Fun Visiting Ripley’s Aquarium!

Visiting Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies!

by Rachelle Siegrist

wes siegrist kist gentry at ripleys aquarium
Fred, Barb, Wes and Kit watching the large Arowanas 

We had a great time at the beautiful Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies located in nearby Gatlinburg one day this past week! It was our dear friend Fred’s 81st birthday and we thought it a great way to celebrate!  Upon entering the aquarium, you are first met by a large tank filled with Piranha, and we arrived in time to watch them be fed!  The chubby fish with pinkish bellies and sides that look like they’ve been sprinkled with glitter, chomped away at the pieces of shrimp, until it was all gone in no time!

They then fed the Electric Eel next to the Piranhas, so we got to watch him eat as well, which is always a treat for me!  Offering the shrimp with a special holder so as not to get shocked, they gently tap it on the side and a volt meter registers the current it discharges each time, displaying it on a graph and sounding it aloud!  Walking along the gently sloping floor we came to the Dart Frogs and Iguanas next.  Then came the Flounders, and with both eyes on the same side and being flat as a pancake, they’re always so much fun to watch!

A Cuttlefish and a Flounder, both so very cute!

Several more aquariums line the curving walls before you reach the shark tunnel, which is obviously one of the best parts!  Standing on the slow moving floor, you feel as if you’re actually in the water with these amazing sharks as they slowly and gracefully pass overhead, sometimes looking as if they’re headed straight for you!  Of course the music playing, which sounds like something straight out of the classic JAWS movie, adds to the excitement and thrill of it all!

sharks at gatlinburg ripleys aquarium
Da . . Na . . .Da . . . Na . . Da-Na . .  Da-Na . . . I love watching the sharks!

The large resident Sawfish is amazing to see and he sports the most interesting mouth, which looks more like a pair of oversized pink lips!

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The Sawfish with it’s BIG pink “lips”

The Pacific Sea Nettles are another favorite of mine, and I’m instantly mesmerized by their graceful, slow movements, appearing like sea ballerinas, preforming recitals in super slow motion, as they gently pulse while effortlessly gliding through the water. Watching fish and other aquatic life seemingly weightless, swim about has to be one of the most relaxing past times there is! So sit back and relax while enjoying this short video by clicking on the photo below. (Many thanks to Kit for his video clips used in making this!)

sea nettles
Click on photo to see video

After relaxingly watching numerous other gorgeous, brightly colored fish swim about, we saw the Stonefish and Lionfish, each very beautiful in their own ways as well.

Stonefish and Lionfish

Of course time spent watching penguins is always great fun, and so it was this time whilst watching the antics of the adorable African Penguins, as they zipped back and forth through the water at lightning speeds!  One penguin in particular named Riley, was extremely friendly, and seemed to enjoy hanging out with our group.  Happily, he even photo bombed our photo, thus making it even better!

wes and rachelle siegrist ripleys aqarium
Riley, Wes, Barb, me, Kit and Fred

Riley and another one of his adorable buddies

Kit even decided to crawl through a tunnel to get a really up close and personal view of them from inside their enclosure.

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Hmmmm . . . that’s an odd looking Penguin!

After saying goodbye to our new penguin friends, we headed over to Stingray Bay, where you can gently pet the various rays as they “fly” by.  I couldn’t decide which I was enjoying more, feeling the amazingly soft topside of the rays as they passed by or the delightfully warm water!  Having been told by aquarium staff to quickly remove our hands when the small sharks swim by, a boy standing near us jerked out and nearly ripped off his own arm, when he realized at the last second that a shark was quickly approaching his submerged hand, sending us all into a state of laughter!  We also enjoyed seeing the Pearl Harbor Exhibit currently on display there, and I must admit that the various gorgeous fish in the exhibit really caught my eye! Especially the Rectangular Triggerfish, who looks like a watercolor painting in motion!

trigger fish and tang
A beautiful Yellow Tang and Rectangular Triggerfish also known as the “Humuhumunukunukuapua’a” in Hawaii

Time had passed much too quickly and it was time to leave,  It had been a most delightful afternoon and if you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit to the Ripley’s aquarium!  Later that evening, we all celebrated Fred’s birthday with his very own special “carrot cake” which was diet friendly, and of course there was brownies to go with it!

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Fred and his special diet friendly “carrot cake”

~ Fresh off the Easels ~

I finished another commission this past week of President Trump which is part of the Presidential Portrait Miniatures Collection of the Woolaroc Museum in Bartlesville, OK. Visit our portraits page for more info on this amazing collection of miniature portrait paintings. We are truly honored to be part of continuing this rare and prestigious collection of portrait miniatures of the United States Presidents!

