Thursday, 6 October 2016

My Travel Blog plus 20% off Etsy Shop Products

Julia Guthrie Travel blog
I've noticed a sad trend in blogland, after recently returning to regular blogging after my foray into FB /Twitter/ Instagram, I've noticed that so many of the lovely blogs I used to read have all been abandoned or deleted.
Is anyone blogging anymore?

Sure it takes a bit more time to write out something worth reading... sure you have to make a bit more effort in order to comment. No clicking a symbol to like and scrolling on by. But is that really a bad thing?
I've enjoyed the ease of communication that came with Facebook, but now I seem to have come full circle, and am now craving the slower paced, less overwhelming connections to friends.
Actual solid people as opposed to a fleeting 'like' from people with names you can barely remember and know next to nothing about. I've missed talking to people with their own blogs, sharing a little corner of their life and letting their thoughts ramble across a page of photographs and musings.

I have been enjoying my travels over the last couple of years, and although I did put some of them here, I have started to move them (and add new ones as they happen) to my Travel Blog. 'Watch The Skies Traveller'

It's been fun to write, and serves as a diary for me also.
It also kick started me into coming back to this blog too. Which I'm really happy about. :)
I've found it oddly therapeutic as well. Everyone is far too busy busy these days, including myself, and the quiet moments in which I always enjoyed an hours catch up and blog read over a cup of tea had been lacking. Instead replaced by a constant frantic checking of Facebook throughout the day.
I still use all those other online mediums of course, but I've been there far less in the past few weeks. And instead swapped some of that precious time for my blogs. Just me and my thoughts, memories and adventures.

It would be great to see my followers over at 'Watch the skies traveller' & do tell me if there's any places you'd love me to blog about. We are off to Wales in January ;)

And if you have a current blog please also leave me a link or let me know so I can follow you back.

In other news I have a special October offer in my Etsy Shop... use voucher code at checkout - JGA20 - to receive 20% off your order.
And if you need any commissions created in time for Christmas, now would be the time to book.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Looking back

I happened to glance at my blog list yesterday and recalled one I had set up for my dog. We lost Nimh 2 years ago, aged 10.
I had left her blog up as a kind of memorial for my furry trousered rascal. I hadn't read it for a long time, & it did make me laugh.
I wish I had been better at writing it now. Seems like there were so many wasted opportunities.. she was quite a character (read- Naughty). :D

*Baby Nimh. The photo we were sent from her breeder while we decided if she was to be ours

*First day at home with her new family. A little bit scarey but Mummy og was there to snuggle.
(I had left a t-shirt of mine on the sofa for washing and while we werent looking she took it into her bed. We let her sleep with it for a few weeks. :) )

*Nimh's first bedroom. It was like a dog cage but made from a box. With doors cut in. She loved to sink her pointy little teeth into it until she got them a bit stuck and sort of hung there for a few moments. lol

*She was a right little monkey at 3

*Running like the wind

*Having a lovely stretch all over our chair cushions

*Hmmm.... she snuck in while we weren't looking

*Beach = freedom

*Well, she was cold!

*Helloooo mummy og... what are YOU doing?



*Mmmmm Cappucino froth!

*Crazy face

*Then there was the day we tried to put a Santa hat on her to make Christmas cards...

*Best most favourite Christmas present ever... Caterpillar. The only soft toy she never 'un-stuffed' (killed). We still have Caterpillar. <3

*She ended her days with Cornish Pasties for tea... because sometimes, you just have to make your furry babies final months the stuff of dreams.
Not this one though.... that was mine. After a hard day at work making the damn things. :D

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

My musing heart

"Go, sit upon the lofty hill,

And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart."

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning-

This last few days have been blissfully cool as the seasons turn and the evenings begin to draw in. I am appreciating the cooler temperatures and the misty mornings.
I've gotten my favourite red shawl back out to wear in my studio. Cosied up with a cup of coffee and my sketchbook.
Autumn is off to a good start.

Today was 'Castle' day. I've been wanting to paint some castles for a long while. Ever since my Husband and I began 'Castle Quest'... a silly name for our excitement at trying to visit as many castles as possible.
I started with a large painting, which will probably turn into a mixed media piece, but its quite textured so after the first background layer the paint needed time to dry.
I decided then to try a pencil drawing while I waited. I chose a favourite photograph that I took in January 2015 at Stirling Castle, Scotland.

