Well, maybe not completely, but I haven’t done a post like this yet.  I’m not sure I’m going to be very good at it, so come along with me and we’ll find out together.

I’ve been trying to up my game with my photographs, so I’ve been reading a lot of suggestions on various blogs that have great photography.  I ordered my Speedlite flash to help me take better pictures of food in the evenings; I got a remote so I don’t shake the camera when pressing the shutter for long-exposure shots; and, well, I’ve been practicing.  Another suggestion I came across, though, was to invest in some white dinnerware on which to display my culinary masterpieces, and I thought, hmmm.  Good idea.

But I didn’t really want to invest, so I sashayed on over to the local Ross Dress for Less.  If you are unfamiliar with this store, I guess it’s kind of like Filene’s or Marshalls… kind of an overstock store where things that don’t sell at regular stores go to die.  And be sold for $0.49 each.

My mom is a MASTER of Ross shopping.  You do not want to go into a Ross with her, because you will not leave that place for at least 4 hours.  She methodically picks over every piece of clothing, every shoe, every comforter, every candle, every bag.  The only thing she doesn’t really look at are the sunglasses.  It’s either a gift or a sickness, depending on who you ask.

So, I’ve been trained.  I know my way around a Ross, but I think I have a little perspective since I don’t have the patience for all the sorting and picking.  But I knew I could probably find some white dishes on the super cheap.  I didn’t need them to match or anything, I just needed a few key pieces to plate my food for photos.

Have you BEEN to the housewares section of your local Ross Dress for Less?  This is a section I usually skip.  I’m usually looking for a piece to a Halloween costume or a pair of walking shoes or some new socks.  But the housewares section is a gold mine of crazy merchandise.  I mean, CRAZY.  And not in a good way.

I thought I’d share with you some of my finds.  First, they had a lot of classy cocktail accoutrements, like this gem:

I had to surreptitiously take these photos with my iPhone, so they aren’t the greatest.  I didn’t want the Ross employees thinking I was trying to steal product ideas or, worse, that I was insane.  What’s worse than the Ross employees thinking you are insane?  No offense to the Ross employees, I’m just sayin’ they probably get a whole slew of characters in there.

Notice I did style this photo, though, by putting a dishtowel behind the glass so you could read the hilarious inscription:


There were about 40 of these on the shelf, so I guess they aren’t selling well.  I can’t imagine why not.  What exactly is the joke here?  I’m not convinced that it’s sophisticated enough to be a play on the kitschy ugliness of the glass juxtaposed with the concept of snobbery.  What do you think?  One thing’s for sure, all the wine snobs I know are getting one of these for Christmas.

I did say this was the housewares section, which means pots and pans and glasses and utensils– they even have packaged food, which is a little frightening.  In and amongst these things, I found this:

Ah, yes, the team gnome.  I tried desperately to figure out if there was some function to this guy– salt shaker?  kitchen timer?  Pez dispenser?– but I think it’s just what it says: a team gnome.  If you were lucky enough to acquire this chthonic spirit, dear friends, what would you do with it?  Does it belong in the kitchen, or on the lawn?

Back when I was in college, drinking games were a popular diversion that we usually played pick-up style.  That is, people were sitting around drinking, quarters were brought out, and suddenly madcap mayhem ensued.  Apparently kids today are much, much lazier, because they need something like this:

Or perhaps this is for the forty-somethings who are trying to reclaim their youth but can’t remember a damn thing about how to play a drinking game.  Seriously, people?  Does anyone else notice this is just Jenga with matching shot glasses?  Are we SO imaginatively challenged that we need a BOARD game to play a drinking game?  All the spontaneity of these games disappears when you have to ask your buddy to bring his Drunken Tower to the party.

In my quest to be green in our home, we’ve stopped using paper napkins and only use cloth ones.  I don’t really have a great place to keep them in the kitchen, though.  So I almost purchased this napkin holder that I thought would work fine with cloth ones:

But then I realized it was $3.99, which was way too steep for  me.  I love the added touch of the bas-relief apple on the bottom corner.

Ross has an entire aisle devoted to candles:

If you don’t quite know what to think about this shot, imagine the scent from 539 pungent candles filling the air.  Then take 2 Advil; it helps with the headache.