Presidential Portrait Miniatures by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist1
Wes’ miniature portrait of President Bush, and mine of President Obama and President Trump

Wes finished his miniature landscape painting featuring another splendid river scene from nearby us in the Smoky Mountains!  He also finished a commission of a Puffin which I’ll be sharing with you soon!

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Wes’ “An Invitation Upstream” 

Boykin Spaniel painting, commission a dog painting, dog paintings by rachelle siegrist

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle

Magical Meadows, Rocket Stove and Eggs!

Hiking Schoolhouse Gap to White Oak Sinks!

by Rachelle Siegrist

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It’s that time of year again, so this past Wednesday, we headed up Schoolhouse Gap Trail to see if the Tall Phlox were blooming. It was a beautiful morning, as occasional clouds passed overhead and the sound of springtime birdsong and gentle breezes filled the air!  As we started our descent into the woodland meadow area, clusters of the delicate lavender flowers started appearing, proving our timing was perfect!  Soon we found ourselves surrounded by a sea of lavender and their soft sweet fragrance filled the air! We found the perfect lunch spot, a big log with plenty of room for the four of us, and we were delighted to have this magical meadow all to ourselves!

A Swallowtail enjoys the Tall Phlox, Shooting Stars and Squaw Root

After lunch, we decided to hike up to a sinkhole where Virginia Bluebells bloom each year.  It’s tricky knowing exactly when they’re blooming, so we weren’t sure what to expect, but were thrilled to find that they were indeed at peak, and absolutely stunning! It was decided that it was a wonderfully peaceful place to just sit awhile, enjoying the beauty and quiet!

white oak sinks trailSoon it was time to start hiking back, and while winding our way through the woods, we heard what sounded like thumping on a large hollow log, growing in intensity and tempo as it went along.  Having an odd sound, it also seemed too slow for a woodpecker, so at first we thought perhaps it was a Ruffed Grouse. But after researching online, we concluded it was most likely a Pileated Woodpecker, since Grouse do the beating with their wings while standing on a log. However, I also discovered that it sounded somewhat like the tapping on a hollow tree made by Sasquatch!  Being a huge fan of Bigfoot, I decided to go with that theory in the end, thinking perhaps he was watching us from up on the surrounding hillside somewhere and was tapping out a “Howdy!” to me!  We strolled back down the path, and just before reaching the trailhead, we stopped for a short wade in the river, finding it most refreshing and a great way to end the hike!

rachelle siegrist hiking school house gap trail
Obviously Tom didn’t get the red shirt memo!

Yesterday was the perfect day for hunting Easter eggs with our little friend Chance, and so he, along with his grandparents and several others, spent time in our front gardens hiding and hunting the multi-colored eggs. Of course it all started with the guys hiding the eggs, while us girls kept him entertained with bubbles, a favorite pastime of his!

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Always fun playing with bubbles!

Soon the three dozen or so eggs were carefully tucked in secret hiding places and the hunt began!  Chance was having a ball locating the eggs and putting them in his red bucket, but stopped several times to watch the Swallowtail Butterflies that kept flitting above, occasionally landing to drink nectar from the abundant Azalea blossoms!  Each time he would sweetly say “Hi butterfly“, then proceed with his search for eggs.

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Looking for more eggs!

Upon finding them all, we hid them for him again, so he could enjoy the experience all over again.  Having worked up an appetite, our group headed to Pizza Hut for a tasty supper and ended the fun evening relaxing on the back porch while enjoying Sharon’s yummy chocolate cake!

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Found another one!

Wes recently discovered rocket stoves in a magazine and after doing some online research, built us one, for free no less!  Upon using it the first time, we were totally amazed, so he built another one right next to it the very next day!  Using small amounts of sticks collected from the woods, it concentrates the heat in one area, thus cooking food efficiently and for free!  A day or so later, he built a table nearby to set things on, so our outdoor kitchen is now complete and works great!

wes siegrists rocket stove
The initial rocket stove in action

Celebrate Easter . . . For He is risen!


~ Fresh off the Easels ~

Wes painted two landscape paintings this past week featuring gorgeous settings from our beloved nearby Smoky Mountain National Park.  Just a few minutes drive from our home, we love hiking in this area, and of course painting it for you to cherish and enjoy!

landscape smokies painting by_Wes_Siegrist
Wes’ “Still Waters”
lanscape waterfall painting by_Wes_Siegrist
Wes’ “Cascade Colors”

I have almost finished one of my current commissions which I will share with you soon, and started this commission “A Mule Full” featuring four precious little doggies belonging to dear collector friends!  As you can imagine, I’m having a ball painting this one!

dog commission in progress
My latest dog commission in progress

commission a painting by wes siegrist, landscape painting of the virgin islands

~ To Commission A Painting by Us Click Here!

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle