A few weeks ago Darling hosted our second creative retreat in the idyllic Ojai, California, which is about 30 miles east of Santa Barbara. Our retreat destination was a charmingly rustic farmhouse on a 52 acre walnut farm nestled in the hills of Ojai, surrounded by sun-splattered golden hills, winding mountain roads, and pastures of cows grazing under the warm sun. The setting was perfect for what the weekend would hold: Delicious meals, meaningful conversations, inspiring workshops, and moments of personal enlightenment.

The group of women present was diverse in background, profession, age, and season of life, but stood united in the pursuit of awakening inspiration within themselves as well as seeking connection with each other.

Upon arrival, the women were welcomed into the farmhouse that would be their home for the next four days. We ushered in the festivities of the weekend with cocktail hour and an incredible dinner by Kara Elise of pulled pork lettuce wraps, slaw, simple green salad with honey vinaigrette, and grilled bread with grapes and ricotta in a concrete-finished barn. Every meal was full of delicious, healthy, organic, and locally sourced food.

000034220013 000034220007Club W

As we sat around the table, conversation swiftly moved from “introductory” into the more vulnerable places of the heart; we talked authentically about our lives, the challenges we face and how we’ve experienced, and triumphed over, fear. As the meal ended we shared stories of when we have found victory over fear in our lives, and from here the weekend unraveled into a beautiful pile of openness and moments of connection like silk ribbon on the floor, revealing the precious gift of genuine friendship and wholehearted empathy.

… conversation swiftly moved from ‘introductory’ into the more vulnerable places of the heart; we talked authentically about our lives, the challenges we face and how we’ve experienced, and triumphed over, fear.

In the morning, we did yoga with local Ojai yoga instructor Melanie Freeman in the renovated barn, enjoyed coffee on the farmhouse porch and got ready for the day. First on the agenda was the Forage & Floral Design Workshop with Layered Vintage. We adventured around the grounds, foraging the perfect greens to fill in our floral arrangements. Then, Kara made us another delectable lunch of Portobello, Gouda and kale pesto grilled cheese. Following lunch we enjoyed a restful afternoon and then floated into our evening events with a Craft Cocktail Workshop with Hostess Haven.

Cocktail WorkshopCocktail

Our cocktails were adorned with candied roses, adding a whimsical touch. After another dreamy dinner, this time amongst the walnut groves, under a canvas of café lights and stars, Darling’s founder and Editor-in-Chief, Sarah Dubbeldam led us in an evening workshop where she shared with us the deeply moving story of Darling Magazine and her personal journey of finding her life’s purpose as well as the true meaning of “the art of being a woman.” We all walked away from the evening with the heart and purpose of Darling Magazine ringing true in our ears and providing nourishment to our world-worn hearts.
000098970007Flower Workshop

The next morning looked similar in activity, but held a fresh excitement all its own. After yoga and breakfast, we moved into The Art of Journaling Workshop with Brigit Ritchie. In this workshop, we dove into our hearts to come face to face with our inner critic, our truest inner-selves and sought to bridge the gap in order to continue our journey of living whole-hearted. Our next workshop Tabletop Styling and Hosting with Hostess Haven & Layered Vintage, followed by our final dinner where we celebrated the newfound creative inspiration we all found at this incredible retreat. The night closed with a Creative Writing Workshop with Sarah Dubbeldam where we tapped into our inner Hemingways and Fitzgeralds to craft emotive short stories.


The weekend was infinitely more than any of us expected, it went beyond pretty cocktails and gorgeous table settings (although they were quite exquisite), the creative retreat offered a level of genuine depth that we all crave. Each woman walked away unquestionably inspired, renewed, and awakened to the innate value she holds. With promises to keep in touch with new kindred friends and lifelong memories in hand, we went our separate ways but more aware than ever of how much we must partner with each other on our journey of discovering the art of being a woman.

Special thanks to all who made this weekend possible:

Wine: Club W
Catering: By Kara Elise
Beverages: Health-Ade and Icelandic Water

Brigit Bell Ritchie
Sarah Dubbeldam
Farra of Hostess Haven
Jill of Layered Vintage
Yoga: Melanie Freeman
Photography: Stacey Sutherland


Gift Bags:
The Little Market
Moss Botanicals 
Rain Africa
Mast Brothers
Mustard and Co. 
Kith and Thyme
Natty Naturals
Salt and Shop Handmades
Kai Fragrance

Planning by Darling Events Director: Chelsea Carter

If our creative retreats sound like something you want in on, we welcome you! Join us for our next weekend workshop July 29 – August 1 where we’ll teach you all things photography. Visit our shop here to reserve your spot! 

Images via Stacey Sutherland

Post written by Darling Visual Intern Cassidy Boatright


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