Building A Model Railroad

More Progress On The Train Set, Parties and Paintings!

by Rachelle Siegrist

Picnic in the Cove with rachelle and wes siegrist
Cades Cove picnic ~ Barb, Tom, Wes, me and Paula

While Wes and I have spent most of our time at the easels this past week, we’ve also enjoyed some fun times with friends!  We met dear friends, Tom and Paula visiting from Florida, in Cades Cove for lunch one day this past week.  Slightly overcast, the air was a bit on the chilly side for me, feeling more like a fall day rather than summer!  It was a lovely one though, and we all enjoyed catching up, while doing a lot of laughing as well! Afterwards we took a relaxing drive with Fred and Barb, around part of the Cades Cove loop road, crossing at Sparks Lane.  The expansive fields were full of purple and yellow blossoms creating a beautiful scene which surrounded us as we drove along the dirt road, cutting through the middle of the cove.

cades cove photo
Our beloved Cades Cove filled with Iron Weed blossoms

Last evening after meeting for supper, several friends came over for a game of Mexican Train Dominoes and dessert.  We managed to really surprise friend Barb, with a birthday cake, while celebrating her birthday a wee bit early, since we will be leaving to attend the upcoming Birds in Art opening weekend festivities in Wausau, WI, this week!  Since we all love chocolate, I made a chocolate cake with caramel buttercream frosting, and topped it with dark chocolate sculptures, which I call my Jackson Pollock chocolates.

chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream frosting

It turned out wonderfully, and upon Barb blowing out the candles, the air was filled with “Mmmmmmm’s” as we tantalized our taste buds with the scrumptious cake.  It was a delightful evening enjoyed by all, and happily Barb was very surprised indeed!

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Barb waits in anticipation while Wes lights candles and Darlene looks on

A very dear friend recently bought me a bunch of roasted unsalted peanuts for my critter friends, and I don’t know who is enjoying them more . . . them or me!  Friendly, a young squirrel which I’m quite sure grew up in a nest located close to the back porch, has been pretty tame from the onset of our friendship. She sits mere inches from my feet during breakfast each morning, eating her little pile of peanuts whilst I enjoy my breakfast.  I talk to her and she looks up at me, appearing to be listening intently to everything I say, but of course deep down I know she’s just there for the peanuts!  When mid-afternoon rolls around, I love sitting on the back porch in the sun, while shelling peanuts and feeding them to visiting friends, and myself!  Funny thing is, many times the birds and Blue-tailed Skink lizards join me in my basking in the sun ritual for a few minutes, so I’m hardly ever alone in my warming ritual, especially as long as I’m tossing out edible treats!

Friendly enjoying her peanut snack ~ Tinymouse basks in the sun with me

Our Model Railroad update ~

We’re continuing to make more progress on the model train set.  In this next step you can see we pretty much finished the water including the cascading falls and the ocean below.  Layers of glue and Modge Podge were added, letting each layer completely dry before another was added.  Wes used a acrylic paint with it, to make the water more opaque in spots, creating the whitewater effect and waves.  As you can see in the photo below, there is an old sunken boat and a Hammerhead Shark which Wes sculpted out of clay for me.  They were placed underneath the Plexiglas creating a wonderful illusion of depth.

building a model railroad

In other areas we continued to add in more trees, both those made of wire and others created from small twigs with the colored sawdust added for leaves.  The lake was created by painting the bottom of it, starting with dark blue in the deepest spot, and lightening to a nice pale turquoise in the more shallow areas.  After placing a fallen tree and large rock in the lake, the top was covered with a piece of Plexiglas, which Wes carefully drilled a small hole in, to accommodate the standing dead tree.  The end result was fantastic and quite real looking!  If only it were life-sized and in our back woods, that would be awesome!


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Gravel colored sawdust used for roads and parking lots in the city was added, as well as the grass and gravel near the train tracks.  More trees, shrubs and pieces of dried lichen helped create the forest and woodland areas . . . More to come soon!

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~ Fresh off the Easels ~

While I finished my two latest commissions, which are both surprises, Wes finished a couple of miniature paintings this past week.  The first features my precious little Carolina Wren, named Peedeepeeps.  He loves sitting on this moss covered flower pot during the winter months in direct sunlight on our front porch, as is quite warm and toasty!

carolina wren painting
Wes’ “Mr. Spunky”

The other is a miniature of a little Red-eared Slider, which while being perched atop the clump, looks like it’s waiting for the water to raise and unstick him.  In reality he is just enjoying the delightful warmth of the sun as much as I do!

turtle painting
Wes’ “Enjoying the Duckweed Spa”

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle


Family and Water . . . A Great Mix!


