Things We Love About Christmas in Tennessee

Things we love about our Tennessee Christmas.

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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.

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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!

Dollywood

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!

Music

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.

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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 DarleneReeves-Kline.com.

Fall Gardening in Tennessee

There’s a lot to be done in your East Tennessee garden during the cold-weather months.

It’s certainly no secret that four of our most attractive reasons for folks transplanting to East Tennessee is our four, distinct, lovely seasons. Each one brings a unique beauty: the abundance and cheerfulness of spring, the lush, warm summers, the crisp, colorful autumns and the starkly beautiful winters with sparkling frost and occasional blanketing snows.

For those folks who love to experience nature from the soil of their own gardens, November is no time to stay inside.

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We’re in full-on fall now, and although you won’t see the bright, cheery blossoms and buds we usually associate with Tennessee gardens in about five more months or so, there’s a lot to be done in your garden during the cold-weather months. Read on to find out more!

Trim the Trees

We haven’t had our first hard frost yet, but take note when we do. After that is when you should get out the clippers and chain saw and get to pruning. The sap has retreated from the outer branches, so now is the healthiest time for your trees to get trimmed. This will help your lovely spring bloomers to be even more beautiful when warm weather swings back around.

Tip: Some tree-trimmers go a little nuts, pruning all the smaller branches way back. The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture calls this a no-no. Be gentle with how much you cut. A little bit stimulates the tree; too much traumatizes it.

Plant Bulbs

Willow Ridge, a Knoxville-based landscaping company, gives this information about spring-flowering bulbs:

Crocus, hyacinths, daffodils, and tulips are all bulbs that we plant in the fall in East Tennessee. They need the cool of winter in order to bloom and also need time to establish a healthy root system. Plant them when temperatures are below 65 degrees either in the ground or in containers.

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Edible Garden Maintenance

Now is the time to cover your tender strawberry plants with straw and cover your cool-weather garden with frost blankets—if you want to extend their growing time. This year, you may have a few more weeks until you really need to get after these tasks; it’s been fairly warm so far.

Basic Maintenance

Now is the time to trim back dead plants and cover beds with three inches of mulch. Don’t pile the mulch up on the bases of your trees and crowns of plants. They don’t really like it, and the mulch gives pests the perfect cover to nibble away at them.

Feathered Friends

We have an abundance of lovely birds here in East Tennessee! Brighten your dreary winter days with a colorful garden show: keep your bird feeders filled with seed all winter. Keep water in the bird baths, too; birds will continue to need it throughout the upcoming winter months. You can also put out some fruit slices for an extra treat.

For more details about maintaining your garden through the fall and winter, check out this article from Tennessee Home & Farm.

Looking for your new home in East Tennessee? Check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com. Happy Fall, Y’All!

What Retirees Want!

You might be surprised at today’s retiree’s choices.

Most people, when they hear about retirees moving or looking to buy a new home, imagine somewhere sunny, with palm trees, and something small, like a condo or considerably downsized house. According to this survey on Forbes.com, performed in 2015, those antiquated ideas are way off!

So what are today’s retirees into, when it comes to this new phase of home life?

Staying Put

Surprisingly, most boomers choose not to relocate to a new state when buying a new home. And downsizing is becoming a myth! Many of today’s retirees choose a similar-sized home, or even one that is a little bigger. Why? To make room for visitors, family, and even hobbies. In fact, the most popular home improvement project for a retiree is adding on a personal office!

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Less retirees are choosing this scene for their daily lives.

Freedom Threshold

It’s no surprise that the boomer generation rejects the old view of retirement: relaxing in the sun, living in a tiny condo. Today’s retiree has planned meticulously to live their lives to the fullest! They are choosing lifestyles based on the things they like and want, instead of living where they have an easy commute to work or better access to schools for their kids. This mindset is called the Freedom Threshold.

The biggest advantage of reaching the Freedom Threshold? Living longer! Stats show that retirees aren’t just fading away after punching their last time card. Instead, they’re living longer, fuller lives, and choosing dream homes they’ve saved for instead of just settling for something tiny.

So what is the biggest motivator for retirees when choosing their next home? Proximity to family. Retirees who stay in-state do so to be close to family, and 29% those who move away have the same reason: to follow family.

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Survey says: family is the most important factor in retirees deciding where to live.

Not Just Fun and Games

Proximity of family is also on this checklist of things to consider when planning a retirement relocation, on CNBC.com. In addition, if you’re looking to make a major lifestyle change (in addition to retiring!) keep in mind differences in taxes from state to state, and whether keeping your original residence to rent out or selling it outright will be more advantageous.

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Even though schools and work commute are no longer as important, you should still weigh your options carefully.

Medical care is also a major consideration. Even if you plan to snowbird north for the summer or south for the winter, you shouldn’t rely only on doctors in your home state. Even in rural areas, Tennessee has good access to emergency care, and clinics and hospitals are a short drive in most locations. But, still, do your homework and make sure you like the local medical care before committing!

Consider East Tennessee

Here in East Tennessee, the same mild climate, beautiful landscape, low cost of living and pleasant standard of living—including tons of stuff to do!—are good for both young, working families and those looking to retire. In Tennessee, you can get the best of both worlds: staying close to family, and living well on a fixed income!

 

If you’re looking to retire in East Tennessee, and you want to find your dream home, check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com. We’d love to help.

Heating Bill Comparison

Let’s take a look at the cost of heating our homes in East Tennessee.

It’s officially Fall, Y’All, and it’s the time of year for lovely leaves (which haven’t reached their peak yet,) gorgeous, bright harvest moons, and crisp nights and mornings. We haven’t yet hit a hard frost this season, and lots of people stay comfy even in the chillier weather by shutting their windows and bundling up in warm sweaters and socks.

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But we know the real cold is on its way! And, since we’re proud of how affordable the cost of living here in Tennessee is, we thought we’d take a look at how much it costs to heat a home in our fair state. Electricity Local is a website that compares the cost of electricity, and how much electricity is used, with the rest of the country. According to them, Tennesseans spend an average of $123 per month on the household electric bill. If you read further, you’ll notice that’s actually higher than the average electric bill in America, by a little over 14%.

But wait, didn’t we say bills are lower, here?

They are! The rate for electricity in Tennessee averages 10.1 cents/kWh, ranking us 37th in the nation. That’s pretty good. Our cost for electricity is about 15% lower than the average in this country. And, because the cost of electricity is more affordable, more people use electric means (like heat pumps) to heat their homes in the cooler months!

If you opt to subsidize your heating needs with gas, or good old firewood, then your electric bill will be even lower. We also have plenty of choices in Tennessee for solar power, which can be purchased on a lease-to-own basis or with a lump sum. Going this route means your electric bills will dwindle down to nil. In many cases, solar power consumers get paid by TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority), because their solar panels produce enough power to sell some back to the grid! That’s a pretty sweet way to put our average of 204 days of sunshine per year to good use.

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But, what about other sources of heat for the home? Around here, natural gas is pretty popular. It delivers heat quickly. In comparing the cost of gas with electricity, we can check out Energy Models, a website that specializes in this sort of thing. The biggest challenge in the comparison is that electricity is measured by kWh, and natural gas rates come in dollars per therm. Those aren’t easily convertible units! We went to this website for a better explanation:

There are 100,000 Btus per therm of natural gas. There are 3413 Btus per kilowatt hour of electricity.

To Calculate The Comparison:

Multiply the cost per kilowatt hour X 29.3 to get the cost of 100,000 Btus of electricity and compare that cost, to the cost of one therm of natural gas, which can be found on your monthly statement.

Example: If your cost of electricity is $.08 per Kwh, then multiply $.08 X 29.3 = $2.34 for 100,000 Btus of electricity, then compare that cost, to the cost of one therm of natural gas, which can be found on your monthly statement.

The upshot is this: natural gas is, actually, cheaper to use in heating your home. BUT, installing a natural gas heater, and maintenance, too, costs more money.

 

If you want to make East Tennessee your home this fall, check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com!

Volunteer Spirit

Again and again, Tennesseans prove why we’re the Volunteer State.

Last year, much of our beloved Smoky Mountains National Park was destroyed by wildfires. Much of Gatlinburg also burned, and that community was left with many scars. But, through volunteers and programs like Mountain Strong and Dolly Parton’s My People fund, Gatlinburg and the surrounding area has come a long way toward healing.

Tennesseans are called Volunteers, not just because we support the University of Tennessee, but because we are famous for stepping up when help is needed. During the Mexican-American war, when President Polk called for 2,600 troops to volunteer in America, Tennessee showed up with 30,000 men, ready to fight. This was after the Alamo, and former Tennessee Governor Sam Houston demanded great loyalty from his home state. This year, Houston needed help again, and Tennesseans showed up, again!

This hurricane season has been horrific, with Harvey and Irma causing devastation with record-breaking flooding in Houston and massive destruction of homes and land in the Florida Keys and along the West Coast of the sunshine state. Many people came up to East Tennessee to escape Irma’s fury, seeking refuge in the safety of our mountains.

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Now that the storms have passed, relief is needed, and Tennesseans have once again proven they go above and beyond the call of duty. Celebrities like Kenny Chesney and Dolly Parton donate time and money, but regular Tennesseans step up to help, too.  Tennesseans in Nashville and Knoxville showed up in droves with boats and other watercraft hitched to their vehicles, ready to drive to Houston for search and rescue efforts.  Knoxville firefighters, emergency responders, churches and volunteers donated time, money and relief supplies to help people whose lives were disrupted by these natural disasters. Knoxville residents are raising money for relief efforts in both Houston and Florida through sales of these t-shirts.

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It’s easy to watch the morning news and believe that we don’t care about each other in this country, that hatred and arguments and irreconcilable differences are the new cultural norm in America. But, when disaster strikes, we help each other. We rescue our fellow human beings from the floods, and bring food and drinking water to those who need it. So many people responded to the call for help in Houston that volunteers had to be turned away! Tennesseans were front and center in the big-hearted groups who showed up.

We’re proud to call Tennessee our home, and we love the giving hearts of our neighbors.

