Photo Credit: Jewish Press

While we may associate the summer months with vacation and relaxation, October is, arguably, one of the best months of the year. The leaves are in the middle of their annual fashion show while the delightfully temperate days give way to crisp fall nights. Seasonal mums grace autumn gardens with a spectacular floral finale before the long winter slumber and, with the Yomim Tovim now behind us, the kids are safely back in school and we can get on with our regularly scheduled lives.

Because of annoying realities like newspaper deadlines, I am actually writing this article towards the end of August when a trip outside to the mailbox is like a visit to the sauna at your local spa and you can’t go out for any length of time without taking water along to avoid dehydration. So even though my mind is in camp laundry mode, having washed and dried my daughter’s entire wardrobe in record time (FYI, the spokes of your patio umbrella are a great place to hang laundry for quick drying on sunny summer days), it’s time to force myself to think about apple cider, cuddly sweatshirts and the end of daylight savings time.

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Head into any apparel store and you are likely to find yourself facing racks and racks of sweaters just calling your name and waiting to be tried on and hopefully brought home. But while that adorable sweater may look great in the store, do yourself a favor and go hunting for the care tag so that you know what you are buying and what kind of attention it needs before you pull out your credit card. If you, like me, hate the hassle of going to the dry cleaner, make sure that that cute sweater is actually washable and take a minute to read the attached label. If it says, “dry flat,” make a mental note not to put that garment in the dryer, a mistake that could potentially shrink your sweater into a garment that is perfectly sized for the average preschooler. Be aware that cotton sweaters, which are perfect for the fall, aren’t as warm as their wool counterparts and that darker colors like black or navy tend to fade as you wash them. Cotton also has a tendency to stretch as you wear it, although it typically reverts back to its original shape once washed and dried. Also make sure that if a sweater (or any other garment for that matter) says “tumble dry low” you don’t dry it on high heat or you may find it coming out of the dryer several sizes smaller than it went in. Finally, it is worth investing in a sweater shaver, a small battery-operated device that removes pills and excess fuzz from sweaters, making them (and you!) look neater and more put together.

While it may not be cold enough for gloves yet, it is probably worth picking up a pair now because one day that icy air is just going to creep in and that isn’t the day to find out that you have six left gloves in your cold weather box but absolutely no right ones. I am a firm believer in buying lined gloves to really keep your fingers from turning blue when the Arctic air hits for real. Thermolite, Thinsulate and other lightweight but warm materials are a great choice for gloves, giving you an extra dose of warmth while adding minimal bulk. Texting gloves are also great, giving you the ability to respond to all of those messages without having to take off your gloves. Made in a variety of configurations and in all price ranges, some texting gloves have metallic fabric or threads at the fingertips while others having fingertips that flip backwards emancipating your fingertips so that they can text away. My most recent glove purchase was a pair of thin black polyester gloves which are entirely texting friendly, allowing me to use all ten of my fingers and are a great boon for those of us with fingers that are too short to be able to take advantage of conventional texting gloves.

Down is number one when it comes to winter coats and blankets and, in recent years, manufacturers have started producing down coats that are less bulky so that you don’t look like the Michelin Man when you wear them. While it used to be relatively easy to find kids’ down jackets, many stores no longer sell them, but keep looking until you find them because they are infinitely warmer than the ones filled with polyester. Again, check the care label to make sure that whatever you are buying is washable, saving you the hassle and expense of going to the cleaners when your coat (or your kids’ coats) need to be freshened up. Because down tends to clump when its wet keep a clean tennis ball in your laundry room and toss it into the dryer with your down items to make sure the filling gets redistributed evenly. The aforementioned Thinsulate and Thermolite are great choices in winter coats, both for those who are looking for a warm coat with a slim silhouette or those who are allergic to down or feathers. If you have no ethical objections to it, I have yet to find anything in the world that is warmer than fur, but I can’t say that it is practical for everyday wear, and unless you, like me, had the good fortune to inherit your grandmother’s fur coat, it is definitely not a bargain item.

If we have learned anything over the last few snowy winters, it is the importance of a good pair of boots. Sure, we all want to have a cute pair of boots to make an outfit but when it comes to snow, make sure those boots have a proper lining or your feet will freeze. If you own a pair of funky rain boots, let them do double duty by buying an inexpensive pair of cozy boot liners that will add an extra layer of warmth when the white stuff starts to fall. I promise you, your feet will thank you.

Hit the stores now for cute hats and scarves, which have the ability to turn a plain winter coat into a great ensemble. I confess that even after years of my mother insisting that I put on a hat to stay warm, I am just not a hat wearer, but if you check out the stores you are bound to find lots of adorable head coverings, ranging from stylishly chic to funky, all of which will help keep you warm in the cold months ahead. Scarves, too, play a big part in keeping you toasty, and give you lots of room to express your individuality.

Last but not least, when you are buying any kind of knits, be they sweaters, scarves, hats or gloves, avoid acrylic items like the plague. Sure, they look nice when you see them in the store, but they will pill at an alarming rate and, trust me, nobody looks good when they are covered with little fuzz balls.

Enjoy that great weather while it lasts and be sure to stock up on winter’s most important accessories, hot cocoa mix and mini marshmallows!

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