For some background noise, and added 'castle inspiration', I put on Season 1 of 'Outlander'. Mostly so I could see Doune Castle again. It was quite a thrill to see the courtyard and staircases where I was walking only a couple of weeks ago :)

 My photograph does actually have a figure in it, all be it unintentionally. It was in the middle of a snowstorm that day and as I snapped the castle entrance I realised a person was hurrying past.
I actually like the shadowy figure there in the photograph, but when I put her into my drawing I took away the modern winter coat and trousers, opting for a more... traditional dress code.
I can imagine that Castle walkway has seen many folk dressed in long cloaks over its long history, hurrying for shelter through a snowstorm. Perhaps even Mary Queen Of Scots herself.

It now hangs on my studio wall. A happy memory of a really wonderful day.
I will return to Stirling Castle I'm sure. And if I'm very lucky, perhaps it will snow again. ;)

Friday, 16 September 2016

September thoughts

It's halfway through September, and even though here in South Linconshire the weather is still so unusually hot, my thoughts turn to the darkening of the days and the coming of Winter months.

 Winter seems to be more of an influence on my artwork these days.
Currently swimming around in my head are tall trees, snowy hills, & castles in the mist.
Now all I need are some darker, chillier, quieter days in the studio to see what comes out onto the paper.

It's strange really, I am a 'Leo'. A Summer baby. I've always thrived at midsummer. It was 'my' time of year.
But over the last few years something has changed. The Summer months feel too noisy and busy and bright.
Perhaps somewhere along the line I learned to appreciate the Autumn and Winter months for the silence and peacefulness that they bring, allowing my muse to work uninterrupted.

This morning I awoke to the sound of cars splashing through rain. And I felt mildly excited.
Believe me, I have never been excited by rain before.
The sky is bright, almost a white/grey colour, and the rain makes hardly a sound as it falls in straight lines. 
I long to cosy up in the studio, where I sit now to write, and tape a new piece of paper to my easel. But I have things to do first... 
I just hope that the muse will wait for me... until I return. 

For now I will leave you with some photos from a recent week in the Scottish Highlands, where the mist and the castles, and mountains filled my mind with new ideas and inspiration. Oh for a Winter holiday by a wooded loch... imagine how full my sketchbook would be after a week! :)

To read more about my Scottish roadtrip, it's over here... on my Travel Blog...

Friday, 2 September 2016

Scottish Roadtrip memories... Loch Lomond to Edinburgh

January 2015. My Husband and I had not long moved up to Linconshire and it was a bucket list trip.
We decided on a whim to just do it. Just plan it, book a night in a hotel & drive for 2 days... just to see it. Just to see the mountains and Lochs of Scotland.

We were new to roadtrips back then, we hadn't yet learned how to turn our car into a comfy bed for the night, or how to plan trips by finding out where all the 24 hour supermarkets are (for toilets and washing facilities), or Costas for when you just REALLY need a good cup of coffee on the road.

We just planned a trip, and one dark winters night we jumped into the Travelling Wilbury and wound our way up North. It was actually the middle of the night as we were so excited and unable to sleep, so we set out much earlier than intended.
I recall driving the wild, dark and windy roads across to Cumbria and wondering if the vast looming silhouettes of the landscape would be as spectacular in daylight as they seemed in the early hours of the morning.
Pausing in a layby for a coffee and sandwich we noted how close we were to the Lake District. Signposts to Kendal were calling me... this too was another dream location & it was almost worse being so close and peering out into the darkness wondering what it would look like!

We crossed the border into Scotland and gave a cheer!
So long we had talked about this, and never really believed we would make it this far. From Cornwall it would be a mighty long trip.
We arrived in Stirling around 5am. No problem finding our hotel... but as we sat parked in the car park we were unsure of what to do next.
It was dark. It was wild and rainy. It was dark.
"Lets just go to Loch Lomond... so we can be there to see the mountains at sunrise!"

And so we drove, through the dark villages & alongside the oh so dark waters of Scotland. In the wind and the rain. And it was terrifying and exciting.
When you can see nothing but the shapes of trees and huge looming black things you can only assume are mountains and hills it feels like walking around with your eyes closed. As though you cannot see what is ahead... after all, this was unfamiliar territory to us. We had never seen a real mountain in our lives!
Very few street lights. None at all mostly.
I recall driving through the darkness of tree lined single lane roads and seeing water glistening alongside the road. A Loch? Oh the excitement.
The hilly road that took us splashing down into flooded sections of the road, and left my knuckles white with a worry that the next splash would be too deep for a our car. 

Finally we climbed... we were sure there must be mountains surrounding us. We could see their shapes against the night sky. Just.
We parked and put our seats back to snooze for a while, and await the morning light.
We had a long wait... dawn did not want to awaken as early as us.
But then at last... a glimmer of white... yes. A snow topped mountain gradually formed before us. We were out of the car... dancing and laughing. MOUNTAINS! SNOW TOPPED MOUNTAINS!!
(*Click to enlarge images)

As the sun reluctantly rose over The Trossachs National Park, we were astounded by it's beauty. We drove in awe. And I've never seen anything more spectacular than that first sight of the mountains at dawn. Even a grey, murky Winter dawn.

Driving around Loch Lomond we stopped in a small village called Balmaha. Nothing was really open as it was so early, but a lovely man who was off to work called out to us "Morning... Can I help you folks?"
We asked what time the shop would be open... or the cafe.
He directed us to the pretty Loch - side pub opposite, The Oak Tree Inn, and suggested that we go round the side entrance as it's open early for locals to get breakfast before work.
We did... and found a wonderfully warm Scottish welcome. Hot, strong, fresh coffee and bacon rolls to refresh us after our night of driving. 
We exclaimed at the amount of rain (flooding locally) & the lady remarked "Ah yes, there's a few puddles" :D

We set off, wide eyed and excited for a day of exploring & drove... and drove... and drove... one side of Loch Lomond then the other. There are so many photos I didn't take because I was too busy staring :D
One minute the sun was out and it was blue sky... the next it would be misty, the next it would snow!

What a stunning place. So much more we could have seen, but mid afternoon we returned to check in at our hotel in Stirling and then took a wander around the town itself.

Just up the hill was the magical Stirling Castle.

One of Scotland's most important Castles, it was the childhood home to Mary Stuart and also where, as a young child she was crowned Queen.
Mary Queen Of Scots.
"Stirling Castle was the key to the kingdom of Scotland, dominating a vast volcanic rock above the river Forth at the meeting point between Lowlands and Highlands.
Its origins are ancient and over the centuries it grew into a great royal residence and a powerful stronghold.
During the Wars of Independence, which were civil wars among the Scots as well as a struggle between Scotland and England, the castle changed hands eight times in 50 years.
And it is no accident that famous battles such as Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn took place within sight of its walls.
In times of peace Scottish royalty came to Stirling to enjoy its comforts, the superb hunting and to hold court – the castle was often the centre of government.
Royal building projects like the Great Hall, the Chapel Royal and the Palace of James V, marked it out as one of the most important places in all Scotland."
The castle wasn't open much longer for the day, so we chose not to enter. Instead returning to our cosy warm hotel room for dinner and hot baths. Luxury at The Stirling Highland Hotel ;)

We had the most amazing view from our window and as we stared out, the sky began turn a very odd colour... within minutes it was a snowstorm!
So beautiful... 

Next morning we were treated to a proper Scottish cooked breakfast. Oh my. Now I love good plate of bacon, sausage, toast, egg etc. But when you add in Haggis to the mix... *yum*.

We checked out of the hotel noting that when it snows in Scotland, people treat it very differently than in England.
The staff are outside immediately with brooms, sweeping the pathways and roads clear! No hassle. No hold up's.
We put bags into the car & walked up the street back to Stirling Castle. It was a beautiful morning. But so cold. Colder than down South that's for sure :)
On the approach to the castle there were people with brooms already out clearing the car park. But as we reached the castle itself it was already snowing again.
And if there is something else you rarely, if ever see living in Cornwall... which is at the very opposite end of the UK... is a blizzard.
Its wasn't busy, but when the snowflakes began to grow larger... and thicker... and heavier... we were the only mad ones left walking around in it with huge grins on our faces.

A Scottish Castle in a snowstorm. You can't get better than that. 

There is a waiting point in the courtyard, where tourists can gather to meet a guide who will at certain times of the day take a tour of the castle.
We weren't sure if it would be running at this particular moment, given the blizzard... and the fact that it was just us. But a smiley lady showed up and we laughed as she offered to give us a personal tour regardless of the weather.
She said secretly that we were doing her a favour, as it got her out of sweeping the snow with the other staff members. lol

It was a fascinating tour. So much history. Fascinating to hear more about Mary Queen Of Scots too, as somewhat ironically, this was the place of her coronation as a child, and we live a stones throw from the castle site at Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire, where she was executed.
She was buried in Peterborough cathedral for a time, before being moved. I was born & grew up in Peterborough and never really knew all this amazing history back then.

"Mary’s father James V died when she was only six days old, leaving an infant queen on the throne. Her coronation was held nine months later at Stirling, one of the most secure places in the kingdom.She would spend most of her childhood here and return frequently during her adult reign. The sumptuous royal palace commissioned by her father was still being completed, but this and James IV’s vast great hall made Stirling the grandest of Scotland’s royal residence"

She left us to finish exploring and the snow flakes thinned. It was such an amazing place with so much to see. We spent much longer than we'd anticipated.
We guessed that the roads would be as carefully cleared as the pavements, so we had no concerns about driving across to Edinburgh before our return journey back down through Northumberland.
Less snow to be found in Edinburgh. And we walked up through the old streets to Edinburgh Castle. Wow.
 We hadn't planned on going inside on this trip but we really couldn't resist.

"Sitting atop a dramatic volcanic crag, formed around 70 million years ago, and protected on three sides by sheer cliffs that rise steeply to over 400 feet, the Castle has played a leading role in the history of Scotland for many centuries, with occupation of the site going back going back as long ago as the bronze age in 850BC.

Edinburgh Castle has played a pivotal role in Scottish history, both as a royal residence – King Malcolm Canmore (r 1058–93) and Queen Margaret first made their home here in the 11th century – and as a military stronghold. The castle last saw military action in 1745; from then until the 1920s it served as the British army's main base in Scotland. Today it is one of Scotland's most atmospheric and popular tourist attractions.
The brooding, black crags of Castle Rock, rising above the western end of Princes St, are the very reason for Edinburgh's existence. This rocky hill was the most easily defended hilltop on the invasion route between England and central Scotland, a route followed by countless armies from the Roman legions of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD to the Jacobite troops of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745."
You would be hard pushed to come across a Scottish Castle which doesn't have connections in some way to the enigmatic Mary Queen Of Scots, but Edinburgh, along with Stirling is a big one.
There is beautiful suite of rooms where Mary lived for a time, and you can walk in the very room where she gave birth to her only son. James VI, who would one day become the leader to unite the kingdoms of Scotland and England.
"As the great-granddaughter of Henry VII, Mary also had a strong claim to the English throne. By producing a son with her second husband, Lord Darnley, she both secured her succession and strengthened her dynastic position. James – the future king of both Scotland and England – was born in a tiny room at Edinburgh Castle"

We had a few brief snow showers there, but the cold was biting. I've never known cold like it. We stood on the very top of the castle battlements looking out to the sea and the mountains beyond and by golly did my face hurt.
The icy wind was cruel up there.

Leaving Edinburgh late, around 4ish, meant that by the time we had reached the rugged landscapes of Northumberland it was growing quite dark.
Then the snow storm began in earnest.
Oh dear. Those hills and roads are not fun in fresh snow. When you can't see anything but white out of the windscreen. lol

We had planned to stop off and visit friends who live there, but for fear of getting stuck we had to keep going and it took hours.
Finally reaching home in the very early hours. Tired, but very happy to have seen our beautiful Scotland.

Being so close to the Lake District had made us long for that visit too... and so the very next week it was booked. A February trip just after Valentines day. 
The roadtrips continued... we had got the bug :)