It’s been cool here in northwest Alabama/northeast Mississippi these past few mornings — sort of like fall might actually be here, after all. We’re paying attention to frost warnings, unpacking football-game blankets a couple of weeks early and flicking the heat on … just to make sure it’s working, you know. We — OK, me — even have rooted around in the dark corners of our closets to retrieve those jackets and sweaters that migrated to the depths during those long 100-degrees-plus summer days. But I came up empty. I knew what I was looking for: A lightweight but warm and snuggly black fleece jacket that fits perfectly over T-shirts. I knew I had one. And possibly two. Or maybe three. No luck, though. Were they hiding? Had they jumped ship and sailed out of the house in bags destined for give-away? Or yard sales? Had a daughter borrowed them and they never found their way back home? So many possible answers! But still no lightweight and warm snuggly black fleece jacket. So I turned to my trusty you-can-find-whatever-you-need shopping destination: T.J. Maxx. And of course I found the exact jacket I was looking for. At a price less than what I typically spend at Starbucks. So I brought my new jacket home, cut off the tags and hung it up in my closet in the designated “lightweight jacket” section — where of course I discovered two other practically identical jackets. One still with the tags. This may be why my husband will often look in my closet and shake his head and say, “I used to have money. Then I got married.” But I have three or possibly four lightweight but warm black fleece jackets. So there.
One of the best things about fall here in Alabama is wearing jackets. I love jackets! I feel more pulled together when I’ve got one on, plus, it hides the dreaded middle-age pooch that persists in hanging around no matter how many crunches I do or chocolate-covered creme-filled Krispy Kremes I give up. Since my usual cold-weather outfit is a simple and lazy turtleneck with jeans, jackets jazz things up and help me look less basic. Shop for great jacket deals in the early spring as retailers get rid of their winter stock. That’s how I got these three great finds. One of my favorites is the orange embroidered wool. As soon as the temperature gets down to the 50s and 60s, I pull it out. I wear it so much I’m sure everybody gets sick of seeing it. But I don’t care! I feel happy as soon as I put it on. I got it on sale at Audie Mescal women’s boutique in Tuscumbia, Alabama, two or three years ago. The soft green quilted jacket is a velour-like brushed cotton in such a pretty shade. It’s from a clearance rack at specialty store Marigail Mathis in Florence, Alabama (http://www.marigailmathis.com/). I also lucked up on a near-matching long-sleeved green T-shirt. But the best buy is this fantastic gray jacket from Theodora women’s shop in Homewood (Birmingham), Alabama. I coveted it all season two years ago but could not pay the $300 or so price. I guess nobody else could, either, because I found it on the sale rack at such a discount that I bought it immediately before the store owner changed her mind. Score!