Ross also has a book section, and, to be fair, there are some good bargains.  I actually bought the Martha Stewart Cooking School book, retailing for $45.00 ($52.00 in Canada!) for $9.99.  So that was definitely a steal.  But there are other, less desirable books there, too.

Actually, I’m a sucker for disaster stories, so this should’ve appealed to me.  Maybe if it had been published by National Geographic or Time Life or something.  And isn’t there something oxymoronic about the term “Great Disasters”?

They also have cookbooks, like the Martha one.  Or like this one:

Now, it IS 3 books in 1, so that’s cool.  I’m just not sure I need an entire cookbook of recipes that involve Velveeta.  Honestly, is that stuff still around?  I kind of remember my mom buying it when I was a kid, but I haven’t seen it in ages.  Oh, and I’m kinda scared of that appetizer in the middle.

I could’ve picked up a great day planner, except for one thing:

OK, now here’s where I call BS on Ross.  Is someone really going to buy this “Weekly Planner” from 2 years ago, Ross?  Really?  I think it’s just going to gather dust on that shelf, getting battered around by the Martha Stewart Cooking Schools and the Great Disasters in History and the Nabisco recipe books.  Put it out of its misery, Ross, for Pete’s sake.

The biggest problem with looking at all this crap for an extended period of time is that things like this start to look cute:

I am not at all kidding you, I saw these and I thought, “Oh, those are kind of cute.”  And that’s when I knew it was time to leave Ross.

I did get myself some white dinnerware for $0.49 each.  So it was a successful trip.  Oh, and don’t forget Martha!  That was the prize of the whole day.



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  • March 6, 2010, 6:49 am Amanda

    I’ve almost passed out in the discount store candle fog! And god forbid you’re hungry. Then you’re headachey and your stomach starts rumbling away.

    Does that make us worthy of a glass for “Candle Aisle Snobs”?

  • March 6, 2010, 12:07 pm Paola

    I have loved Ross for years, dare I say decades! I think your mom and my mom would get along swimmingly. My mom is the exact same way! And it doesn’t help that she has both a Ross and a Marshall’s within walking distance of her home.

  • March 6, 2010, 4:41 pm Erica Long

    Hilarious! I was laughing so hard that my husband, who was in the other room, thought something was wrong. Now I know where to get all my classy home goods. You rock!

  • March 6, 2010, 7:06 pm Erika

    I died when I saw the planner. And it’s so true that a few hours in such a store really makes you question your sense of style. It’s like you really know you should by something because it is such a great deal that you start to get confused about what you really like and what is just cute relative to everything else. That’s why I think it takes real skill, like your mom has and my mom has (she’s a Marshalls gal), to actually shop there. This happens to me at Old Navy sometimes–it’s so hard to pass up a $2 Team Gnome T-shirt.

  • March 6, 2010, 8:42 pm Becky

    That velveeta cookbook! Everyone knows that the only recipes you need for those foods are already printed on the packages.

    Ross, Ross, Ross. You are no TJ Maxx.

    Great reporting, intrepid girl photojournalist!

  • March 7, 2010, 7:12 am Peyton

    LOL! You should definitely do this type of post more often! We don’t have Ross but we do have TJ Maxx/Homegoods. Dude, I LOVE me some Homegoods. Seriously. I love it.

  • March 7, 2010, 8:03 am bethpc

    Thanks, everyone! I’m so glad people liked this post. I’ve got some other observations I’d like to share, too, so you can expect some more of this kind soon. :-)

  • March 9, 2010, 1:43 am Amy

    Very funny! My favorite is the 2 year old planner…that is hilarious that they still have that laying around. :) And the gnome thingy, I don’t even know what to say about that! I haven’t been in a Ross in years, I’m more of a TJ’s girl, but thanks for the virtual tour!

    Oh, and thanks also for weighing in on my reign/rain debate. I need more of you PhD types in my life! ;)

  • March 9, 2010, 9:32 am Kristen

    You had me at bas-relief apple in the bottom corner.

  • May 5, 2010, 5:12 pm Trista Gladden

    Those peace glasses are cute!