Homebound Hacks

We’re all dealing with a new normal and, in the midst of this, developing new routines and ways to navigate new schedules and lifestyles. Here are a few weird ways I’ve changed my life to accommodate staying home even more than I was already doing (which was a lot, because I am an introvert).

How to nap without messing up your makeup: First of all, I have gone through various stages with makeup since sheltering in place back in March. Some days I don’t bother, and at other times I’ve put on a full face of photography-shoot level makeup, including my super-thick Dermablend foundations, just so i can look at a flawless face in that little Zoom window while I tutor. My husband, and my students, really don’t care either way, I’ve noticed – so however I look on any given day is totally up to me.

But I have gotten into the habit of enjoying a nice nap each day; something I never thought I’d do but have taken to quite nicely, thankyouverymuch. For awhile this put a real crimp into my makeup days, as I felt I had to choose between putting on makeup in the morning and looking fresh and lovely, OR taking a nap later in the day. Now I know how to do both, so I can get up early (my husband and I rise between 5-6 AM) put on a face that makes me feel good if I want to, and still take a nap around noon without screwing it all up and getting makeup all over my pillowcase. It’s pretty simple: I have a special wedge pillow I bought years ago when acid reflux was keeping me up coughing at night; it keeps my upper body pretty elevated, and is akin to sleeping in a reclining chair (something we don’t have), While this is not the optimal solution for reflux (it’s better to tilt the whole bed) it’s great for taking a little nap without ruining your face or pillowcase, because you don’t toss and turn as much and tend to stay laying on your back. So, there you go. 🙂

How to cut length evenly off your own hair: I did this two months ago and to this day I still cannot believe how successfully I pulled this off. I did such a damn good job that my husband immediately decided it was time for him to try and cut his own hair – although all he needed was clippers so it was much easier in his case.

The only reason I wanted to cut mine at all was that I’ve been trying to grow out my bangs for a year or so (they were quite short) and had been keeping it in a short bob while they grew out, with the intention of growing it into a longer one-length bob once that was accomplished. I was all set to go in for my final short-bob cut when the lockdowns started (like, my appointment was the very same day our mayor announced a stay at home order) because the bangs were FINALLY grown out enough that if I cut my hair into a VERY short bob – just below the ear – it would be one length all the way around, and I could grow it out from there in the style I wanted. My hair was pretty uneven at the time and in real need of a cut, but I didn’t want to risk getting sick or fined or arrested or whatever would have happened if I went anyway.

After about a month of lockdown I was getting REALLY annoyed at how close I was to the perfect one length short bob and yet, seemed so far away, so I decided I was going to try and cut it myself and if it came out uneven I could live with it – do NOT do this at home if you can’t make that commitment to yourself, because there is always the chance you will screw up royally. However, this time, following this video worked PERFECTLY for me, and the damn thing is only three minutes long! I simply followed his instructions to the letter, which wasn’t hard, and used a GOOD pair of scissors (they were not hair scissors but they were fabric scissors I barely ever use, so they were super-sharp), snipped it all off in one fell swoop, let it fall into place and – It worked!!!! I couldn’t believe it. Perfectly trimmed, and perfectly even.

Now, I did spend the entire day futzing and trimming and actually ended up probably shortening it by another half inch by the time I was done, but that was fine anyway because a super-short bob is what I was going for and that was exactly what I got. I swear, it looked just like I had gone to the salon, and I am NOT skilled with hairstyling at all.

How to add highlights to your hair when you can’t get to the salon and you don’t want to attempt using bleach on your own: (For dark hair only – I know nothing about how to deal with blonde hair.) I have done a lot of experimenting with the Celeb Luxury line of colored shampoos and conditioners, and I can say that they are very effective if you have highlights or any sort of bleach in your hair. On un-bleached hair, they are not nearly as dramatic but can still give your hair a nice tint over time – they won’t work the first time but if you use them consistently in a few washes your hair will have taken on a tint of whatever color you are using. But as lockdowns go back into effect because our government leaders at all levels are pathetic and people are using their mixed messages and indecision to tempt themselves into believing the pandemic is over and not wear masks/social distance (sigh), what to do if your highlights grow out to the extent that your gray is showing, and your haircolor is no longer bright and sassy?

I watched a ton of YouTube videos about highlighting your own hair, and once I thought I was ready thank GOD I did a patch-test on an undersection of hair before getting started, because that mess turned ORANGE as HELL. Nope. As brave as I was about cutting my hair into a blunt bob on my own, I just was not willing to risk using the bleach after seeing how bad that could go, so I have settled on painting on highlights when I feel like it using these two products:

First, the Garnier Nutrisse Express Retouch in Dark Blonde. It is made to cover gray roots, but if your hair is dark there’s nothing stopping you from buying it in the blonde color and using it as a highlighting tool. Sure it will wash out when you shampoo and you would have to paint it on every time you style, but what else have you got to do?

My second product works much the same way, but it is actually made for painting highlights onto the hair and therefore comes in larger packaging (which has pros and cons). I have tried a ton of cheap, paint-on highlights since the pandemic started and this line is the only one I cared for at all – it’s the Color Crave line by L’Oreal that came out, I believe, in 2017.  I don’t know if it is still in production, but it’s easy to find online at places like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay. The color I prefer is the Shimmering Bronze. This color gives me decent warm golden highlights that work well with my current salon highlights, so I can use it to blend the outgrowth as well as conceal my gray. I also like the Shimmering Rose Gold color but it is not all that visible applied to my dark hair and I have to use a lot of it to get any effect. But it’s quite pretty.

Now this stuff is messy, and the application isn’t all that smooth. It’s a sponge application like the Express Retouch, but I find that it’s rather feast or famine when applying – you either don’t get enough on the sponge, or you squeeze it and the product comes out everywhere. Also, rubbing the sponge against big wads of hair is just awkward no matter what, but it is what it is. And what it is, is cheap fake temporary highlights, so adjust your expectations accordingly and this can work for you. It says you should apply heat to this to “set” it after you put it on, which will deposit haircolor onto your hairbrush if you use one, and while the Express Retouch can feel a little stiff or crispy even after you brush through it, I find that the Color Crave brushes out better and keeps the hair feeling soft. A little may color your fingers throughout the day if you mess with it too much, and it MIGHT get on your clothes as I have found that it never sets completely and color can transfer. It will also wash out with one shampoo, but it’s a nice option if you’re looking in the mirror and feeling bummed as your highlights grow out and you want a little pick-me-up.

How to take a break from all the misery so you don’t get depressed: OK this is a really random recommendation that is going to ramble on for awhile – but I absolutely love the Bad Ben movies you can buy/rent on Amazon (you used to be able to stream them for free until recently, unfortunately). Now, you have probably never heard of Bad Ben, and that’s just fine, but let me tell you about him/them. The first Bad Ben movie was made by a middle-aged man in New Jersey named Nigel Bach who wanted to make a found footage horror film. He wrote a script, hired some actors, and prepared to get to work. On the first day of shooting, the actors backed out, so Bach simply used his iPhone and some of the structures he’d put in place for the other movie to make one by himself. And thus Bad Ben was born.

It is literally just one man using an iPhone and being filmed on a security camera system in a house that is experiencing paranormal activity, and yet it is ridiculously entertaining to a certain segment of the movie-watching population and has spawned 7 or 8 films total, all of which this certain segment of the movie-watching population gobble up delightedly.  I am one of that segment – although I have my favorites, and others I don’t watch on repeat. Now, I love horror films, and I actually love found footage horror films (and trust me there is no dearth of low-budget found footage horror on Amazon that is absolute trash). I also love weird, low-budget, art horror films and home horror movies where creative people turn their limitations into strengths by finding a way to work within them – the Marble Hornets YouTube series is another example of this, but it’s super-long and actually really freaky, so I wouldn’t watch that one unless you enjoy being wigged out for weeks. The super low-budget horror movies the Mansfield Dark channel has on YouTube, like The House on Mansfield Street, are also very well done but again, they are more true horror, whereas the Bad Ben series has some nice scares and tension, but is ultimately more about the unique, quirky, and naturally funny man at the center of it – Tom Riley. As a found footage film reviewer said about the inexplicable success of this franchise, “There simply is no Bad Ben without Tom Riley,” who is more or less Nigel Bach himself.

