Archives June 2021

Fashion to Figure: Our New Favorite Plus-Size Brand

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By now, we’ve established that shopping for plus-size clothes is no easy feat. Whether it’s because pieces are ill-fitting or just not cute, it’s hard to find a brand that nails it time and time again—but I’m here to announce that I’ve finally found one: Fashion to Figure.

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I met Fashion to Figure when I was about 19 years old. Truthfully, I was looking for summer internships for my freshman year summer, and they popped up in my research. I was ecstatic at the idea of interning for a company that focused on plus-size women and had fashion that didn’t make them look frumpy, age them up unnecessarily, or only put them in floral patterns. (I didn’t get the internship, but I did get a lot of cute clothes in one of their sales! How’s that for looking on the bright side?).

Fast forward: Here I am, years later, as an avid fan of this brand. They don’t know, but I’ve been watching them grow and get better and better every year—so much so that I just can’t keep quiet any longer. Here’s why I love them:

  • Their size 0 is an XL
  • They have everything from clothes to swimwear to shoes
  • They regularly collab with my favorite plus-size influencers
  • Their styles are constantly evolving and always on trend

Have I convinced you yet? If not, check out some of the pieces I have my eye on:  

Pro tip: If you like something you see, buy it now! Their cutest items tend to sell out quickly! 

 

Fashion to Figure

La’Tecia Thomas Floral Midi Dress

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Fashion to Figure

Asymmetrical Hem Top

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Fashion to Figure

Tropical Print Tie Front Top

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Fashion to Figure

Tropical Print Joggers

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Fashion to Figure

Drawstring Peplum Tank

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Fashion to Figure

Strapless Handkerchief Top

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Fashion to Figure

Off-Shoulder Jumpsuit

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Fashion to Figure

Harem Jumper

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Fashion to Figure

Lace Hemmed Satin Blouse

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Fashion to Figure

Halter Maxi Dress

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Fashion to Figure

Leopard Print Puff Sleeve Top

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Fashion to Figure

Drawstring Top

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Fashion to Figure

Wide Leg Pants

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Fashion to Figure

Double Drawstring Shirt

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Fashion to Figure

Light Wash Jeans

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Fashion to Figure

Ruched Faux Leather Skirt

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Fashion to Figure

Double Tie Front Dress

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Fashion to Figure

Sleeveless Mini Dress

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How to Deal With ‘Playground Bullies’ Who Are All Grown Up

Three posh women crossing a New York Street as they look over their shoulders and back at the camera

I remember the shock when I heard my son had been shoved against the concrete wall in the school hallway. I can feel the tension in my chest now as I picture him in that hall. A teacher nearby swooped in and grabbed the bully. My son, shaken and injured, seemed to be able to work through it well, in part, because the boy got caught. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the reality with kids, and definitely not with adults. In the hallways and on the metaphorical playground of adulthood, bullies far too often go unnamed and unchecked. Adult bullies don’t play by the rules, and there is no teacher to yank them to the principal’s office.

Adult bullies don’t play by the rules, and there is no teacher to yank them to the principal’s office.

When we were children, we may have been told that bullies would grow out of their bullying ways, but that expectation can be misleading. Adults can be bullies too. But just like in childhood, the more they are named and exposed, the less power they have.

Bullies don’t grow up necessarily. They can simply just change form. Things are often more obvious on the playground when you are a child. However, as adults, things are often much more confusing, and the bullying is much more complex. It is not always obvious, at least at first, who the bullies are.

A person you thought was a friend or at least hoped would be, may turn on you. Sometimes, bullies are even nice to everyone except you. Bullying can be done in a nice tone and by “nice people.” Nothing is as pronounced in adulthood as it was when we are kids so we have to know what to look for.

Bullying can be done in a nice tone and by “nice people.”

As a therapist, I often tell my clients to trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t. Trust yourself, and don’t get hung up on labels. People will debate whether or not something is truly bullying, but that matters infinitely less than you recognizing that something feels wrong and acting accordingly. 

Bullying can look like repeated insults by a colleague at work or like a manager abusing power. Bullying can look like a boyfriend mocking and belittling his girlfriend. Bullying can look like harassing someone online. Bullying can come in the form of insensitive remarks. Bullying can look like refusing to open your social circle to allow someone in. Bullying can also look like mocking someone’s vulnerability. 

