Evergreen Magic, Red and Pink Good Deed: Storytelling Must Always Have Heart

KOTAW Off the Clock - Adventures of the KOTAW Girl Gang laced with mini marketing tips

It’s the third week of January and there is still a Christmas tree in my living room.

Now before you laugh, roll your eyes or judge, let me tell you that it’s a tradition my daughters and I have — just as perennial a tradition as baking butter tarts for Christmas or watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas on Christmas Eve — to say goodbye to all the Christmas lights and ornaments and get the tree to the curb exactly on January 1st. It’s kind of how we ring in the new year.

Avoid burnout and achieve evergreen business magic through heartfelt storytelling | KOTAW Content MarketingGranted sometimes we get busy baking other holiday goodies — or telling stories about them! — and butter tarts get saved for New Year’s Eve. And sometimes, if Christmas Eve is too hectic with last-minute additions to overly ambitious homemade presents, we’ll watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas on Christmas day, rather than eve, as we did this year.

But January 1st is always, without fail, the day to de-Christmas the living room and vacuum up all the pine needles that have scattered everywhere — and I do mean everywhere! — due to lots of puppy (and now kitty!) paws playing and scattering just a little bit of piney, pokey Christmas all over the house.

All Aglow

It’s not that we look forward to this house cleaning and de-Christmas-ing. It’s something we dread. The bright, bright Christmas tree is our saving grace in the winter, our substitute for the sun we so dearly miss in the gray days and dark nights that take over our usually-sunny Los Angeles at this time of year.

But we don’t want to be “those people” who still have Christmas lights hanging 10 months later at Halloween. And we know that part of the magic of Christmas is that it’s ephemeral. It arrives and puts joy in the air and then is all the more joyous the next year because of how new it is again. You get to see your favorite ornament delicately unwrapped after spending a full year apart from it and get to feel like a kid again — waking up on Christmas morning to the magic Santa left under your tree.

The longer the tree is up, the less magical it becomes. Not to mention the more likely it is to become a fire hazard.

Where’s Lamb Chop?

My girls and I bought our Christmas tree this year earlier than ever before — on December 1st — so we could extend the magic a full 31 days. Which means we should have REALLY been ready to get rid of it come January 1st, since in years past, by January 1st, we had only had our tree a maximum of two weeks.

So why, almost two months laters, do we still have a Christmas tree?

I could say we decided that things in life don’t have to be ephemeral to be cherished, that magic doesn’t have to disappear solely because it becomes part of the every day.

Because — (evergreen) sappiness be damned! — I do believe that every day is a gift and we should all strive to find the magic — rather than the monotony — in every day moments.

But I would be lying.

Not about believing in every day being a gift and believing we should all be present in our lives so that no magical moment passes us by.

But about that being the reason for the continued presence of a Christmas tree in our living room.

I could blame it on us all getting sick just after New Year’s — and we DID all get a terrible and very mean cold/flu hybrid that unfortunately may be even more everlasting than our tree (though we’re finding some amusement in being the darker versions of Shari Lewis and singing that “it’s the flu that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend!”)

But since we weren’t actually sick ON New Year’s (no, the never-ending cold/fly bug was kind enough to wait until AFTER we’d rung in the new year before its evil attack) that excuse doesn’t really work either.

But I have a better reason to share: my girls and I had so much fun opening presents that it continued into the new year!

The CHRISTMAS that Never Ends

I have enough outside perspective to know that my daughters and I don’t celebrate Christmas the way most families do.

There is no stress, no obligation, no family members who have just flown in from all over the country just in time to criticize every aspect of our holiday tradition.

It’s just one of the many benefits of living life on our terms — the happily ever after to the Lifetime movie era of our lives.

Katherine Kotaw scrapbook filled with Run For Your Life press

“Run For Your Life” scrapbook made by Katherine’s daughters, Bri and Kelsey.

In our house, Christmas is just another day where we hang out together, laugh and do fun things.

If we want to spend the day in our pajamas opening presents and watching holiday classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas, we do it.