If you’re looking for a Tennessee home, too, visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com.

First Day of Fall!

Read about some of our favorite Tennessee fall things!

Fall is an especially sweet time in Tennessee. It’s one of the top-ranking reasons for people to relocate here: they love the changing of the seasons, but want mild weather. Tennessee delivers the best of seasons with minimal extremes, like snow storms or 100-degree summer days! Read on to find out some of our fall favorites in East Tennessee:

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Apple Butter

This Tennessee favorite isn’t butter at all; it’s creamy, sweet, smooth apple all cooked up and made into a spreadable treat. You don’t cut out the cores to make apple butter; you cook all the parts of the apple together before processing out the parts that wouldn’t be good to eat. Natural pectin is inside the apple core, which helps apple butter to firm up. During the fall in East Tennessee, you can find big cauldrons of apple butter being stirred up by wooden paddles in fall festivals! And if you can’t get to a festival, local tractor supply stores and small businesses usually start carrying this seasonal favorite. You could always try making your own, too. Click here for a simple recipe.

Apple Cider

If your idea of apple cider is something you shake out of a little packet and mix with microwaved water, then you definitely don’t know what you’re missing! In the Smokies, apple harvests were preserved for generations with family recipes like apple butter, apple preserves and apple cider. These recipes were a way to make apples last through the cold months, when fresh, growing things were scarce. Traditional apple cider is made with several varieties of apples, which are crushed and pressed until juice (and some bits of fruit) comes out. The pectin in the fresh product is good for you (and can’t be found in powdered cider drinks!). Traditional cider is a little bit alcoholic; the fruit ferments. That was another way apple cider warmed the body during winter months.

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Gorgeous Leaves

People from all over the country make the pilgrimage to view our famous, eye-popping fall leaves every year. Depending on rain fall, seasonal temperatures and some unknown mystery-factor, leaves reach peak colors sometime in October (usually!) It’s the perfect time for a hike in the majestic Smoky Mountains, especially since the weather is refreshingly crisp.

Crisp Nights

Fall brings with it the nostalgic smell of wood smoke, both from bonfires and fireplaces, where families enjoy one of the most ancient creature comforts known to man: a cozy fire! Even if you prefer the convenience of turning up the thermostat on chilly nights, fall just feels cozier with a warm fire. This is that great, transitional time of year when your favorite sweater is just right; you don’t need to bundle up in a winter coat just yet, and the heat of the summer is fading away. Our fall days can be pleasantly warm, too, and even more pleasant with the summer humidity fading away!

 

If you’re looking for the perfect place to snuggle in and enjoy the fall weather, visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com to search for listings in our neck of the woods!

 

Maximalism!

Maximalism is coming back in response to minimalism!

We’ve written before about how millenials are all about minimalism. The trends today are all about smaller homes, smaller footprints on the environment, even capsule wardrobes to minimize the amount of clothes that need to fit inside the smaller closet!

The idea behind it comes from many cultural sources, but probably the most modern and recognizable is this book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. The author put together a life philosophy and style and created an entire social movement! In her view, if something is not useful to you, or very beautiful, then get rid of it! So, no keeping your grandmother’s old shoes, or that falling-down piece of furniture (unless you truly think those things are useful or beautiful.) It’s a great philosophy to kick-start your decluttering efforts.

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Some people get really, really into the minimalist lifestyle, squeezing a four-person family into a renovated school bus, or throwing out everything in their kitchen except enough plates for four people, a food processor and two pans! The movement has become a kind of challenge: how little can you live with?

But there is a backlash coming in the style world, and it’s one that many of our boomers will recognize: it’s maximalism! Instead of simple, clean design with neutral colors and only a few pieces of furniture to adorn a room, maximalism is all about color, and patterns and squeezing in as much as you possibly can into one space!

Of course, you could go way too far with the idea, and keep way, way too much. That’s the danger of this end of the style spectrum: you could risk becoming a pack rat for fear of throwing something out that might be useful or stylish or just plain catch your fancy again in a year or two.

Interestingly, while minimalism seems to embrace small-home living as a means of saving money, forcing the minimum of physical belongings and reducing our environmental footprint, maximalism doesn’t really fit into a specific-sized place. It’s more about filling up whatever space is available.

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Parents of small children especially relate to the tug-of-war between maximalism and minimalism! A room overflowing with toys can get overwhelming, making even the most practical parent break down and scream, “That’s it! We’re getting rid of everything in here!” But, still, each new holiday or visit to the grandparents’ house brings on something else that’s colorful and fun, and deserves a place of honor somewhere in the house (preferably the kids’ rooms!)

The truth is that most of us probably fit somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. We like a little bit of color, have a collection or two of things that may not really be necessary but make us happy. It’s probably a good idea to go through once every year or two and clean out our stuff, throw away clothes that haven’t fit in years or dishes that might be pretty but are broken and just live in the garage now.

So where do you fit into the spectrum? Do you like to pile on the color and texture in your home, or do you prefer a more serene environment?

Whether you’re into minimalism or maximalism, we can help you find your next home to make your own. Visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com to search our listings.