A fun visit with family here in the Smokies!

by Rachelle Siegrist

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S’mores time!!!

My family arrived here in the Smokies a week ago last Thursday, after dropping Wes and I off at the airport in Sanford, FL on the way up Wednesday.  My niece Haydyn and nephew Tyler were thrilled to be back in the mountains again, and were ready for a week full of adventure! We started it off with tubing in the Little River here in Townsend Friday afternoon, and although recent rain in the mountains caused swift moving and higher water levels, we still had fun and enjoyed tubing a couple of short trips down. That evening we had supper on the screen porch and made s’mores for dessert over the fire in the backyard.  A great way to spend a summer day indeed!

wes siegrist sculpting
Wes’ clay sculpture “Surf’s up Dude!”

Rainy weather Saturday made it perfect weather for hanging out here at the house and sculpting with clay. Of course we had to sculpt a surfer catching some waves complete with the a shark fin, as well as me in my kayak paddling with all sorts of critters including a gator. The kids had a ball creating a variety of interesting things out of the clay.

rachelle siegrist riding the cades cove loop
The best way to see the cove . . . in the back of a truck!

I made homemade baked ziti for Father’s Day lunch which my Dad, along with the rest of us enjoyed eating! That afternoon the weather cleared up, so we, along with friends Tom and Sharon, headed into Cades Cove for a nice picnic supper by the stream before loading up into the back of my parents truck and heading around the loop road. Our first stop was along Sparks Lane, where we had a blast wading in the stream and perfecting our rock skipping techniques.

rachelle siegrist in cades cove
Ready . . . set . . . skip!

While playing in the water, we were thrilled when a white-tailed deer walked over to where we were, coming down to the stream to get a drink. As we stood very still and quietly watched her, she decided to go upstream, gracefully and effortlessly jumping right over a log blocking her watery path! Needless to say, we felt tremendously blessed to have witnessed such a beautiful site so near to where we were standing!

deer in cades cove
Mmmmmm . . .  refreshing cold mountain water!

Loaded back into the truck, we continued our drive around the loop, seeing several more deer out in the fields, as well as quite a few turkeys. Riding in the back of the truck, with the tree canopy passing above, is a great way to experience the cove! We laughed, talked and sang as we rode along, a light misty rain falling on us at first, and before long we started seeing hundreds of fireflies in the grassy fields.  It was truly magical watching hundreds of  twinkling lights throughout the fields, and we couldn’t believe it when a black bear walked over towards the truck from a nearby tree, crossing the road behind us! We were absolutely delighted thinking it a most magical and enchanting evening!  Finishing the drive around the loop, we parked the truck and walked up into the cove a ways, enjoying the immense serenity and beauty, along with the twinkling display of light, complements of the fireflies.  It was a beautiful evening and a great way to spend Father’s Day with my dad!

rachelle siergist with pink flamingo
Me and my precious little buddy Haydyn

Tuesday came bringing nice weather for playing in the water, and so we did just that. We spent the day kayaking, swimming and hanging out on our floats and tubes,  with the new pink flamingo float from my parents stealing the show, proving to be a perfect complement to my pink kayak! 


I even got Wes to get on the pink flamingo with me ~ Hold on Sharon! . . . Ha Ha

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Haydyn goes for a little kayak ride with Grandpa (Thanks Kit for this neat photo!)

We took time for a relaxing picnic supper, which gave us more energy for playing in the water. Afterwards my Dad, Tyler and I went kayaking and I was totally amazed at how fast Tyler took to the kayak and learned the art of paddling! He’s decided he now knows what he wants for Christmas this year . . . a kayak, and I’m thrilled to have another kayaking buddy in the family!

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Food always tastes better in the woods!

Haydyn is definitely a water baby like me, perfectly happy and content to spend countless hours swimming and playing in the water, and although I forgot to check, I’m sure our toes looked like raisins by the time we left the water that night!

Kit, Dad and Tyler having a great time!
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Tyler was an instant pro!

I have totally loved the countless hours we have spent with my family in and around water these past two weeks while making many more wonderful memories!!  Moreover, while blissfully boogie boarding at the beach last week, I decided that from now on when asked . . . “As a kid, what did you always want to be when you grew up?” I’m going to be completely honest now and say . . . “A beach bum!”  And who knows, I just may get to be one someday yet . . . Ha Ha!

