while we were there due to extensive renovations - this is one of the main places to visit on the island. The castle grounds are filled with formal gardens, woodland, waterfalls, and bathing pools. It is due to open back in June 2018 and is a must visit if you are there!

Has anyone been to the Isle of Arran - what sites (or probably, more importantly, hikes) did I miss out on?

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

90 Day Lifestyle Challenge

With the desire to 'get fit', 'be a good PhD student' or better yet just get my life together - I decided to start a 90-day challenge (which really started on March 8th). To be fair the 90 Day Challenge was really just a goal for me, and it gave me a good end date - June 6th aka my 10 year anniversary with the BF.

So why did I decide to go with a long challenge when I usually fail at my monthly goals? I thought that the end date has some actual meaning to me, which my thinking makes the overall goals more achievable. I often set my own personal goals (for a week a month the year) and find that I set off so strong, like legit crushing the goals, and then at some point about two weeks in I have a bad day which turns to multiple bad days. With this challenge, I am hoping that working towards being a 'Happier Me' at the year 10 mark will not only make this challenge more achievable as I generally want to be a better me.

What I want to work on over the next 90 days ---

  1. 30 Minutes of exercise (Going to the gym for a workout or cardio)
  2. Writing / Editing / Revising my thesis (Goal 500 words or 30 minutes of solid revision)
  3. To ''Try'' every day

Why I need these three things to be 'addressed' 

I figured if I needed motivation this would be it, along with the fact that I kinda just need a shake-up in my life. When it comes to 'getting fit', I am a pro at talking myself out of the gym or cave to any whim and food desire of my bestie.

My PhD has forever remained a challenge and possibly even more so now that I am feeling 'meh' about the whole project. No fear though, my research is done, writing is the only challenge that I have left to face, and eventually, I will tackle it!

As for my third goal - I believe the lack of 'fit' and the whole mehhh PhD life has really put a damper on myself personally. I am not depressed, but I am not excited about things either. Even when it comes to things that I would love to do (ex. Go out and explore new places in and around Edinburgh) I can't see myself doing that - I just lack the motivation to.

What I hope to happen

The next 90 days yes will be a bitch to complete, but I am hoping that all of the end results will help me get my (working on) best self back!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

North Coast 500 Edinburgh to Big Sand

So for day one we picked up the rental car from the Edinburgh Airport at approximately 10am and started our journey.

I knew the first day would be a long one, the most intense day of driving and also one with some fantastic views.

Again I am pissed that I lost (accidentally deleted) the footage from Day One of the NC 500 including possibly the best bit of our drive along the Bealach na Bà (aka Wester Ross in Scotland)!

Overall Day One took about 8 solid hours of driving, mainly due to my fear of the small roads or my amazement of the awe with the views along the route, either way, Day One included some beautiful stops, some unforgettable moments, and a drive which I can not wait to do again!

The Dunmore Pineapple

Built-in 1761 by the Earl of Dunmore as a summerhouse! At the time Pineapples were considered an exotic fruit in Scotland and needless to say this place is breathtakingly unique!!! 

The Pineapple now has grounds surrounded by woodlands and filled with wildlife. A quick pitstop here was a nice way to visit a must-see on my Scottish list all while still being on our NC500 adventure!

For more information on the Pineapple House, check out the National Trust site

Fort William

With our drive almost halfway done, we needed a break, a lunch stop and a chance to stretch our legs - so we headed to Fort William. A beautiful town right on the water, with a charming town centre to explore. 

We headed into town to explore and see what there was to offer, unfortunately as you can imagine the Scottish weather got the best of us and it started to rain. 

We headed to the nearest pub for lunch and lucky for us, the skies cleared up and we had a beautiful table out on the back deck overlooking the water! A traditional fish and chips for food, and we were back on the road! 

TIP: Stock up on snacks whenever you go through towns with 'proper' grocery stores! We grabbed some essentials food and of course some beer as well! 

Bealach ‘na Ba, Wester Ross

The one thing I am sad that I lost the day one photo/video mishap - the drive through Bealach 'na Ba, also one of the most iconic drives in the WORLD! 

A single lane road that winds through the Applecross peninsula leading to some breathtaking and terrifying views! This part of the trip was one of my favourite portions, as we managed to drive through this bit as the rain stopped and the sun came out! 

TIP: Take this portion of the drive extra slow and enjoy the views! Also will say that this portion is why I would suggest doing the entire trip clockwise from Inverness (or Edinbugh like we did)

With the prettiest and also most terrifying portion of the drive done we were on our last stretch of the trip for the day. Unfortunately, the rain started back up, and I realised my hatred for small roads and terrible weather!

Big Sand 

The end of our road trip led us to Big Sand on the west coast of Scotland. Again since this trip was a bit of a last minute get-away, this happened to be where we stayed (due to availability on Air-BnB), and we have no complaints at all! We stayed in a cabin overlooking the village and well, it remained a perfect end to the first day. 

If you want to see the cabin we stayed in, check it out here and I highly recommend it if you ever need a place on the road trip. 

The town (or maybe more appropriate village) only had one place to eat, located on the local campground - and served up a fantastic breakfast which we enjoyed before heading out for Day 2!

 So there it is a quick synopsis of the drive we did for the first day! In the end, the day seemed insanely long, probably due to my road trip partner being asleep for the majority of the drive! Stick around for Day 2, 3, and 4 and also some video footage of the trip!

Has anyone done the NC500 before?!? If so share your favourite places, I want to make the trip again (maybe this summer!)

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