More than anything, bullying thrives in isolation. Because when victims are isolated, in a relationship or situation, they are much more likely to doubt themselves and to feel powerless.

Bullying thrives in isolation.

When I was in graduate school for counseling, I sat across from my favorite professor in his tiny office. He had a big beard and grey hair, and the wisdom to match. I wrung my hands and described to him in tears how one of my childhood friends (whose behavior I would now identify as bullying), whom I had not seen in years, had sent me the most hate-filled letter I had ever received.

I anxiously asked him how I should respond. He looked at me with compassion and said simply: “You don’t have to respond.” Refusing to engage with this bully was response enough.

Not all situations are so simple. Adult bullies have illegitimate power that has been stolen. Their strength is illegitimate strength. Just like a parasitic plant, they steal life. 

Adult bullies have illegitimate power that has been stolen. Their strength is illegitimate strength.

The difference in adulthood bullying is that no one else is coming. We are the teachers now—yanking the bully to the principal’s office in our own lives and in the lives of each other. As adults, we must learn to know our power and stand together. Our playground is more complex now, but the same wisdom we would tell kids holds true for us now. 

Tell someone.

If you were to do research about bullying, one of the first recommendations you’ll find is to tell someone. Since bullying can include confusing nuances, a witness to the behavior helps the person being bullied stop doubting their own experience. This also helps shine a light on what is happening.

Expose them.

Bullies can’t live in full exposure. They thrive in anonymity, secrecy and a lack of accountability. Too often, bullies are left unchecked. Learn to expose bullies. Naming them and naming the behavior is imperative.

Bullies can’t live in full exposure. They thrive in anonymity, secrecy and a lack of accountability.

Refuse them.

Refuse to engage with them or actively push back. Either way, remember a bully’s power is illegitimate, and taking that power back is an important step.

Get help; gather together.

In childhood, this may look like your friends backing you up on the playground. However, in adulthood it looks like gathering people, aka your best friend, someone in HR or your faith community. A person who is being bullied needs other people to create a swell of support to push back. Fight back in numbers. Ask for help, and offer that same help for others.

Recently, I sat with a friend as we read out loud the thinly veiled racist responses to her social media post. The comments were uninvited and slimy. I felt the tension in my chest again as we read. I sat with her as she read what another friend of ours said, with her permission, in order to push back on the commenters. My friend pushed back on them, and I did too. We actively refused them together.

Don’t be a bystander; we need each other.

If we witness bullying, it is important to refuse to tolerate it, refuse to look away and refuse to be inactive. I wonder what would happen if all the smaller occurrences of bullying that grow into larger issues were not tolerated. Bullying is a gateway for all kinds of hatred. It is our responsibility not to be complicit by looking away.

Bullying is a gateway for all kinds of hatred. It is our responsibility not to be complicit by looking away.

We are no longer children. There is no teacher coming, and things aren’t always so clear. However, bullies cannot continue when their behavior is exposed, when the truth is told and when we gather together against them.

We are the ones monitoring the hallways now.

Have you ever encountered an adult version of a bully? How have you learned to speak up for yourself and others in the face of bullying?

Image via Aki Akiwumi, Darling Issue No. 20

How to Celebrate When You Are Feeling the Birthday Blues 

A closeup photo of an ice cream cone swirl

At the beginning of the pandemic, two weeks after much of the world shut down, I celebrated my 22 birthday at home with my family. My mom cooked my favorite meal. We played a board game at the kitchen table. In the evening, we went for a walk around our neighborhood like many other families desperate for a breath of fresh air.

Throughout the day, I fought against feelings of sadness and loneliness. Even though it was my birthday.

Perhaps you also experienced a subdued birthday celebration this year and find yourself relating to that strange melancholy emotion that accompanies a quiet birthday. Although a low-key celebration is a small sacrifice to make in the midst of a pandemic, the “birthday blues” deserves our attention nevertheless. The urge to seek out life and joy in the midst of hard times is a part of what makes us human.

The urge to seek out life and joy in the midst of hard times is a part of what makes us human.

There are also many other circumstances that can impact how we feel about our birthdays. Perhaps by the stage of life you are in, you assumed that a relationship, a stable career or a family would be within your reach. Maybe your birthday falls near a big holiday, like Christmas, and it causes you to feel overlooked each year. Perhaps, you are feeling lonely or like you do not have a community to celebrate your birthday with.

