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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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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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Sunday, March 4, 2018

March Goals

How have two months already passed by in 2018? I wish time would slow down - or maybe I just need to get on with it and catch up!

Well, March started off with a bit of a bang here in Edinburgh with the #beastfromtheeast bringing in snow and chaos for a few days.

While I may be a bit late in getting started and have missed out on a few days of getting into the habit of working out and meal prepping for example. Now that the snow is no longer drastically impacting everything I plan to try and start the first full week in March with my goals.

No Spend Month: March 

A month without wasteful spending with the goal to actually prep and plan for things. Of course, I know life happens which is why I have allocated myself £100 for 'fun/life/extras', but in reality, I shouldn't need to spend that much on things that are 'Needed'. 

As of now I have made a budget and plan to stick to it! We shall see as hopefully nothing will pop-up out of the blue! 

Submit Chapters 1-4 to my supervisor

It's sad to think that I have had ''drafts'' of these almost entirely done for a while now and have yet to go in and do a hard revision on them. Once that is done, I need to send them off and hope that I get some actual feedback from my supervisors. 

For the thesis, I would instead prefer to be ripped to shreds earlier than later. I always look at the first few drafts of something that should be 'terrible' with a need for the ''story'' to be adequately developed, which is done when your other readers pick out the flaws. I know that I am not perfect when it comes to thesis writing, but it is something that I have to get better at, and this is my start for March! 

Head to the gym more this month

I am great at starting at the gym, going for a few days and falling off the wagon. I personally love the idea of feeling strong and working out, I am just terrible when it comes to commitment. So this month I have made the goal to go at least 4x per week for a strength session and am planning on doing 2 cardio sessions per week as well. 

Meal Plan / Meal Prep / Eat 80:20

Similiar to my gym habit, my meal planning/prep/eating habits vary throughout the week. I can start strong and finish terribly. I am also on my way to making better choices in terms of my overall food - but would like to see if I can do a split of 80% 'good/healthy/planned' food with 20% of my food being a bit more spontaneous (but avoiding a full-on binge!)

Well, there it is! Goals for March 2018 and what a way to start out the month with a full-on snow storm. Again I may have not been able to get on track at the start of the month, I fully plan on getting into the swing of things now that the snow has stopped! 

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