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


Tis’ Better To Give Than Receive!

Giving At Christmastime And Always!

by Rachelle Siegrist

“In Between Meals” 

Isn’t getting something you’ve really wanted for a long time most exciting?  As exciting as it may be, I really believe many times giving is better!  When I think of the joy I have brought to family and friends through the years by giving something, usually a painting or drawing of something or someone special, it brings me indescribable joy! Especially when it’s of a child, grandchild, beloved pet or a favorite bird, flower or place, and the sheer delight of receiving it is written all over their faces!

“A Winter Cascade” 

I was taught to give while growing up, and many times it included acts of service.  Some of my fondest Christmastime memories are wrapped up in giving of my time and myself to others.  I remember spending countless hours, contentedly wrapping donated toys for underprivileged children, and it always made me feel so happy knowing how those simple toys were going to brighten their Christmas!  Handing them out to the children in the park and seeing their excitement and smiling faces, was always such a gift to me in return!

“In My Happy Place”

Serving meals to the homeless in a local mission, was another highlight for me as well, and I considered myself blessed to be able to participate in doing so!  As a teenager I even bought canned goods for one homeless gentleman in particular,  leaving them in a certain location where I knew he would come and get them, and I looked forward to doing that quite often, as it became a very important to me.

“Ocean Compliments”

Hayrides were also a part of our Christmas traditions, and were even better when our youth group started making up gift baskets overflowing with food, delivering them to elderly people and shut-ins that couldn’t get out easily or afford much.  The surprise covering their precious faces, when our carol singing group knocked on their door and handed a basket to them, was priceless and filled us with such joy!  Our youth group also went to the nursing homes every Christmas where we would sing carols for the residents, knowing the entire time how much we were brightening their day.  For me personally, this was most important and enjoyable, since older people have always held a special place in my heart, thanks to the important role my Grandparents, Great Aunts and Uncles played in my life!

“A Herd Of Deere”

So this Christmas I challenge you to experience the true joy of Christmas . . . Giving!  Be it something special for that special person, or inviting a friend or neighbor who will spending Christmas alone this year, over for dinner.  Do something for somebody else . . . it’s the greatest gift you can give yourself!

“A Tennessee Farmstead”


~ Currently on the Easels ~

We’re currently in the beginning stages of one commission, where different compositional sketches are done for the collector, from which a favorite will be chosen and hence the painting process started!  Wes has made much progress on the other commission, and our collector is greatly enjoying seeing the painting come to life, as Wes sends him images of the latest progress on the painting.

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The latest progress on Wes’ commission “A Bad Day At The Office”

Is there something or someone special that you would love to have as a painting to enjoy and cherish? ~ Contact us!


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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle

Paintings . . . Hellbenders . . . Good Eats and Great Laughs !

Paintings . . . Hellbenders . . . Good Eats and Great Laughs !

by Rachelle Siegrist

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Fall is just around the corner, and I can’t believe the summer is almost over!  It seems to have flown by this year, perhaps because of the many hours spent relaxing in the river. Nonetheless, the falling leaves are a telltale sign that cooler days are coming.  While most of my time was spent spent at the easel this past week, Wes has been working on several projects around the house and yard.  Thankfully I’ve been able to slip down to the river a few times throughout the week with friends, and although time spent in the river is always delightful, sometimes things happen making it better, and such was the case one afternoon this past week!  I have been enamored with Hellbenders since seeing their photo in a little book featuring photos of fish and amphibians I had while growing up.  I have always wanted to see one in person, so imagine my sheer delight when that dream came true this past week!

Hellbender salamander in the smokies
The amazing Hellbender!

While lazily sitting on a rock in the middle of the river, I noticed a smaller “rock” that I didn’t recall seeing seconds before, and suddenly realized alas . . . it was a Hellbender!  I squealed to friends Sharon and Tom . . . “There it is!!!” as chill bumps covered my legs from the intense excitement of finally seeing one in real life! Not only did we see one, but alas three of these amazing giant salamanders, most likely named Hellbender for their odd appearance! Generally solitary, Hellbenders are thought to gather only during the mating season which begins in late August or early to mid-September, so it was a real treat to see three in the same area!  We were obviously in the right place at the right time, and felt so blessed to be able to watch these awesome critters for awhile!   My Mom’s sage advice “Look with your eyes and not your hands!” was instantly out the window as I slowly and ever so gently touched their tale and back foot, and it was amazingly silky smooth!  Sadly, man has caused detrimental effects that have irreversibly damaged hellbender populations, thus it is imperative to do our part to help conserve remaining populations through protecting habitats, such as not moving rocks around and building make shift dams in rivers and streams.  A practice much too common in our area here in the smokies!

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” Here I come!” . . . says Chance

Friday evening we all went back to the river at the Wye for awhile and I so enjoyed watching our friends grandson Chance riding in what he calls “Oval Boat” down the smaller rapids.  He was all smiles as he went down rapids, at times even backwards!  He’s certainly a baby river rat and fits in perfectly with us larger river rats!  Just before leaving that evening a gentle rain started to fall, mesmerizing us as the drops danced on the water’s surface, as yellow leaves slowly drifted down from the surrounding trees, and a breeze filled the air.  It created one of those magical settings that you could enjoy forever!

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Wes, Tom, Sharon, Norma, Dick, Elise and Kit . . . devouring Sharon’s dessert!

Several wonderful friends joined us for a dinner party last evening, and after a delicious dinner consisting of Elise’s delectable salad, my baked Ziti, Norma’s garlic bread and Sharon’s delicious cherry dessert, we played a dice game called “You Blew It”. Sharon was the big winner of the night, while a couple others were just happy to finally be able to roll enough points to get on the board!  The evening was filled with lively conversation and such bursts of laughter, it made our tummies sore at times!

~ Currently on  the Easels ~

I finished my painting of my brother Marshall’s adorable Dachshund Roxie, this past week.  As soon as he sent me the photo of her posing like this recently, I fell in love with it and knew I had to paint it, while immediately thinking of the title “The Seal Impersonator”!

Dachshund painting Dachshund artwork
My latest dog painting “The Seal Impersonator” 


Wes finished his miniature landscape painting of a gorgeous scene from inside nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It was a beautiful wintry day when we photographed this magical setting, and with the recent heat and severely dry weather, I think it actually made Wes feel better while painting this cold scene!

lanscape painting, smoky mountain national park painting minitaure landscape painting
“A Shaded Tree in Winter” by Wes


dog painting, commission a dog painting

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle