As women, one of our greatest collective fears seems to be the fear of growing older. I mean, be honest: When was the last time someone you know actually looked forward to their 30th birthday? I’m only 24 years old and yet I’ve already been told numerous times by others that I should be using anti-wrinkle creams, exercising diligently, etc. in order to hold onto my youth for as long as possible. In their words, “it’s all downhill from here.”

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There’s a jar sitting on my desk with dull pencils and writing pens branching different directions like flower stems. I grab one when I want to write, sometimes in the early morning before a long day in the office or late at night when everyone is sleeping. This simple glass holds my growing boldness, proclaiming, “I am a writer.” For many this statement is arrogant because if anyone claims to be an artist in any way, they must hold court in concert halls across the globe, have their work housed in world-famous museums, or make the New York Times bestseller list.

I don’t retract or make apologies though— I am a writer— because of that, I am also an artist. Perhaps you are, too. If you want to declare yourself as one but feel uncertain, then here are three reasons why you should (even if you’ve never sold a painting).

Most of us have taken a look at our closet at some point in time and felt guilt about the amount of clothing we’ve accumulated. Most of us have also acknowledged the need to donate. While it seems easy to simply drop our clothing off at a Salvation Army or Goodwill, what many don’t know is how easily that can actually equate to throwing our clothing away.

Here are the facts about textile waste.

A Note From The Editor: We’re nearing the end of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and felt that this personal narrative, though one unique experience, helps to capture a sentiment we hope all women learn to embody just a little bit more: Perfection doesn’t equal satisfaction. Our bodies are miraculous, amazing, strong, and beautiful. Let’s love them as they are, and honor them in all the ways they can be.

One of the little details I love best about my life is that my parents still live in the house I grew up in. My room is practically untouched from the time I was a teenager, photographs and books stacked up on my desk from when I moved home my senior year of college. The box of sand dollars collected on the beaches of San Diego in 1995 are right where I left them, the magazine cut-outs of Broadway performers and Wendell Berry quotes from an early-200s O Magazine issue are still taped up to my walls and cabinet doors. The Beatles poster I got when I was 15 is torn and faded, but it still hangs to the side of my bed as a reminder of my classic rock roots.

My closet is also fairly unchanged.

When most people hear about Medellín, Colombia, they immediately think about Pablo Escobar and the infamously violent drug cartels that have shaped the country’s history. But when the California based company Richer-Poorer said they were gathering a bunch of “honest hustlers” (I’ll explain that term in a bit) to go down to Colombia with a travel company called El Camino Travel – of course, I was thrilled to be a part of it.

What set out to be a group of like-minded strangers coming together to meet their Colombian counterparts turned into a trip that left the 13 of us inspired, changed, and forever captivated by the city of Medellín. The following were three lasting impressions this amazing adventure gave me:

Winter can be a long, dark season, especially when you live in the land of endless snow. This time of year, it can be grey for weeks on end, the temperatures are sub-zero on a regular basis and the wind just cuts to the bone. It’s natural to look at this season as something to endure, a time of year to plow through and just barely survive, and hope against hope that our toes eventually warm up.

But no matter how often we give winter the cold shoulder in the hope that our disregard will eventually cause it to get the hint and stop dropping by, it continues to visit, year after year. So, you know what? I think it’s time for a new approach.

Stay on track with healthy eating habits and try these easy and delicious winter salads that are bursting with flavor, packed with nutrients, and will satisfy your hunger even on a cold winter’s day.

Below are Citrus & Fennel and Kale Winter salad recipes from PICNIC LAs Executive Chef, Alex Resnick. The newest team of Darling interns was recently welcomed with a brunch at PICNIC, and we’re excited to share a few bites that you can make at home, below!

In late January, Darling partnered with Lululemon to host an evening of gratitude and connection. During a time when many are adhering to New Year’s resolutions, we wanted to join in this trend by hosting an event that brought like-minded creatives together to encourage, uplift and validate one another. A small group of hand-picked influencers gathered to connect in conversation about small changes that can be made to promote happiness within and around us.

With spring break or summer vacation still weeks — maybe even months — away, chances are high that winter’s rain cloud could be casting just a little too much shade for your liking. How to bring back the sun? While we may not be able to control the weather or the hands of time, we can  control our attitude. And our immediate living and working environments play a major role in determining that.

Right now is the perfect time to add a little spring  to your stuff, and you don’t need to redecorate your entire home to do so. You actually only need four products, and we’re demonstrating which kinds of products below with help of Fab, our newly-discovered go-to for all things inspired, vibrant, and capturing that joie de vivre  we could all use a little more of.

This vibrant capital embodies quaint New England charm as a world-class city that’s filled with cultural neighborhoods, exciting museums and classic architecture.

Boston is a city filled with historic districts nestled beside modern skyscrapers; tourists and locals alike find themselves wandering through Boston Common, Faneuil Hall Marketplace and the cobblestone streets of the city’s oldest neighborhood in the North End.

Here’s how you, too, can enjoy some of the most beautiful sights Boston has to offer.

This year for me, less was more when it came to Fashion Week. In previous years, we have run all over town to every show at New York Fashion Week, and it is exhausting, and truthfully, it leaves my mind spinning. Our approach this year was to take on much less and really try to connect with what we were experiencing.

Below are five inspiring ideas from this year’s New York Fashion Week. The idea is to find something easy that the average woman can do to up her style game this year.

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With glossy magazines stocked at every supermarket checkout, the emergence of the digital supermodel (Gigi and Kendall), and trending hashtags like #fitspo devoted solely to fitness inspiration, it’s no surprise that women feel pressured to achieve what is portrayed as an ‘ideal’ body weight.

Prior to the days of social media, women were less likely to be constantly visually reminded of what society portrays as physically appealing. Today, unless you only follow your aunt Lucy and the account you made for your dog, your social media handles are likely bombarded with perfected selfies, inspirational hashtags and re-grams of perceived ideals.

A Note From The Editor: While in the past it hasn’t been our policy to promote Kickstarter campaigns on Darling, we’ve been receiving so many amazing and inspiring product pitches that we’ve decided to open the door for submissions and will be selecting a few campaigns to feature every quarter! If you have an upcoming Kickstarter campaign that you’d like to submit for our spring selection (March – May) please send an email to blog@darlingmagazine.org with “Kickstarter Submission” in the subject line.

Every woman has a story. But sometimes, she just needs a little help in telling it. Verity Vareé is making it their aim to do just that with their upcoming publication, Verity Vareé~A True Beauty Collective. Publishing stories of real women in their real expressions of beauty, we couldn’t help but feel inspired by what Verity Vareé is doing in their Kickstarter, below. We know you’ll feel the same.

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Books have the power to make you laugh, cry or even scream (Gone Girl, we’re looking at you!). Sometimes, you might even come across one that completely rocks your world and inspires you to make a positive change in your life. Whether you’re in need of motivation to work on a creative project or embark on a health journey, these 10 books will inspire you to make 2016 a year full of growth, success and happiness:

I have always been a dog lover. My parents had a cockapoo when I was born, and when I was in first grade, we got two darling cocker spaniels named Jake and Molly. They each had their own distinct personalities—Jake was a mischief-maker who loved to cuddle and steal snacks from anywhere he could find them, while Molly was more of a pensive pup who liked to keep her distance but loved us all the same. They were so much fun, and they defined the childhood memories that my brother and I share.

It wasn’t until my mid-twenties, though, when I realized the difference between growing up with a pet and raising a pet to call your own.

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Tricky health information is all around us, yet rather than toss up our hands in defeat, we’re taking things step-by-step with help from our favorites over at Chalkboard Mag. Below they’re sharing about salt, the good, the bad and the pink. Keep reading for more! 

It’s no secret, salt has a bad rep. Processed bleached salt does contribute to the physical imbalances and issues that have fueled a salt backlash over the past couple of decades, but natural salt, in it’s completely raw state, is a horse of a different color. Unrefined salt is a vital source of trace minerals that can provide some serious health benefits.

This post is brought to you by Bertolli. Don’t just eat, Mangia!

The weekend is creeping to a close, and you’re already wishing Monday wasn’t a mere 24 hours away. Wouldn’t it be great if the slow steadiness of Sunday didn’t have to be eclipsed by a looming workday? If we could have something to savor on this special day, something that we could look forward to, relish in and that — beyond all — was easy to implement?

We’ve got you. Bertolli does too. We’re making a case for bringing back the “Sunday Supper,” a dedicated stretch of time where you gather ’round good food and good people and Mangia! like the Italians do. By using Bertolli’s super-simple skillet meals combined with a few finishing touches, we’re walking you through the art of curating your own Sunday supper and revealing why we think this ritual deserves a comeback, below.

As much as we all want to be confident, self-assured women, there’s a nagging little voice inside our head that tries to tell us we can’t be — that we’re inadequate, we’re weak, we’re unworthy. It’s one thing to be aware of our shortcomings, but quite another to be self-critical and demeaning toward ourselves because of them.

When we notice our thoughts becoming less than kind and supportive toward ourselves, though, what can we do? How do we banish self-doubt and manifest the strong women that we are?

Before I was born, my parents went on their first African safari. Growing up, I heard stories of their experience and looked at pictures of lions and giraffes and zebras. I listened in amazement as my dad described their off-road adventures, and I’ve wanted to go on my own safari ever since.

Recently, my husband and I were given that unforgettable experience by Gondwana Game Reserve in South Africa. In spite of my parent’s stories, nothing prepared me for experiencing a safari first-hand. Oh, I can tell you the trip was glorious and predictably out-of-this world. But there were a few unpredictable discoveries that I also made on my first safari.

