Monday, August 22, 2016

Things to do in Melbourne, Australia

Australia has always been on my bucket list but the plan to go always seemed a little out of reach (as most bucket list items seem in life!) So when my husband was invited to play five nights at a new jazz venue in Melbourne, I jumped at the opportunity to go on a trip of a lifetime. It truly was one of the best experiences of my life. The flight from the United States is long and the jet lag is no joke (Victoria is 14 hours ahead of Ohio), but we fought through it and enjoyed every second of this trip.

I'm usually a somewhat spontaneous traveler but being so far away, I knew I wanted to have at least a plan or a list of things to see and do in Melbourne so I did a lot of research during my sleepless nights.  We were there for ten days, which was the perfect amount of time to recover from jet lag and see all of the things on our list. The food is fantastic and there's something for every craving you could possibly have. If you have questions or need suggestions for restaurants, feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll share some of our favorite spots.

This is a snapshot of some of the things we did. If you have plans to travel to Melbourne someday, bookmark this for later!

Book a tour of the Great Ocean Road. 
This was hands down the highlight of our trip. At only $100 a person, we went on a day long tour of the breathtaking Great Ocean Road a few hours outside of the city. This was worth every dime. We got to see the Twelve Apostles, caves, national parks, swamp wallaby, koalas, a pod of breaching whales, and parrots. I'll never, ever forget this experience!

A photo posted by d i n a y o u n i s (@dinasdays) on

Go to St. Kilda Beach

St. Kilda is a charming beach easily accessible from Melbourne's Central Business District (CDB). If you go at sundown you will be able to catch the penguins on the pier. I don't care how tough you are, the penguins will make anyone feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

A photo posted by d i n a y o u n i s (@dinasdays) on

Luna Park

While you're at St. Kilda, be sure to check out one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, Luna Park. If you happen to go on a day when it's closed, it's still worth it for the experience and photo!

Check out one of Melbourne's Laneways. 

This was some of the most fun we've had. Melbourne has a lot of laneways or alleys packed with cafes, restaurants, and shops. Duck into one in the CBD and spend an afternoon eating or people watching! Degraves and Centre Place were our favorites.

Catch a ride on the Melbourne Star at the Docklands. 
This is a heavily touristy area but well worth it. The Melbourne Star is not your typical Ferris Wheel. It's fully enclosed, air conditioned or heated, and gives you a full view of the city in all directions. Great way to get your bearings! I highly recommend this at night or sunset.

Visit other neighborhoods like Fitzroy,  Flinder's Quarter or Prahran.

These artsy neighborhoods are a sight to see. They are a nice break from the bustling CBD and the shops and cafes are plentiful. I loved Prahran.

A photo posted by d i n a y o u n i s (@dinasdays) on

Visit the Chapel Street Bazaar

A friend of mine who lives in Melbourne recommended this place knowing how much I love to thrift. Of all the antique and vintage places I've visited over the years, I've never experienced a place like Chapel Street Bazaar. Clear an entire afternoon for this place.

State Library of Victoria

Prepare for your mind to be blown. This library should be a must on any visitor's list. It's free for hours of discovery and a breathtaking view.

A photo posted by d i n a y o u n i s (@dinasdays) on

Go thrifting! 

 Melbourne is expensive but has a fantastic thrifting scene. Be sure to check out one of their op shops.

A photo posted by d i n a y o u n i s (@dinasdays) on

Visit the Queen Victoria Market

Our hotel was right next door to this market so I visited this market quite a bit. From food to souvenirs, this market has you covered. I picked up the best gifts here, including spices, teas, and soaps.

Lastly, a few quick cultural tips we had picked up along the way:  people in Melbourne walk on the left side as opposed to the right side like the U.S. We kept wondering why we were bumping into people on the sidewalk until we quickly realized we were on the wrong side! Also, no need to tip at restaurants.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The comfiest training shoes

Nothing is worse than working out with uncomfortable sneakers. I'm no Olympian athlete or marathon runner but do appreciate a good pair of comfy shoes. I recently purchased these New Balance sneakers and felt like I was walking on a cloud (or cotton candy, whatever you're into). They are so affordable! I wear them for general exercise like walking, jogging, and most recently Boot Camp and cycling classes at the gym. Plus they are pink and cute, so that's an added bonus.

Shop the New Balance Women's WX811 Training Shoe here.

PS) This isn't a sponsored post, I just love these shoes so much!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Blue Boutique One Year Anniversary Event

My friends at Goodwill Akron are celebrating one year of blue boutique in downtown Akron. This milestone also marks my one year anniversary of hosting and curating my pop-up store, The Spice Rack inside the boutique. I have met so many wonderful people over the last year and I'd love to celebrate with you. There will be hair and makeup consultations by MC Hair, chair massages, and of course lots of cute clothes and accessories! All summer clothing on the Spice Rack is 40% off plus I'm adding a few sneak pieces for fall (hint: wide leg jeans and denim shirts!)

Blue Boutique
August 25, 2016
11:00 am 1:00 pm
335 S. Main St
Akron, OH 44308

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Mental Detox: 10 things you can do this week to achieve balance

It's been a busy summer so I've been feeling like things are off balance a bit. Since there wasn't much I could do to change my schedule around, I realized I had to find balance from within and limit the distractions.

Here are 10 quick and easy things you can do for seven days to achieve mindfulness and balance when things are feeling just a bit off:

  1. Wake up early every morning and don't rush. 
  2. Meditate for 10 minutes (try the app Headspace).  I never took meditation seriously, and still have a long way to go but I'm learning how to present in the moment and how to really focus on my body and breath. This app makes it so easy. If you feel silly the first day, keep on pushing through. It gets better. 
  3. Exercise every day for a week. Whether it's an evening stroll, early morning power walk or an intense boot camp session. Do something that will get you moving. 
  4. Drink a lot of water every day. I try to drink seven of these water bottles every day. 
  5. Go out with friends on the weekend. Don't try to substitute this with anything else like a funny movie or show. There's nothing quite like the company of a great friend or sister.
  6. Limit the number of times you check your email every day to a realistic number, but one that will help you find peace. For me it was once for personal email and twice for work. 
  7. Start and try to finish a really great book in a week. 
  8. Refrain from either checking or posting on social media for a week. 
  9. Limit your sugar intake. 
  10. Say something kind to yourself every morning. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Common Threads Thrift: six reasons why you'll love this new thrift store

Congratulations Terra M. and Kristin S! You are both winners of the giveaway.
$8 find from Common Threads Thrift

There's a new thrift store in town and I'm giving away two gift certificates to a couple of readers!

Common Threads Thrift, located at 22049 Lorain Road in Fairview Park opened last month and the fine folks over there invited me to check it out and host a giveaway for my thrifty readers. Anytime I visit a new thrift store, I find myself looking for a few certain elements (you can read about these elements here). Here are a few reasons why I loved this new thrift store and think you will too.
They offer employment as a new start. As much as I love a good deal, it's always important for me to know the story behind a thrift store. Common Threads is a social enterprise of a Cleveland-based nonprofit organization and the net proceeds go toward Building Hope in the City. Many of their employees are affiliated with the the nonprofit, including refugees and immigrants. Being a child of immigrant parents, this is incredibly inspiring to me.

bright and simple dressing room decor at Common Threads Thrift

It's bright and cheery. A bright and uplifting environment was one of the priorities for Common Threads, according to Jeff,  director of the social enterprise branch of the nonprofit. Walking into Common Threads, you don't feel like you're at a typical thrift store, making it an ideal setting for new thrifters.
Affordable prices. You all know I love a good deal so I set out to see what I could find for $30. I went home with the dress featured in this post ($8), a baking tool, a brand new toy for my nephew, a dress for my niece, a cross body purse, and a pair of sweatpants. Not too shabby!
The selection is just right. I'm always looking for a balance between new and vintage items and Common Threads nailed them both. There's also a rack of designer pieces, perfect for those on the hunt for brand names or those who don't like thrill of the hunt and like to get right to it.

The decor. Nothing gets me quite like minimalism decor (other than thrift store prices, of course). I  must admit I spent more time admiring the decor than hunting the racks. A few things caught that my eye: the racks are filled with hundreds of items but Common Threads doesn't leave you feeling overwhelmed. They have a strategic way of arranging their clothing without it feeling like you're at a rummage sale. Inspired by the likes of Anthropologie, the display windows are designed to perfection. I've never seen a thrift store put so much thought into their displays before. Not to mention the wood display inside the store was built by local artists Jessica and Jerry Birchfield using an innovative lab at Case. Greg Ernst of AODK Architects in Lakewood also contributed to the design and fabrication.

An awesome Instagram. I'm a sucker for a clean, simple and bright Instagram and Common Threads has just that.
    GIVEAWAY ENDED. Thanks for entering! Follow these instructions to enter the giveaway for a $15 gift certificate to Common Threads Thrift. There are lots of ways to win! Not all of the options below are mandatory, only one. However, the more you enter, the more chances you have to win. Two winners will be selected on Sunday July 31, 2016.