It’s amazing how intertwined scent and memory are. Certain smells can take you back to another place and time.

The sharp scent of gas reminds me of NP stations in Trinidad, where men in red and black shirts pump your gas for you. The gas in my memory somehow has a sweeter and sharper smell than American gas does. The scent of freshly-struck matches and vanilla candles takes me back to blackouts and hurricanes, the week we spent without power after Hurricane Wilma.

And the smell of almond soap takes me back to a horrendous job I had after I graduated from high school. The one good memory I have about that job was the delicious bathroom soap, how the scent would linger on my hands. I always wanted to find a similarly scented soap for myself, but this was the pink kind that’s installed in public restroom dispensers.

Despite my love for that bargain basement soap, I’m a bit of a soap snob. I have yet to find a scent of Softsoap that I enjoy, and don’t even talk to me about Dial. I’ll use it if I have to, but let’s hope I won’t have to. For me, it’s all about the scent.

I want a thick, rich hand soap that has transportative powers. I don’t ask for much. For a long time I was stuck on Bath and Body Works Jasmine Vanilla Hand Soap. It’s luxurious and lathers well, and never left my hands dry.

But imagine my delight to stumble across Antique Florentine almond hand soap in the most random place — Ross Dress for Less, the store I’m absolutely addicted to.

I don’t even really want to get into my adoration of Ross here, our love is that deep. Let me just say, maybe 50% of my wardrobe has been carefully discovered at this store.

Last week I went to get a pizza stone (an incredible deal at $3.50), and came home with an awesome v-neck black-and-white polka dot tunic top that fit like it was made for me, the greatest black jersey headband ever (it knots at the front for that very Dynasty perhaps-I-am-wearing-a-turban look), and a funky wood corner unit TV stand that cost $50. Obviously I have a problem.

Buying cosmetics or beauty products at discount stores like this can be sketchy. Most often you’ll find a crowded rack of colorful bottles; some already open, some cracked, some sticky, some half-empty. Boxes of fine French soaps will be already ripped open, and any hand lotion has already been turned into a tester. But sometimes, sometimes you find something wonderful.

I’ve found milk bath wash in glass bottles, high end sugar scrubs, and coconut hand lotion miraculously intact.

Still, this hand soap came as a surprise. The label is printed with Florentine Paper, a thousand-year-old pattern that is ornate and lush.

I have no idea where these products are actually sold, but I was able to find it at Ross for $4.99, marked down from $10. It’s thick and leaves my hands amazingly soft and sweet smelling. I love it. My husband loves it so much that he actually commented on it.

I damn near squealed with delight when I went back to Ross and found the shower gel! Good Lord I am such a product junkie.

Now I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the perfumed paper, which is just fabulously decadent and belongs in my underwear drawer. These Tuscany Idea products proved to be the best beauty product discovery I’ve ever made at Ross. Now I want to find out where I can buy this stuff.

The Imperio Violet Milk Bath sounds heavenly, and I need that Jasmine Room Air Freshener in my life.

If any of you have seen these products in a store besides Ross, let me know! What’s the best discovery you’ve ever made at a discount store?

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Neosoulbeauty says:
March 2, 2007, 10:59 am
AfroBella, You are so silly and at the same token sound just like me about being a product In regards to you not finding the softsoap scent you like, have you tried their new product. It's called Pure Cashmere!
Niki says:
March 2, 2007, 4:01 pm
We don't have Ross in MO--seems like a good place to find a little bit of everything. I found the whole line of the Perlier Honey Bath at Marshall's for cheap. My favorite is the shower cream and the body lotion. So luxurious!
Butta says:
March 3, 2007, 5:12 am
Girl, you are not alone in your Ross addiction. I am over here laughing because up until recently I would spend EVERY Friday night in Ross. I have since gotten a life, but that is still my store. I rack up in the housewares section on the regular. The mess you often find is worth picking through to find bargains and other gems. Matter of fact, I'm long overdue for a visit. Now what was the name of that soap again? ;)
olufunke says:
March 3, 2007, 10:02 am
hi bella! does wal-mart count? in the "spa" section, i discovered the j.r. watkins apothecary line: i like the vanilla oil body mist, and love the red clover or lavender hand & cuticle salves. the salves are as natural as ingredients come, and are found in a small, round, silver tin that is discreet and fits easily into my handbag.
mezzo_soprano says:
March 4, 2007, 11:10 pm
I found a Bali bra in Ross for $3.99 last week!! :)
JOYEBB says:
March 7, 2007, 1:02 pm
Wow! You found JR Watkins in Walmart, olufunke? You don't say!!?? I was avioding Wal-Mart like the plague due to a bad experience w/ a person who works as a greeter there (they all ain't the cheery clean-hearted senior citizens you see in the commercials, but that's another story for another day...), but I will have to sneak in to take a look at that! Thanks! BTW: Afrobella, thanks for the great site. I always look forward to new entries.
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