The plot doesn’t need to be explained beyond what I’ve already revealed – a man buys a house, moves in, and experiences strange occurrences that lead him to set up security cameras in every room where the audience gets to watch him do things like threaten ghosts who are bothering him with exactly the same tone and attitude as he might shout at kids who won’t get off his lawn, or yell at furniture as it moves across the room. He does most of this clad in boxer shorts, house slippers, and a Hanes T-Shirt, all while refusing to do what the spirits want him to do at every turn, which is evacuate the house. That’s one of the things that makes Bad Ben so much fun; Tom Riley simply does not react to these demons the way we’ve ever seen anyone react before. He yells and curses at them (and he curses A LOT), he gets in their invisible faces and dares them to fight back; but he does it all without really ever getting his blood pressure up too high over the whole thing.

Nigel Bach made the first Bad Ben for $300, and 7 or 8 more films have been made after that. Some of them involve a cast of characters, but my favorites are the ones where it’s just Tom Riley doing his thing, talking to himself and the camera, and occasionally cracking me up when he calls a possessed doll a “little plastic bitch” or tells a demon “you know, you don’t have to make that noise; I can smell you.” I don’t quite know why they comfort me so much, but I think it’s partly how his movies manage to feel authentic and completely cheesy at the same time in a combination that works. Are the visual effects horrible? Yes, but because we know Bach made them himself, we allow it. Are the sound effects equally bad? Yes, but again – it’s just Bach making a movie with an iPhone and whatever noises he or his dog can make that he can manipulate into some sort of demonic growl, so we appreciate the effort instead of judging the quality.

In the end, I guess Nigel Bach is like a crazy uncle who lives in New Jersey and is constantly making movies on his iPhone that I appreciate because he’s “one of us” – a creative person doing the best he can with what he has, completely independent of any interference or outside obligations, and even in the midst of something as awful as a global pandemic he can keep doing his thing for as long as he has a cell phone and a salty tongue. This makes me happy in a world where so many of us have had our lives put on hold, our plans completely thrown out the window, and everything thrust into flux in the midst of so much struggle and uncertainty. When the news overwhelms me, or the crazies in my deep-Red neighborhood get me so pissed off I can’t see straight, I stream one of my favorites from his series to clear my sight and my mind. It’s gonna be okay, because Uncle Nigel is still out there making his crazy movies and being hilarious with his iPhone and his security camera, and his (and our) creative spirit will simply not be restricted or restrained. If Uncle Nigel can do it, well, I guess we  can too.

But I can’t stop my Bad Ben rambling here without telling you my favorites! As much as I love Nigel Bach and the Bad Ben series, I can’t recommend all of his films. There are some that work for me, and some that really, really don’t. I am not going to name them because I feel that would be rude to everyone involved, but I will share the ones I love here :

  1. The original Bad Ben, about a man who buys a home that turns out to be haunted
  2. Badder Ben – This is the only movie of his with other actors onscreen that I care for, but the cast of this film works really well and plays off the strengths of the Tom Riley character effectively. In this movie, that cast plays a team of paranormal investigators who decide to revisit the Tom Riley tragedy from movie #1. Chaos ensues. 
  3. Bad Ben: The Mandela Effect – This movie plays smartly on the fact that his fans obsessively watch his movies over and over, mainly by having Tom Riley visit the home over and over in parallel universes, with different hauntings occurring each time until a deliciously funny conclusion ends the pattern. This is my favorite ending sequence of all the films (although Badder Ben also has a real corker of an ending), and any weaknesses in the plot that come before it is forgiven by the satisfaction of how perfectly it wraps up. In fact, I get the sense Bach thought up the ending first then constructed a plot that would build up to it – that’s how much of a total rimshot it is – but I have no confirmation of this; it’s just my guess. 
  4. Bad Ben: The Way In – Tom Riley is hired as a paranormal investigator to clear the house of demons before a new owner moves in, and encounters a truly ridiculous number of spirits that have taken possession of the strangest assortment of artifacts ever seen in a horror film about possessed artifacts. This movie includes what is, for me, one of the funniest scenes in all his films: Tom gets bitten by a possessed doll hidden in his bed, grabs it, walks casually out of the room holding said possessed doll by the hair, and just chucks the thing down the stairs with all the energy of someone throwing a gum wrapper into the garbage. Problem solved. For some reason I crack up insanely every time I witness this.

That’s all the rambling I have time for right now, except to add that I accidentally posted this initially to my business blog instead of my personal one. Oops!

3 thoughts on “Homebound Hacks

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