In the midst of an uncertain, life-altering year, the quietness and simplicity of my birthday seemed to teach me more about the years behind and the years ahead than a big birthday bash surrounded by friends and loud music ever could. 

Here are a few of the things I discovered about the feelings of “the birthday blues:”

Lean into loved ones.

Oftentimes, my instincts tell me to isolate whenever I feel hurt or frustrated. Opening up to a close friend or family member might be the last thing you want to do when feeling down on your birthday. However, just as we came into this world through and beside other people, we also walk through our lives in community. 

The pandemic has certainly allowed me to hone in on my tribe—the people I love and experience life with on a daily basis. This year, I discovered the sweetness in celebrating my birthday with only the people closest to me. I learned to focus on quality over quantity—large groups, extravagant celebrations and shiny Instagram posts.

I learned to focus on quality over quantity—large groups, extravagant celebration and shiny Instagram posts.

Whether an hour-long Facetime call with friends far away or an intimate dinner with a few family members, one remedy to the birthday blues might be enhancing the time and space we spend with loved ones on our birthdays.

Reflect on the past year.   

Our birthdays often come and go without us giving much thought to how this year fits in with the rest of our lives. Devote some time on or around your birthday to acknowledge the highs, the lows and everything in between from the past year. Write about it in a journal, discuss it with a friend or think it over on a long walk.

Some prompts to consider are: What were some of my favorite moments from the past year? What were some of the hardest moments? What, if anything, would I like to change about this year? What are my dreams for this upcoming year?

Thoughtfully consider any texts, letters or kind words. For many of us, receiving an onslaught of “Happy birthday!” texts can feel like the mark of birthday success. In the age of social media likes and comments, it can be tempting to measure our worth based on the number of birthday texts or social media comments we receive.

It can be tempting to measure our worth based on the number of birthday texts or social media comments we receive.

One way to push back on this is to spend time reflecting on and responding to birthday texts, notes and social media shout-outs. If you tend to skim the card from your great aunt who you only see once every five years, then this year take some time to appreciate it. You might be surprised at how meaningful you find her words to be when you take the time to really consider them. 

Be kind to yourself.

Here is the bottom line: your life is worth celebrating. No missed milestone in life or forgotten birthday wish should tell you otherwise.

The birthday blues might be here today, but it lacks the power to define the other 364 days in the year. Another year is ahead of you—a year to fall and get up again, a year to laugh and cry, a year to discover more and more about this messy thing we call life.

This day is just the beginning.

Have you ever experienced the birthday blues? How can we choose joy and gratitude on our birthdays?

Image via Dana Hursey, Darling Issue No. 15

15 Easy Recipes to Bring to Your BBQ






Source: Easy Peazy Mealz

This weekend, we’re ready to relax with our favorite drink in hand and celebrate America in the best way possible—with a classic BBQ. Whether this idea gives you anxiety or makes you want to frantically call your mom for help (because she actually has the solution to everything), take a look at our collection of fun and easy BBQ recipes. Cheers!

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1. Grilled Corn on the Cob





Source: Foodie Crush

 

 

2. Tomato Avocado Salad





Source: Gimme Delicious Food

 

 

3. Fruit and Cream Cheese Sandwiches





Source: Family Food on the Table

 

 

4.  Peach Salsa





Source: Two Peas & Their Pod

 

5. Raspberry Chipotle BBQ Ribs





Source: The Foodie Crush

 

 

6. Cauliflower Mac N’ Chicken Casserole





Source: Fit Foodie Finds

 

 

7. Summer Strawberry Spinach Salad With Avocado





Source: Ambitious Kitchen

 

8. Blackened Salmon Burgers with Herbed Cream Cheese





Source: Half Baked Harvest

 

 

9. Italian Antipasto Tortellini Pasta Salad





Source: My Food Story

 

 

10. Korean Chicken Kabobs





Source: Chungah Rhee | Damn Delicious

 

11. Jalapeño Popper Cornbread Muffins





Source: Sweet Peas and Saffron

 

 

12. Campfire Cones





Source: Eazy Peazy Mealz

 

 

13. Honey Butter Stone Fruit and Blackberry Meringue Tart





Source: Half Baked Harvest

 

 

14. S’more Rice Krispies





Source: What’s Gaby Cooking

 

15. Minty Strawberry Coconut Molk Popsicles





Source: Foolproof Living

 

 

Darling Letters: The Freedom Found in Embracing the Grey

A gray image of an ocean shore

We are bringing “Darling Letters” from your inbox to the blog! We love the art of letter writing and believe it helps build authentic community. Our editors and contributors have thoughtfully written encouraging letters to cut through the busyness and speak straight to your heart.

