Visual Journal Page 19: When the Winter Winds are Nipping

A fireplace was something required in the house Nick and I bought. I was willing to compromise on the front porch, kitchen size, and number of bathrooms… but the fireplace was a must. Fires soothe and warm me. They provide endless entertainment as I gaze into the dancing flames. Winter isn’t complete without a warm hearth battling the chilled air. I held out on a house until we found a house with one in it. My winter would be complete this year.

It’s funny how certain things stick with you as you grow from child to adult. Certain things find ways of hanging on, reminding you they were included in your childhood memories, and should be included in the formation of your adult memories. It’s strange how they appear, as if from no where, and force their way into new traditions.

The first Christmas Nick and I spent together I sat down one afternoon and began wrapping his gifts. I carefully folded each edge, creased the paper just right, attached the bow, and stuck the tag underneath. I grabbed my pen and began filling out tag after tag, on the one to many gifts Nick got that year. Halfway through my task I had to pause, rather than writing To: Nick, From: Whitney, I was writing things like To: My Hub-a-Dub, From: Your Wifey or To: My Snookums, From: Your Snickers… ridiculous… What was I doing? Where were these names coming from? We really aren’t a pet name couple… what was happening?

It suddenly dawned on me. Memory after memory of Christmas after Christmas revealed itself. My parents, with their piles of gifts, reading off the most ridiculous names they could come up with to put on their presents. Of all the Christmas traditions I could’ve repeated, this is the one that stuck, wouldn’t let go, and inadvertently pushed itself straight through my arm, into my hand, and out my pen. Despite my initial shock, I have given in, it felt right, and this is year number three of ridiculous Christmas tag names.

Like Christmas pet names, fires have stuck with me. Every winter season my Dad would build us real, no gas, actual wood burning fires. He would send us, bundled up, out in the cold to collect the bucket worth of kindling required for our fire entertainment. He would carefully shovel out yesterday’s ash, place the kindling, stack the wood, and stick newspapers beneath his creation. We would battle over who would get to light it, until we finally compromised to each light one side, and watched in anticipation as the three starter points moved towards the center, and converged on it’s meal.

It was tradition to have an all day fire on Christmas day. Dad got it started before we even woke up in the morning, and it lasted until we went to bed that night. Tradition. Once the season was over, Christmas blues and opened presents were all that remained. But, the fires continued, with an added bonus, a branch of Christmas tree piled on top, to provide us with crackling, snapping, popping, excitement for a few minutes, before another piece of Christmas was gone until next year.

Nick has filled my fire Dad needs. He comes home at night, fills his arms with wood, carefully builds his pre-fire wood pile, although I don’t argue with who gets to light it, and he makes me warm. I lay in front of the fire, snuggling with my puppies, watching a movie, and reminisce about fires past. I watch the flames repeatedly lick the wood until it melts into ash. I love how the colors transition from blue, to red, orange, and then yellow. I love the tingling heat that hits my face as I slowly approach, until the heat pushes me back, I give in, find my spot just close enough, and enjoy the memories that swirl around with the heat and flames until they tickle my face and remind me why I love this tradition so much.


  • Visual Journal
  • Scissors
  • Rubber Cement
  • Hot glue gun
  • Glue sticks
  • Poster board
  • Tissue paper
  • White paper
  • Book pages
  • Water color
  • Latex paint
  • India ink
  • Paint brush
  • Gesso


This page is very complex, and I love it because it took time, it looks three-dimensional, and it looked amazing when I finished. I decided awhile before I create this page that I wanted to make a page about my love for fires. After sitting around one Saturday afternoon, procrastinating, I finally took out my book and began brainstorming. I was sitting on my sofa, staring at my fireplace, when I decided to recreate the room in my book. I would put the wall our TV is on, on the left side page, and the fireplace on the right side page. As soon as I had my idea, the details began to quickly fill my head. I decided I would challenge myself this time, and try to make the fireplace look three dimensional.

I began by ripping up old book pages and gluing them down in the book to create a background. I then sketched out my room with a pencil. The fireplace is set back from the wall on the left of it, so I made sure to make it look like that in the image, by paying attention to the perspective. Once I had it drawn out I started on the fireplace. I cut small rectangles out of poster board to create the bricks. I wanted it to be three-dimensional, and this gave it just enough thickness to do that. I made sure the bricks were the same size, and once I had a good stack, I began gluing them down. I spaced them slightly apart, and made sure to stagger them. I used hot glue to attach them to the book page. I wanted it to look exactly like my fireplace, so I turned the bricks vertical above the fireplace opening, to imitate the pattern. Once the bricks were all glued down I started on the mantle. Our mantle is relatively ornate, the wood staggers in and out, and has a nice linear pattern. Again, I wanted it to be perfect, so I cut a wide piece of poster board for the base, and slowly cut thinner and thinner strips, and stacked them on top of each other. Doing this imitated the building up look of our mantle.

Once all of the poster board was glued down for the fireplace, I dipped tissue paper in gesso and carefully placed it on top. I wanted everything to look like one piece, and by covering the rough edges and spaces, I was able to get that affect. Before the gessoed tissue paper dried, I carefully pushed it into the spaces between the poster board, in order to keep the detail showing. Once it dried I took water color and painted the bricks with a gray shade to imitate the look of my fireplace. I left the mantle the white color of the gesso.

Once the fireplace was complete I started working on the background. I drew and painted the candles, flowers, and paintings above the fireplace. Once they dried, I cut them out and set them aside. I also splattered watercolor on a separate sheet of paper, and cut it out, to create the flames of the fire. I drew the molding and floor, painted it in with watercolor, and outlined it with India ink. I decided in order to really make this look like our living room I should paint the walls in the book with the actual paint used to paint our actual walls. I watered it down slightly and painted latex paint in my book. Once it dried I began gluing down the paintings, candles, and fireplace flames.

To finish off the page I used India ink to write the words, using a small paint brush. My fireplace page took hours to create, but it was worth it in the end. I love flipping back to it and reminiscing about the work put into it and all of my fireplace memories.


Create a page about one of your family’s traditions. It can be holiday and season related or not. Consider everything from popcorn on movie night and pizza on Friday to going to the same beach every summer. Have fun!

I hope you enjoyed today’s post! Thanks for taking the time to read about on of my favorite traditions, I hope you will pick up an old book and give journaling a try! Help me spread the word about visual journals by tweeting, liking, digging, tumbling, stumbling, and everything in between. As always please comment and subscribe!

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