I often wonder if my marriage will be the death of me. I say this without sarcasm or angst, and I mean this both literally and figuratively. As the caregiver for a disabled spouse, my life will no doubt be shortened due to the inherent physical and emotional strain. And my marriage, like every commitment birthed of true, unstoppable goodwill toward someone else, has meant an end to part of the life I dreamed for myself, a death of the future Me I always thought I would be.

Admittedly, this isn’t what’s sung about in most love songs. But perhaps we need to start writing some new ones.

A Note From The Editor: If you’re headed anywhere fun for the long weekend, FabFitFun is at the ready to share their airport advice should snow, rain or sleet slow you down. For more travel, health and wellness articles, be sure to pay a visit to their magazine, too! 

What to do during a dreaded layover? It seems that airports around the world are taking note of our need to fill those hours with more than just searching for outlets to charge our phones and eating mediocre food. From sleeping pods to yoga rooms, take note of these fun activities the next time you’re stranded.

She saunters into the half-light, her emerald dress sashaying with each brush of the snare, unknowingly. His eyes quietly follow her path, carefully shaded away in his corner booth. Palms balmy with nerves, his body suddenly feels like a sinking anchor as her figure becomes smaller with distance.

But as magic moments would have it, she suddenly feels his draw, like a warm electric current in her chest. She turns in time with the song, heart thumping on cue. He rises from the safety of that worn leather barricade, surfacing with the voltage. This is their meet-cute, their story for the ages.

Inspired by a dedicated young woman who put herself through school despite the great tragedies she had faced in her youth, Devon Ogden founded Safi Life to help other girls in Rwanda to do the same.

This non-profit organization works with donors to present scholarships to help women cover the costs of attending college. Furthermore, scholarship recipients also participate in mentorship and fellowship programs in their own communities so that they can give back and inspire others to follow in their footsteps. We were fortunate enough to talk to Safi Life’s Outreach Coordinator, Jessica Davis, about the life-changing impact that Safi Life is making.

Here’s the challenge: This Valentine’s day, celebrate yourself.

I’ve realized that I’m happiest when I am trusting my gut. Loving who I was created to be. Taking risks. Just doing me.

This seems to be the theme for our blog, The Refined Woman, this year too.  We are done playing it safe. We are ready to step into bigger and better — even if it scares us.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we begin to see the grocery store aisles fill with brightly colored candy and mass-produced chocolate. As if nothing says “I Love You” like a Kit Kat.

Some may shy away from the “Hallmark” holiday, but Valentine’s Day actually happens to be one of my favorites; sometimes we need a little reminder to celebrate our loved ones! There’s no law that says you have to purchase anything; it can still be meaningful and romantic regardless of the way you decide to celebrate.

Whether you’re a newlywed, dating, or a family with children, take the opportunity to create a family tradition… just spend a little extra time to make it special and unique.

For those of us who feel the tug toward words and books, toward verse and ink on the page, writing may feel like second nature, like a gift. For many of us, it even feels like a lifeline—a way to uncoil our thoughts, understand our existence and connect to our truest selves.

But after our years of school end, how do we continue to grow as writers? How do we invest in this passion? Is it even worth it? If we aren’t going to write a best-seller or even make money writing, can we justify giving the craft more time and expense?

Three-and-a-half hours north of Los Angeles, the Happiest City in America — dubbed so by The Oprah Winfrey Show in January 2011 — is tucked away on California’s Central Coast, with sprawling Pacific coastline to the south and rolling green hills to the north. This eclectic town, with a population just under 50,000, is made up of a variation of folks, including long-time locals, families, retirees, young professionals and Cal Poly SLO and Cuesta college students.

“I’m not smart,” she said, her eyes wide with pain.

I never get used to the heartbreaking words I often hear from the little brown couch in my counseling office. Labels can be difficult to peel off once they stick. We wear beliefs about ourselves like tattoos – messages about who we are that have become a part of our identity.

Intelligence is no exception. Somehow “smart” has become something that we either are or are not. It’s easy to understand how our perspective has been shaped the way it has. After all, most schools and many workplaces tend to measure and celebrate a very specific kind of intelligence. Not all of us have been given a safe place to display our particular brand of “smart.”

A Note From The Editor: In Darling Issue No. 10 we announced our partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM), specifically partnering with their work to eradicate sex trafficking in the Dominican Republic. We’re excited to introduce the sixth in a series of update posts, taking you along and behind-the-scenes for a deeper look at how exactly that is being accomplished. Today we’re reviewing the past year of support with IJM and what they hope to see for the year ahead.

The work of justice would not be possible without people who believe in its worth. At IJM, we’re so grateful for our partnership with Darling Magazine, and for the Darling readers who have been following our updates and walking with us as we collectively seek to bring an end to modern day slavery and human trafficking. Darling’s support of the IJM office in the Dominican Republic—a country where 1 in 10 victims of commercial sexual exploitation are children—has meant freedom and a new life for so many.