Four summers ago, a friend and I sat on a dock, staring at the stars and pondering life. We talked about the differences in how we thinkhow she thinks in the grey whereas I think in black and white. Since then, my way of thinking has been turned on its head, and I now see the beauty of life in the grey.

I now see the beauty of life in the grey.

This past year held more paradoxes than I could have imagined. A year of deep sadness and grief, laughter and fun, anger and examination, adventure and renewal, shame and fear, curiosity and growth. I felt more confused than ever before. Yet, somehow I came to a place of grounded confidence that I didn’t know was possible.

Areas of grey can be intimidating because there is no control there. We have to actually see people as dynamic human beings rather than separating them into neat, little categories. Some people might describe this as holding a tension of opposites. I experienced it as a freedom washing over me like a wavesometimes so powerful I couldn’t stand and sometimes so calm that all I could do was sit and breathe everything in. 

Releasing the tension of paradox and embracing the grey leads to both radical acceptance and gratitude. There is beauty in recognizing how unique experiences and even opposites can coexist.

Releasing the tension of paradox and embracing the grey leads to both radical acceptance and gratitude.

With resolve,
Emma Dixon, the Darling family

Do you tend to see life and people in black and white? What is the value in learning to hold space for paradox?

Image via Raisa Zwart Photography

Letters to My Younger Self: The 25-Year-Old Who’s Setting Sail for the First Time

Three paddles leaned against an old wooden cabinet

“Letters to My Younger Self” is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger selves.

Dear 25-year-old me,

Your world is about to turn upside down in the best way possible. Don’t worry. You won’t be alone. Take a deep breath, and read on. 

You’re moving to New York City this week! Newly single, newly sober and with no clue how you’ll land on your own two feet. But you booked that one-way ticket. I’m so proud of you! You’ll never be the same. 

But you booked that one way ticket. I’m so proud of you!

This leap of faith will be a touchstone for you in the years to come, reminding you of the great reward that follows great risk. I know it feels irresponsible, almost selfish, to make this move. However, you’ll learn to see this as an investment—both in yourself and the countless others you’ll meet along the adventure. 

You’re starting to wonder if everything your sister told you about God is true. You’re clutching tightly to the handwritten map of the five boroughs. You’re about to fall in love with the world all over again. 

NYC will romance you. Her architecture, modern and old world, will excite you. Her city-dwellers, children and grownups, will teach you. Her parks, lively and quiet, will inspire you. 

Right now, all you see is the unknown. You’re trying to navigate the uncharted waters of your future, ping-ponging between every emotion. I know you’re afraid that you’ll lose your kindness in the hustle and bustle of city life. With intentionality, you’ll grow rich in compassion, learning to love others as you are loved in community. 

Right now, all you see is the unknown. You’re trying to navigate the uncharted waters of your future.

I know you’re afraid that your creativity will dwindle without drinking and partying. With trust, you’ll become a stronger artist, liberated from the heaviness of addiction. 

I know you’re afraid that you’ll miss your “person” by being single in your mid-20s. With faith, you’ll lean into the freedom of flying solo and find your groove. And you will marry a wonderful man who waited for you, too. 

Yes, it will be challenging, too, as evolving can and should be. Your expectations will be interrupted by the colorful, messy reality of life, again and again. Every belief you swear by will be tested until what is gold remains.

Friendships will change. People will surprise you in the best ways and in the worst ways, too. However, with each relationship, each success, each failure and each risk, you will grow stronger. Trust me, I’m living proof.

Your expectations will be interrupted by the colorful, messy reality of life, again and again.

Here I am, writing this letter on the other side of an adventure you’ll take later on: Marriage. Another exciting, challenging, rewarding voyage into the unknown. Except this time, we’re not alone. Everything you’re doing and feeling now will lead you here. 

A little note on writing letters: your words are powerful. To your great surprise and merriment, you’ll end up in places with people you never thought you’d meet. Write them letters just for joy; expect nothing in return.

But remember: You are not beneath them, nor are you above them. Don’t write, or do anything for that matter, to be seen. Get in the habit of being kind for kindness’ sake. 

A related little note: you are worth investing in. Stop picking up furniture off the street. Stop cutting corners and putting yourself last. I wish we would stop doing that even now. Let people invest in you, too. You are not trash.

You are a daughter. That will take some time to sink in, but let it. Let love sink in. 

Get in the habit of being kind for kindness’ sake. 

From where I’m standing, I can see now that there was no other way forward than to let faith set your course. So lift up your sails and let faith launch you into the great unknown.

Cheering you on,
Your Biggest Fan 

P.S. Keep writing.

How do you feel when you were beginning a new journey or embarking on a new path when you were younger? What advice would you give to your younger self?

Image via Sheri Giblin, Darling Issue No. 13

Here I Go Again: How To Stop Self-Sabotaging

A woman looking down as she walks with her hands in her pockets

We all have an image of what our ideal life looks like: successful, purpose-driven, balanced, content. So what’s preventing us from fulfilling that vision?

Well, if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer most likely will be: ourselves. We know what’s good for us and what we need to do to reach our goals, but oftentimes, self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors prevent us from stepping out toward that vision.   

Self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors prevent us from stepping out toward that vision.   

Some forms of self-sabotage are obvious, such as declining opportunities outside of one’s comfort zone or shortchanging relationships. Meanwhile, others are more subtle, such as procrastinating on projects or making little excuses for our shortcomings. 

For me, self-sabotage has recently manifested itself as fear of the future. After experiencing constant change and loss during the pandemic, I’ve been feeling as though I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. This in turn has prevented me from appreciating all the beautiful blessings and happiness of the present moment and from fulfilling the vision I had for this season. 

According to my friend Britt Van Asbach, a mental health worker based in Wisconsin, the good thing about being able to recognize self-sabotaging in our lives is that it enables us to work to overcome it. No matter what self-sabotaging behavior we’re dealing with, acknowledging the incongruence between our goals and actions is the first step toward breaking the pattern.  

The good thing about being able to recognize self-sabotaging in our lives is that it enables us to work to overcome it.

Once we do acknowledge the issue, there are a few steps that we can take to transform our habits: 

1. Define the root cause.

Perhaps we’re afraid of the expectations other people have of us or we do not dare to dream for fear of being disappointed.  Whatever we might be experiencing, unless we understand what’s driving our self-sabotaging behavior, we’ll never be able to cultivate alternative habits or thought patterns to fill that void. 

Unless we understand what’s driving our self-sabotaging behavior, we’ll never be able to cultivate alternative habits or thought patterns to fill that void. 

2. Get support.

It is also important to not isolate. Find friends and mentors to talk with about your weaknesses, strengths and goals. This will provide you with both accountability and support. 

3. Engage in wellness activities.

It can also be helpful to do activities that switch your thoughts from self-sabotaging behaviors to positive things. This could be as simple as spending time in nature, cuddling a pet, seeing friends or volunteering. 

Last but not least, we must remember who we are. “We must know that even if we fail, our failures don’t define us,” Van Asbach writes. “We can fail at our goals over and over again; what’s important is that we pick ourselves back up and continue striving.”

Do you have any self-sabotaging habits? What emotions compel you toward that habit? How can you confront those feelings head on?

Image via Jack Belli, Darling Issue No. 17

Grab Your Popcorn: 7 New Netflix Releases We Can’t Wait To Watch






Source: Netflix

Three words, 12 letters, say it and I’m yours: new on Netflix. My affinity for falling head over heels for a brand-new series or film started long before the birth of the streaming service as we know it. Instead, it is deep rooted in my childhood-based Friday trips to Blockbuster. Choosing amongst what seemed like 3.2 billion titles, narrowing my decision down to one, and snagging a strawberry Ring Pop at checkout was the pregame. Snuggling up with my favorite tie blanket, popping the VHS tape into our dusty Panasonic VCR, and watching a new (probably very mediocre) flick was the main event.

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Blockbuster may be dead, but my love for compellingly fresh shows, thrilling new movies, and a worry-free Friday night on my couch remains alive and well. Saying “hello” to another month means welcoming new-on-Netflix arrivals and honey, you’re going to want to grab your popcorn for these guys:

 

New and Ready to Stream

 

1. Fatherhood 

We love a Kevin Hart moment, and Fatherhood is no exception. In this new Netflix film that was released on Father’s Day, Hart plays a widowed father who is trying to navigate the highs and lows of fatherhood after the death of his wife. Despite the subtle humor, this is one of Hart’s more serious roles, and one that he absolutely nailed at that. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be happy that you pressed play.

 

2. Good on Paper

As soon as I saw Iliza Shlesinger on my Netflix home page, I just about fainted. I’m already a big fan of her stand-up comedy features so my hopes for this film were automatically through the roof. In this rom com, Shlesinger plays Andrea Singer, a stand-up comic (fitting) who, after years of putting her career first, leans into love. We’re always down for a lower-stakes romantic comedy, and this one checks off all of our boxes.

 

3. Sisters on Track

Documentary fans, unite! Sisters on Track is one of Netflix’s newest heartfelt documentaries and one that should be at the top of your “to watch” list. This coming-of-age story follows Tai, Rainn, and Brooke, three sisters who are training for the Junior Track Olympics while dealing with the struggles of living in a homeless shelter with their single mother, Tonia. It’s a tender, inspirational film that is more than worth the watch.

 

4. Sex/Life

This new steamy drama series looks messy AF and we are here for it. It might not be the most wholesome or heartfelt feature on the block but, honestly, that’s the appeal of it. Sex/Life tells the tale of a middle-aged, married woman and mother who essentially has a midlife crisis and wonders what happened to the full-of-life, living-on-the edge person that she used to be. Enter a mysterious, devilishly handsome bad boy from her past that further tempts her, and you’ve got a sexy trainwreck that you just can’t look away from.

 

Coming Soon

 

5. Never Have I Ever, Season 2

Release date: July 15

One of our favorite coming-of-age comedies is almost back and we are counting down the days until Devi, Paxton, and Ben are on our screens once again. When we left Devi at the end of season one, she was deciding between team Paxton and team Ben and, while the rest of us bickered back and forth between the two, it seems like Devi has come to a decision—or lack thereof. Based on the trailer, it looks like she’ll attempt to date them both at once… what could go wrong?

 

6. Outer Banks, Season 2

Release date: July 30

John B., we love your work! Our beloved quarantine binge-watch is back and better than ever and we are so ready to return to Pogue life. The first season finale left us with the ultimate cliffhanger and so many questions. Did John B. and Sarah make it to shore? What happened to the gold? Why does Mr. Cameron suck so much? Will JJ and Kiara ever link up? We have this one marked in our calendars and we will be binge watching the entire second season in one sitting. 

 

7. Virgin River, Season 3 

Release date: July 9

Virgin River fans, rejoice! The third season is fast approaching and we have our popcorn and remote ready to stream it in record time. The twisty, tear-jerking ending of season two left us wondering what lies ahead for our favorite characters and while we wait for our answers, we welcome all of the romance, beautiful scenery, and log cabin vibes back into our lives and our living rooms.

 

8. Atypical, Season 4

Release date: July 9

Oh Atypical, how we’ve missed you. After three seasons of brilliant, heartfelt comedy, drama, quirkiness, and inspiration, Atypical is back for a fourth (and final) season. As Sam works to better express love to those around him and live independently as a person with Autism, he tackles new beginnings, grapples with the idea of life after college, and learns how to follow his own heart.

 

9. Audible

Release date: July 8

Netflix is releasing yet another documentary film and this one looks absolutely incredible. Audible highlights the life of Amaree McKenstry, a deaf high school football player who is coping with the death of a friend, dealing with familial and socioeconomic challenges, and training for his final homecoming game. The trailer alone was wildly inspirational so I can only imagine what emotions the full-length feature will make me feel.

 

Darling Letters: On Embracing the Art of the Pivot

A woman wearing sunglasses looking over her shoulder

We are bringing “Darling Letters” from your inbox to the blog! We love the art of letter writing and believe it helps build authentic community. Our editors and contributors have thoughtfully written encouraging letters to cut through the busyness and speak straight to your heart.