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A beautiful sunset enjoyed this past week after a day of adventure


~ Fresh off the Easels ~

I finished another pet commission this past week, of an adorable Yorkie named Benji!  I had an absolute ball painting this precious little boy and am happy I get to pet and play with him occasionally as well!

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My latest dog commission “Benji”


I’m currently painting on two more adorable pet commissions, one of “Tito” and of “Riley and Boris” and look forward to sharing them with you as I make progress and eventually as finished portrait paintings soon!

yellow lab painting, yellow Labrador Retriever painting, dog commission by rachelle siegrist

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle

Fun In The Woods With Wes’ Parents

Walking in the Woods!!!

by Rachelle Siegrist

cades cove cabins wes siegrist
Wes and his parents by the Lawson Barn in Cades Cove

Wes’ parents arrived at our home here in the Smokies this past Wednesday and we have been on the go ever since!  We enjoyed a picnic in Cades Cove and riding around the loop road, while counting turkey and deer the first evening.  It was a beautiful one too, complete with a gorgeous sunset over the mountains!

turkey in cades cove
A couple of resident turkey in the cove

No matter how many times we visit Cades Cove, it’s always a joy and inspiring as an artist, as we love painting the historic barns and home places located there, as well as the numerous gorgeous vistas, scenes and resident wildlife!

cades cove barn
The Lawson Barn in Cades Cove

The next day we headed over to Roaring Fork near Gatlinburg, but recent high winds in our area combined with the wildfires last year, had caused numerous trees to fall, therefore temporarily closing the loop drive.  So after visiting one accessible log cabin and barn, we decided to hike the Gatlinburg Trail.  Following alongside the river, it’s always a pleasant relaxing walk, and was gorgeous, dressed in lush green foliage.

hiking the gatlinburg trail
Wes’ parents and me on one of the bridges

Numerous Mountain Laurel were blooming showcasing their delicate light pink flowers dotted throughout the woods, adding even more beauty!

gatlinburg trail
Jeanie and George by one of the Mountain Laurel

Of course if there’s water around and it’s not frozen I usually get in . . . most of the time!  I just couldn’t resist the stunningly clear water, and after my legs went numb, it didn’t feel too bad . . . Ha Ha!  Sadly I couldn’t convince any of the others to play in the water with me though.

rachelle siegrist gatlinburg trail
Brrrrrr . . .  so refreshing!!!

Yesterday was spent at the 27th Wilderness Wildlife Week event held in Pigeon Forge.  What a fun and interesting day it was as we attended several different lectures and presentations, including a hammered dulcimer concert, as well as an old fashioned harp note singing!  We really enjoyed “The People of Cades Cove” presentation and were thrilled to hear stories about life in the cove from about a dozen people who were actually born inside the cove! I learned that “When you can step on your head, it’s 12 noon”, in other words being able to step on the shadow of your head.  Another person told about living in the cove after it became a National Park, that it was like the goldfish bowl effect, as people were always watching them and asking questions, mostly kind of ridiculous ones.  One tourist asked the cove resident if he realized there was a deer pasturing with his cattle, to which his father quickly replied, “Why yes I do . . . I milk her along with the cows!” (They had a Jersey Cow among their Herefords) I found this a brilliant answer to a silly question!  Another highlight was the presentation “What is it?” where the audience was shown objects found in the cove and we were to guess what they were, and I was thrilled to have guessed one correctly!  I also learned of a few more awesome places to camp, kayak and hike!  Needless to say, we came away more knowledgable in so many ways!


What a better way to cook a gourmet Mother’s Day lunch than over an open fire, so we did just that, and it was delicious! I want to wish all of you special Moms out there a very Happy Mothers Day, especially to my own amazing Mom who has loved, prayed for and taken care of our family in tremendous ways throughout the years, and to my special Mother-n-law Jeanie!

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Happy Mother’s Day to my most precious Mom, whom I love SO very much!!!

~ Fresh off the Easels ~

I finished my latest dog commission this past week featuring a mule seat full of joy and love!!  I had so much fun painting this adorable bundle of fur and told their mommy I would love to sit on that seat and hold them all in my lap! You can’t help but smile when looking at this fun painting!

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My “A Mule Full!”

Wes finished his landscape painting of the John Oliver cabin in Cades Cove this past week, as viewed from a seldom seen angle.  We never tire of seeing, hiking to and painting these great historical beauties and national treasures!

“A Cabin in the Woods” by Wes

yellow lab painting, yellow Labrador Retriever painting, dog commission by rachelle siegrist

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle