Brighten Up the Winter Blues

Read some of our favorite ways to brighten up winter days.


The holidays are over, and most of us have put away all our festive decorations. It feels nice to clean up the house, and tuck away the bright décor that seems, well … cluttery after the presents are opened and the New Year is ushered in. But this is also the time of year when the winter blues really set in.

The days are getting longer, but only a teeny bit at a time. The days are cold and the nights are downright brutal, so it’s easy to start feeling cooped up. Oh, and we’ve all probably fallen off the healthy eating wagon a looong time ago. It’s just so much easier to hibernate and snack and generally sink into the couch until we feel like one of the cushions! But none of that makes us feel better about ourselves.


Don’t be sad! You’ll feel better if you share that pie with a friend.


So, maybe it’s time we dug ourselves out of the couch cushions and set out to beat the winter blues. Here’s how!

Go Outside!

Yes, we know, it’s been 8 degrees some mornings lately. That might be too cold for most of us, but when it warms up enough to feel bearable (with lots of layers on!) then go for a brisk walk. Sunshine and fresh air are very healthy and very uplifting! You don’t even have to stay out for all that long: twenty minutes or so should be enough to get your heart pumping.

Don’t forget about indoor exercise, too. Search for some at-home workouts if you don’t go to the gym. There are tons of easy (or difficult, if you want!) exercise routines on YouTube. And they’re free! And, if you do belong to the gym, then GO! Exercise releases those feel-good chemicals: endorphins. There, doesn’t that feel better?

Get Dressed Up

It’s easy to fall into the old, “Well, nobody can see my snazzy outfit under my winter coat, so why bother?” mindset. But you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good you feel about yourself if you put on those new earrings you got for Christmas, make a little effort with your makeup and fix your hair when you go to work, or even just Wal-Mart. Even if nobody else can see your cute outfit, you know what you have on! And your opinion is the one that counts.


Just because Christmas has come and gone doesn’t mean your house should be bleak. Splurge on a cozy, snowflake-themed throw blanket. Get out some special winter mugs. Switch out the art on your walls. Make the cold season something to celebrate!


Treat Yourself

Get a massage or a facial. Plan a weekend getaway to Gatlinburg with your best friend. Go to lunch at Blackberry Farms. Do something really nice for yourself, but with this challenge: make your treat an experience, and not just something to buy. It will feel a lot more meaningful, and your good feelings will keep coming every time you remember the experience.

Looking to buy (or sell!) your home this winter? Get started at

Beat Cabin Fever in East Tennessee!

Read about turning snow days into quality family time.

We’ve had a break from the bitter cold this week. We had a warm snap, true to the typical Tennessee weather pattern, where if you don’t like it, just wait a while. ‘Cause it’ll change. We’ve had darn-near tropical weather for a couple of days! Temperatures reached almost 70 degrees at one point. That’s a vast difference from last week, where lows dipped into the single digits!

But cold weather is blowing through again, and we’re predicting snow starting around Saturday or so. While the warm weather stretches are pretty nice, the bitter cold and even that mean, in-between weather, where everything is just slushy and slick, can keep us indoors. And you know what that means … cabin fever!


We know that keeping kids home from school can get us all feeling pretty squirrelly, so we rounded up some great ideas to beat that itchy, cabin-fevery feeling. Read on to see some of our favorites!

1. Board Games

Snowed in? It’s time to break out Monopoly. Put the phones down and spend some quality time on the boardwalk.

2. Movie Marathon

Don’t just veg out in front of your smartphone or tablet. Get the family together and watch the whole Die Hard franchise, or all of Harry Potter. Make popcorn and hot chocolate, and spend a little family time with some classic entertainment. Bonus points if you make a game out of how many times a shoot-out happens or the word “Cowboy” is spoken in Die Hard! Or, for Harry Potter, keep score of how many times someone says “Harry.” You get the picture.

3. Clean Up

When you’re feeling cooped up, sometimes cleaning out the clutter can get you zen-ed out. Go through the kids’ clothes, go through your own closet, get rid of things that you don’t want or have outgrown. Hey, it’s a new year! Out with the old, in with the new!

4. Get Crafty

Start a scrapbook, or sew a blanket. Make a castle out of old cereal boxes. Attempt all those Pinterest ideas you’ve been saving for a … well, a snowy day! Get your kids in on it!

5. Get Cooking

If you’re like lots of families, your schedule is a tightly wound nightmare! Between school, after-school activities, work, grocery shopping … you barely have time to get a hot meal on the table at the end of the day. Take this enforced slow-down as a blessing, and do some things the slow, old-fashioned way. Roast a chicken. Try a new recipe you’ve had your eye on. Sit down with the family and enjoy a meal together.


And, really, don’t sweat it. After all, we typically don’t stay cooped up for long here in East Tennessee. It’s one of the perks about living here: the weather is very rarely extreme! And if you are worried about the cold snaps, just remember: the really cold days bring down the annoying bug population. So a few cold spells here and there equal much more pleasant summer days!

If you’re in the market for your own East Tennessean cabin (without the fever, of course!) then check out

Baby, It’s Cold Outside … REALLY Cold!

Stay warm and stay safe with a few fire safety tips.

It’s cold.

It’s bitterly, bitterly cold here in East Tennessee—all up and down the Eastern United States, in fact—and a lot of us here just weren’t prepared for it! It’s been down in the single-digits multiple times in the past week. We have to admit, this kind of slap-you-in-the-face cold weather has been known to blow in from time to time around here, but we got mighty used to warmer winters. Maybe not tropical winter weather, but you know, around 30 degrees or so for a cold day.


Water pipes are freezing faster than we can shout, “Good Golly, that’s frosty!” Electric heat pumps are failing for some, and others are in danger of starting a house fire with unsafe heating practices. We thought it was a good time to think about some winter fire safety tips. Read on:

Pipe Safety

One of the best gadgets for keeping water pipes from freezing is heat tape. It’s available at your local home improvement or hardware store. You just wrap it around your pipes where they’re likely to freeze, and plug it in. The sensors can tell when your water gets down below 40 degrees, and the heating elements in the tape kick on to keep that liquid flowing.

WARNING: Do not allow your heat tape to overlap! This is a common cause for house fires in the winter!

Space Heater Safety

Space heaters are a God-send when it’s so cold your central heat can’t quite keep up. Some people use them in garages or other uninsulated areas to help other appliances stay above freezing. Others use them to keep their toes warm. However you choose to use them, keep these things in mind:

Don’t leave them running when nobody is around. It’s too easy for a heater malfunction to cause a fire. Also, keep anything flammable, or anything at all, really, far away from the heating unit. All too often people get complacent about this rule, and start a winter house fire!


Carbon Monoxide

With all the extra heating methods we’re using to keep warm, carbon monoxide poisoning is a real danger. If you’re using gas, coal or oil-burning appliances, then be even more vigilant of this life-threatening danger! Install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors. Many smoke detectors already have built-in carbon monoxide sensors.

Don’t ever use grilling charcoal indoors, and check to make sure your fuel-burning appliance is actually meant for indoor use.

Stay safe while you’re staying warm, and check out these fire safety tips for more information.

The upside to all this arctic weather? According to NPR, the sub-freezing temperatures are helping to kill of the harmful hemlock beetle, which has been killing our forests’ beneficial hemlock trees. We’re hoping the cold season will knock back the mosquito population for 2018, too! After all, we haven’t seen a single mosquito outside lately. We suppose that’s another benefit to all this cold!

Even though it’s cold, we’re still happy to help you search for your next home here in East Tennessee! So check out before you put on those Cuddle Duds and head out to tour your dream house!

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018!

Have a Happy New Year!

Well, it’s that time of year again … the very end of it! Let’s say a fond farewell to 2017 and look ahead to what 2018 has in store. There are lots of possibilities for the new year, and we thought we’d take a moment to list a few of our favorites.

But first!

A look back at 2017 on the Darlene Reeves-Kline blog:

We found some awesome natural beauty right under our feet in this Tennessee caves post! We also looked at a few great reasons (including great cost of living!) for retirees to come on up here to, well … retire. And, we looked at some of the reasons that young families have to love our area.

We checked out some great Christmas gifts from right here in Tennessee. (Hint: these still make great gift for birthdays or late holiday surprises!)

2017 in Tennessee has been pretty nice. We brought our water table back up, so our risk of another devastating wildfire, like the one that burned through Gatlinburg last year, went way down. The economy is pretty good, overall—including the housing market. We think people are getting the word that our area is a pretty nice place to call home.

We spent time with neighbors and family, and made some new friends (some through this blog!) 2017, we cheers you with an uplifted cup of hot cocoa!


And now, on to 2018!

We don’t know what the most popular resolutions for 2018 will be, but on a Google search quoted by, the top New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 are probably pretty close to what you’d predict:

  • Get Healthy: 62,776,640 searches, a 13.77 percent increase over last year during the same time period, when it was searched 55,177,290 times.

  • Get Organized: 33,230,420 searches, dipping by 7.41 percent compared to last year’s tally of 35,888,700.

  • Live Life to the Fullest: 18,970,210, spiking by 13.04 percent from last year, when it maxed at 16,782,030.

  • Learn New Hobbies: 17,438,670 searches, up 4.72 percent from last year’s total searches of 16,652,950.

  • Spend Less/Save More: 15,905,290 searches, up 17.47 percent from 13,539,500 in 2016.

  • Travel: 5,964,130 searches, down by 0.82 percent from 2015’s 6,013,550,

  • Read More: 4,746,560 searches, down 5.63 percent from last year’s 5,029,790.

East Tennesseans already have great ideas for achieving these popular New Year’s Resolutions! We’re all for making the most of every year! If this list of resolutions looks good to you, then let us make a suggestion or two:


How about hiking?

Hiking in the Smokies is an excellent hobby, and it can help with getting healthy. Hiking is also virtually free (after you get the initial investment of good boots!) It’s definitely a great form of travel. While hiking won’t get your closet in order, it’s a great way to get a little organization to your thoughts, and some peace of mind.

And reading more?

Well, this blog has you covered! Browse around for some great articles on stuff to do, lifestyle highlights and cost of living comparisons for our vibrant, lovely part of Easts Tennessee.

Of course, when you’re ready to browse for your new home in the New Year, stop by Happy New Year!

Last-Minute Gifts for Christmas!

A few great ideas for last-minute gifting, Tennessee-style!

December is rapidly coming to a close, and with it: the crazy roller coaster ride that was 2017. Here on the blog, we’ve talked about all kinds of Tennessee fun this year. Most recently, we’ve discussed end-of-year finances, and some ways we love Tennessee Christmas. And now, Christmas is just one weekend away! For those of you who have squirreled away all your stocking stuffers, bought and wrapped gifts for your nearest and dearest, and made holiday treats until people thought your new perfume was chocolate and peppermint, we solute you with a white-gloved hand to a fuzzy red hat!


But for those of you (and us) still scrambling for those last-minute ideas, we found a few. Read on for ideas for those hard-to-buy-for folks on your nice list—with a Tennessee twist!

Lifestraw for The Smokies’ Hiker

This personal water filtration system lets you drink right from the source, while filtering out parasites and bacteria that can really ruin a nature excursion. It’s the perfect hiking accessory for the Smoky Mountains National Park lover in your life! It’s just the right size for one person to get the hydration they need out of a mountain stream. You can follow the above link to find this on Amazon, or you can swing on by your local outdoors outfitters to pick one up.

Throw in a sturdy water bottle, and there you go! The complete hydration gift package, and you can check the hiker off your list.

Muk-Luks for The Cabin Cuddler

You already know it can get awfully frosty this time of year in Tennessee! The coziest blanket won’t quite do the job when it comes to keeping chilly toes toasty warm. Choose slippers that are lined, with non-slip soles, and you can check off your favorite cocoa-drinking friend as they kick back and relax, nice and warm!


Layers and More Layers

For the power-shopper and Dollywood-lover in your world, lightweight layers are an absolute necessity. Tennessee weather can get pretty unpredictable; one day the high can reach the 60s in the winter, and plunge to a deep freeze before you can say, “Where’s my coat?” Dressing in layers means you can pull a Superman-style wardrobe change if it gets too hot, and you’ll be ready to defend against the cold again in no time. The above link takes you to long underwear, but thinner sweaters and fleece jackets are great layering options, too. Don’t forget to check your local stores for what they have in stock!

Made in Tennessee

Tennessee has always been home to some stellar craftsmen and women, with a work ethic to match their innovative spirit. What could be better for the Tennesseans on your list than stuff made right here in the Volunteer State? Check the link above for some great gift ideas. And, if you don’t think fine pewter, refined wines and award-winning chocolate sound like Tennessee natives, think again!



If you’d like a new home in sweet East Tennessee for the holidays, now’s the perfect time to browse


Things We Love About Christmas in Tennessee

Things we love about our Tennessee Christmas.

Christmas in Tennessee is pretty special. Gone are the days when Southern Appalachia was isolated from the bigger, more modern world. Even those of us who live up in the hollers and hills have high-speed internet and satellite television! Our Great-Mamaws and Papaws might have cut an old cedar down and decorated it with strings of popcorn, and stuffed old, rough-spun stockings with horehound candy and the occasional coveted orange, but we’re all spoiled with ready-made decorations and treats these days.

Even with our modern ways of celebrating, there are still some mighty special things about this time of year in Tennessee. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite things about Christmas in Tennessee.  Read on to rev up your holiday spirit!

Sparkling Frost

Sometimes we have snow on Christmas, and sometimes it’s warm enough to drink our eggnog out in the sun! But, usually, Christmastime in Tennessee is a time to wake up to frost covering grass and trees, bursting into sparkling brilliance in the sunshine. It’s gorgeous and brisk, and it makes cuddling by the fire so much better.


Old-Time Christmas

We have our share of modern life: malls, shopping, even laser light shows! You can tech it up as much as you’d like this holiday season, but if you ever want to slow down just a bit and enjoy the simpler things in life, we do that, too. We have old-fashioned parades and candlelight celebrations. You can go to the Museum of Appalachia in Clinton, Tennessee, to see how folks ‘round here used to spend their holidays. You can enjoy the pleasures of a live choir concert at Walters State and Carson Newman—and, of course, at local schools and churches, too!


It’s big, and it’s flashy, but there’s no denying you’ll feel that festive tingle as soon as you get there! Dollywood does the holiday season to the max, with tons of live stage shows, millions of bright lights, locally made crafts and seasonal snacks and drinks. It’s worth a visit for the whole family!


Tennessee is the birthplace of country music, and here is where you’ll find all the banjo, mandolin, dobro, dulcimer and any other down-home style music you can cut a rug to! Christmas music is even sweeter with that Appalachian twang.


Family Time

Don’t get us wrong; right up until Christmas we’re running around like chickens with our heads cut off! Church and school plays and concerts, gift shopping, parties and get-togethers, cooking, wrapping, decorating … we know how to do it up, just like any other part of the world this time of year! But when it comes to the special day, we spend it with our cherished family and community. We reflect on what matters most to us, and even though we love to give bountifully, we understand it’s not all about the stuff.


Interested in finding a new home in East Tennessee for the holidays? Get started at

Make Your List and Check it Twice!

Stay off the financial naughty list by making sure these things are taken care of!

So, it’s December y’all! The last month of the year. This is the month for holiday decorations, for cheer and good times, and for parties.

It’s also … the last month of the year. And even though we’d like to spend our time shopping, baking and generally enjoying our loved ones, it’s important to make sure all the year’s financial considerations have been taken care of, especially if you bought or sold a home in 2017. Read on for a few considerations in closing out the year on good financial footing!


Real Estate Gains

Most people won’t have to worry about paying taxes if you earned money from the sale of your new home. As this article points out, only gains above $250,000.00 (or $500,000.00 if you file with your spouse) require taxes to be paid. There are other rules to consider, too: your house must have been your primary residence for two to five years, for example, for the gains to be tax exempt. If there are any other complicating factors, such as divorce or inheritance, it’s very important to make sure you’ve covered all your fees and taxes. To be absolutely sure you’ve crossed all your t’s and dotted your i’s when it comes to paying taxes on real estate gains, make sure you consult with your tax professional soon!

Consider Taking a (Polar) Plunge

If you’ve been putting off buying your new home, now might be the time to jump on it. Why? Because that home could be as much as 12% cheaper now than it will be in the summer, according to this article. While there are more houses on the market in the summer, largely because families prefer to make their move in between school years, if you’ve found your perfect place in the winter, pounce on it!

Change of address!


If you moved this year, there might be a few places you overlooked while changing your address. Don’t worry, Santa will probably still find you. (He can fly all around the world in one night and get into houses without chimneys; he can find you in your new neighborhood!) But you want to be sure your 2017 W2 forms will find you, too. Here’s a change-of-address list from to check twice:

    Your place of employment

Your financial institution

Your credit card companies

Your utilities, cable, phone and internet providers

Your doctor, dentist, optometrist and other medical professionals you see regularly

Your health insurance company

Your life insurance company

Your vision/dental/catastrophic insurance company

Your car insurance company

Your rental or home insurance company

Your child’s school

Your child’s doctor, babysitter, music instructor, and others who provide paid services

Your pet’s veterinarian and kennel

Your alma mater

Circulation departments of magazines, newspapers and catalogues you subscribe to

Anyone who may need to send you final bills or info about their professional services in your new area

Friends & family, particularly those who go through the trouble to send holiday cards and paper invitations


Now that you’ve taken care of all that, feel free to toast yourself with a bit of eggnog and get to wrapping presents! Luckily, you can re-purpose some of your moving boxes for gift boxes.

Of course, if you’re ready to start out 2018 in a new home in East Tennessee, go to