If you asked me in February 2020 where I’d be during the spring of my junior year of college, the response would have been easy: London. Since freshman year, studying abroad had always been in my plans. Weekend trips to Paris, studying in cozy British cafés and seeing the world in a whole new lightthis was the dream. 

Now, nearly a year and a half later, I’m not in London. Instead, I’m writing this in Hermosa Beach, CA, a city I never thought I’d visit, much less live in for four months. But plans change. 

At the onset of the pandemic, we were forced to adapt. Whether it was switching to online learning, working remotely or re-learning how to share space with our families, we all had to adjust in some way. We didn’t just pivot our daily routines, we also had to make changes to major life events like weddings, graduations and even funeral ceremonies. When the pandemic hit, we didn’t have a choice in how we would respond. We had to learn to adapt.

We didn’t have a choice in how we would respond. We had to learn to adapt.

However challenging this past year has been, we learned how to pivot. 2020 taught us to mark our calendars in pencil and to hold our plans with loose hands. While postponing trips and celebrations of milestones wasn’t fun, we learned that life doesn’t always go according to planand that’s OK. This newfound perspective is invaluable.

Let’s embrace the art of the pivot and relinquish control. We can move forward from 2020 knowing that our abilities to adapt have forever been enhanced. We can move forward with courage when life doesn’t go as planned. Never again will we underestimate our ability to adjust to circumstances, no matter how daunting they may seem.

Let’s embrace the art of the pivot and relinquish control.

Olivia Novato, the Darling family

What changes did you have to make in your daily routine last year? How did you process the many changes brought on by the pandemic?

Image via Alyssa Bush

Why Self-Awareness Is Important When Traveling In Groups

A woman waving her hand as if to hail a cab

On one uncommonly sunny and warm day in Portland, my friend and I, driving back from a day on the river with freshly sun-kissed skin, were talking about some of our favorite trips we took that year, both together and with others. We realized the most enjoyable trips were the ones we experienced with friends who knew themselves well enough to voice their preferences and were able to adapt to the unexpected.

This sparked the topic of self-awareness when traveling with others and how a fun trip can take a turn for the worst when someone in the group is unaware of how their words or actions affect those they are traveling with.

A fun trip can take a turn for the worst when someone in the group is unaware of how their words or actions affect those they are traveling with.

In my experience when traveling with family and friends, whether it is a quick day trip, a week’s long road trip or flying to a different country, it is crucial to know the type of traveler you are and what type of traveler others you are traveling with are. This can determine how the trip pans out and is remembered.

I have witnessed people, including myself, attempt to warp into types of travelers they are not—whether they are intricate planners trying to be easy-going or someone who has a go with flow mindset trying to make set plans. Neither scenario ends well, and there is often a tipping point where fiery words are said, awkward silences sit for longer than anyone wants them to and passive aggressive comments are muttered under one’s breath. These situations take away from the amazement and joy of visiting beautiful places for the first time.

It took me a few years and dozens of trips to learn what type of traveler I am and the types of people I prefer to travel with. There are two characteristics that I believe create the most fun experiences when traveling with any group of people. The first is having the courage to learn about the type of traveler you are (and those you are traveling with are) and owning it. The second is having the willingness to adapt because plans rarely play out exactly as intended.

Traveling with friends who made itineraries for trips but who were also open to spontaneity, sparked excitement and anticipation. Traveling with friends who simply show up and go with the plan, yet are willing to participate in decision-making, helped the day move forward at a relaxed pace.

A large part of self-awareness when traveling is accepting who you are and who others are—both as travelers and as human beings who move through life differently. A substantial aspect of life is adapting to the unexpected and traveling is no different.

A substantial aspect of life is adapting to the unexpected and traveling is no different.

Through self-awareness and adaptability, there is little to distract from the feeling of awe when seeing the beauty of the Pacific Coast for the first time, experiencing the taste of an authentic churro in Madrid or admiring mountains that look painted on the sky in Glacier National Park. There are many experiences to have, foods to taste and cultures to learn about. Self-awareness and adaptability only enhance the wonder in traveling.

What type of friends do you prefer to travel with? What has travel taught you about yourself?

Image via Sarah Kehoe, Darling Issue No. 15