This is probably the most controversial post I've ever written. BUT, before I start I'd like to say that I am completely against the idea that it's legal to carry a gun in the US.
When we travelled to Florida recently, we wanted to do the really touristy things, like go to Disney and see all the sights, but we also wanted to experience what this state is really like, and how the 'Sunshine State' filled with the magic of Disney could breed the awful attack on the Pulse nightclub.
Stepping into the lobby at the gun range was like stepping into another world. None of us were prepared for how absolutely terrifying it would be. Suddenly we were four little English people surrounded by burly men shouting above the noise coming through the wall of the range. We signed over our rights to sue or complain if we suffered injury or death whilst shooting in the range. We had to hand our passports over and weren't given them back until we were ready to leave. Soon we had come together in a little huddle of fear, facing a wall of different guns and bullets, with our backs to a group of people who'd brought their own weapons along to fire.
Every member of staff was casually carrying a firearm as though it was normal. No one turned a blind eye to them, or the men sat in the lobby with their weapons too. We were asked what gun we wanted to try, given a two minute demonstration on how to load and fire a pistol, and then it was handed over to us to show that we had been watching and could now load a gun. My hands have never been as sweaty as they were when I was pushing that bullet into the holder.
The one rule? You can't pose with the gun for a photo. You were meant to be 21, as we were from another country, but when we mentioned that my sister was 20 they waved it off: they didn't care. You could film each other shooting at the targets shaped like people, you could do almost whatever the hell you liked. We all had a go at shooting at our target and it was horrific. The gun was heavy and pulling the trigger was physically a little hard, but do you know what? After a couple of attempts, it became easy for us to hit the target. That was probably the scariest part: how easy it was.
Alongside us at the range was a father with his two 17 year old sons. They were out for their Sunday afternoon recreational time. At what point is that acceptable? You're teaching your children how to shoot. They too had the person-shaped target, and those boys were bang on with their shots. These boys are still at school. And it's totally legal for them to practice shooting with their dad at a range. They were some of the people that brought their own guns along.
The worst moment happened when we were about to leave. We were all wearing protective glasses and ear-muffs, but the sound of each gun was still so loud. I've always thought that I could mistake other loud noises for a gun going off, but now I know that I wouldn't be able to. Even after hearing a few different guns being shot, we weren't prepared for one of the staff to use a machine gun. The sound of that gun going off was ground-shakingly scary. The huddle was back again. And what was worse? This man, who worked at the range, turned to some other customers and said: 'I should've shouted Allah Akbar'. And they all laughed together.
This was the point at which we decided to leave. We had experienced what we set out to experience I guess: we now had more of an insight into how such horrible attacks could happen. In a world in which you can pay to practice shooting at a human shaped target, and choose the gun that fits you best, and start doing it from when you're a child, is it any wonder that it happens so often, and with so much accuracy?
Heading to that range is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The sensation of holding that gun, with sweaty palms and shells from other customers bouncing around will never leave me. I simply cannot fathom living in a country in which that kind of thing is legal, and I was so happy to get back in our car and drive away.
Anti-wrinkle creams are here, there and everywhere, and have been for a few years now. My first Saturday job was in a Savers (lol) and it involved being one of those annoying checkout people that have to ask whether you would like to try a product on promotion. You know the ones I mean. FYI, it's just as annoying to be the one repeatedly asking every customer as it is to be asked. We rarely sold any of the products. Maybe two a day would be forced off of the front of the till. And then one day, we had a L'Oreal anti-wrinkle cream on offer. I sold over 20 that day on my own. At the ripe old age of 16, I hadn't learnt any new fancy sales schemes overnight, it was simply down to the product. People went MAD for it.
Now I'm always hearing about people in their early twenties making time for anti-wrinkle products. I'm being warned about starting to take care of my skin early so that I don't regret it in the future. I've spent a ridiculous amount of time staring into the mirror at my laugh lines and fine lines that pop up when I frown, investigating whether they're getting too noticeable.
Initially, when Korres asked me if I wanted to try their Castanea Arcadia anti-wrinkle range* I was going to reply with a straight up no: my largely early 20s demographic wouldn't be interested, and I wouldn't use it. And then I thought about those fine lines and everything the media was telling me about preparing my skin from an early age and I changed my mind.
Once I had the products I sat down and had a 'What the F are you doing with your life Steph?!' kinda moment. I mean, I'm 22. Do I NEED to invest in anti-wrinkle cream? But, then I looked into the products some more, and decided to give them a go. I eventually realised that they were exactly what my skin needed, even if it didn't need to be de-wrinkled.
I have combination skin, but from time to time (especially when damn cold winds pop up in the middle of April, erm hello English weather?!) it gets dry and chapped. I need a lot of extra hydration. And this is where the Castanea Arcadia range comes in. It's incredible at making my skin plump and hydrated without smothering it in grease. It's basically my new holy grail.
The night cream* is creamy without being overly thick. It's a nice light one, but a little goes a long way so I pop a tiny bit on before bed and let it sink in. I love using night creams as part of my pre-bed routine, and it sinks into my skin easily without the mare of finding little greasy smears on your pillow case. It's also one that doesn't flare up my spot-prone T-zone.
The eye cream* and day cream* I use hand in hand on days when I'm not wearing makeup. I find that using a day cream and then smearing my face in makeup is a sure-fire way for pesky spots to pop up.
Eye bags are basically the bane of my life. They're not delicate little ones, but full on 'I've got a carton of milk and a tonne of heavy fruit in my ASDA bag' ones. They suck. I've tried a few different eye creams before and gave up on them for a long time because all they really did was make my eye skin greasy (*cough Benefit cough*). Grim I know. This one from Korres actually makes a difference though. It plumps up my under-eye area so that the bags aren't as deep-rooted, and after using it for a week or so I noticed that the purpley/gray colouring of them was starting to fade.
And finally we have the day cream. This one oddly has the consistency of sudocrem. Which terrified me because that is hella hard to rub in and stays tacky for years. Thankfully it rubs in quite easily. It is a little too heavy for my T-zone, but I've found that it's great for those days when my skin feels dry and tight on my forehead in particular.
We all know I have super-sensitive skin, and I've not had any kind of flare-up since using these over the past month. They even came on holiday with me because I didn't want my skin to get too dry and have nothing to repair it with. So yes, I don't need anti-wrinkle cream, but do I need something that makes my skin plump and hydrated? Hell yes.
Have you tried anything similar before?
*Although this post contains products sent to me for the purpose of a review, all opinions are my own*
Sleep is pretty darn high up on my list of favourite things. Seriously. Is there anything better than the sensation of being so tired that your eyes are just willing you into the land of nod? Or sliding between fresh sheets in your favourite PJs? Nah.
In the past, I've really struggled to get to sleep because of my anxiety, but that's not so much of an issue anymore. I've spoken before about my pre-bed routine that makes getting off to sleep much easier. Nowadays, I'm one of those annoying people that nods off really easily. Ten minutes into bed and I'm gone. Sleeping sitting up, at a desk (whoops), on a train, in a car poses no problems for me. My real problem? Staying asleep.
That's where things get tricky. I wake up SO many times in the night, which means my sleep quality is really darn poor. And then I'm tired for the day. And then I nap. I really struggle not to nap. In an 'I've definitely fallen asleep at work before' kind of way. It doesn't make me any less tired in the evenings, and my body essentially demands naps now that it's used to them. But it's really not practical. So, when Resmed offered to send me their Sleep+ device* to see if it could help improve my sleep, I was really intrigued to see where things were going wrong.
The device itself sits on your bedside table, facing where your chest ought to be. You need to download a free app to connect with the device in order to track your sleep. Once it's downloaded, you put a whole bunch of information in so that the feedback you get about your sleep is more likely to be of use. You pop in info about your health and lifestyle and you're good to go. It connects to the device via bluetooth which totally drains your battery (I learnt this the hard way), so you need to plug your phone in overnight to ensure that it doesn't die and lose track of the data from the night.
How it works
Basically, the device monitors your breathing levels. So, it recognises when you're awake, when you fall into a light sleep, REM (Rapid Eye Movement aka when you dream) sleep and deep sleep. Each morning you get given a score based on how often you wake up, how much deep sleep you get, how long you slept for, light levels in the room and so on. After the first couple of days, the 'mentor' aspect of the device will start giving tips on how to improve your sleep. You can rate them as to whether or not they were useful so that future tips can be made more helpful.
Did it work for me?
I honestly cannot rave about this enough. It was genuinely so interesting for me over the first couple of days to see where my sleep was going wrong. Annoyingly, I was so excited about trying it out the first time that I couldn't get to sleep at all - brill!
The first thing that really struck me was just how often I was waking up. I mean, I knew it was frequent, but the first night I woke up FOURTEEN TIMES. I was in bed for nine and a half hours, but only got six hours' sleep and only half an hour of that was deep sleep. Safe to say, my first sleep score was pretty appalling. I finally felt like I knew why I was SO tired during the day - clearly there were problems!
So, I started experimenting with things: whether I napped or not, how early I got out of bed, how long I left between leaving my laptop and going to sleep. It was really insightful to see the difference between my sleeping patterns based on those different criteria. I now know that napping affects how often I wake up in the night, and that I tend to get more deep sleep if I chill out away from my laptop before bed. Last week I decided to see if I can cut out napping completely. On day three (yesterday) I woke up to my highest sleep score yet, and I'd cut the number of times I woke up down to seven. Clearly there's still a long way to go, but it was so encouraging that depriving myself of naps, and making myself really grumpy in the meantime, is actually doing some good.
Relax to Sleep
I could talk all day about the cool little functions on the app designed to help you get to sleep, and to improve your sleep, but this is by far my favourite. You pick a soothing sound and the device sends your breathing pattern to your phone and matches its pace to your breathing. I've found that it really helps me to have something to focus on other than my own thoughts, and it's a fab way to slow down your breathing without having to count numbers or do anything too complex. Now that I've been using it for a couple of weeks, my mind associates the sound with going to sleep, so it makes me feel calm and ready for bed when I hear it.
I am so excited to see how much I can improve my sleep over the next few months with this. Have you ever tried anything similar?