If we want to each open three presents, take a break to walk Ivy and Lucy at the park, then come home to bake butter tarts, we do that.

And if we want to spread the joy of opening Christmas presents to a week or more — because we are so busy enjoying the every-day-is-Christmas that is our lives, well then that’s what we do!

KOTAW Girl Gang Power KOTAW Content Marketing Team Katherine Kotaw Mother-Daughter-Daughter-Pit Bull

Meet team KOTAW: We are Mother-Daughter-Daughter-Pit! Pit Bull power times three!

KOTAW Girl Gang Power

My girls and I wanted to share a little bit of our ever-lasting Christmas with you to give you a little glance into our KOTAW lives. You do know that we our Mother, Daughter, Daughter, Pit, right? As I write this I hear our sometimes-persnickety Poodle Doodle, Lucy, saying: “And Poodle Doodle too, and Poodle Doodle too!!”

OK, so she’s not on the company letterhead yet, but Lucy does manage to worm her way into many-a-blog and social media post because she has fully wormed her way into our hearts. So has Ivy’s kitten-cat, Doosis, but she is not the prone-to-jealousy type that Lucy is and is fully-confident that her place in our lives is as happy and secure as ever — even without being the KOTAW Kitty Treasurer! She curls up next to her pittie-pie Pit Bull, Ivy every night, and that is all that her kitten heart desires.

But back to our KOTAW Christmas!

MY favorite gift from my girls was a very long and heartfelt card they wrote me (to go along with a Kate Spade necklace with a “Happily Ever After” Book pendant hanging from it, symbolizing the happily ever after that we created together and representing the next memoir I’m writing — the “happily ever after” sequel to Quicksand.

My daughters also made me a scrapbook filled with letter after letter from women who reached out to me after Run For Your Life premiered, thanking me for sharing my story and for giving them the strength to tell me theirs.

But before I get too teary to finish this “Off the Clock,” I’m moving on to say my younger daughter, Kelsey and I discovered the wonder of Christmas shopping on Etsy this year, and we teamed up to make my elder daughter, Bri’s Christmas extra special to continue our celebration that she is getting better and better after her scary health crisis over the summer.


Here is what we bought her:

Ivy Necklace:

Ivy leaf charm handmade necklace

Ivy leaf necklace symbolizes Ivy, the Pit Bull member of the KOTAW Girl Gang.

Yes, this is of course meant to symbolize our sweet red nose Pit Bull — and KOTAW’s Brand Ambassador! — Ivy! Shop owner Kate Harvey cast a real Ivy leaf found by the River Crane in England into sterling silver. And bonus: the Ivy leaf is shaped like a heart! And adorned with pretty pink amethyst gemstones! Extra bonus — the River Crane ties Ophelia into the mix, which goes along with Bri’s theatrical background.

Magnetic Memo Board with Cards and Magnets:

DIY magnetic framed memo board with fabric

Crafty Kelsey made this DIY magnetic memo board for her sister, Bri.

Prepare to be impressed! Kelsey MADE her sister Bri an oversized magnetic memo board to fill with cards because of how happy Bri gets when she spots the card aisle in any — and every! — store. Kelsey said she wanted to bring a little of the happiness of the card aisle right to Bri’s bedroom, and proceeded to cut sheet metal to fit an open back frame, which she then covered with fabric and secured all-together with a foam board backing and offset clips drilled into the back of the frame!

She then bought the most adorable cards from these Etsy vendors:

Pit Bull Terrier Greeting Card – Laugh Often by Ginger Eyed

Rory’s Birthdays Card by She Can Lift A Horse (Rory’s 16th birthday party episode is one of our all-time favorite episodes of our all-time favorite show, Gilmore Girls!

Paris Fox Greeting Card and Red Pit Bull Cupcake Greeting Card by African Grey

Kelsey proceeded to fill out all these cards to her sister with beautiful messages that made Bri cry. And she secured them all to the memo board with kate spade ny gold bow magnets AND adorable red and pink flower magnets from this Etsy store: Marigold Home

Book Fair Nostalgia Kit — Baby Sitters Club Edition

Book Fair Nostalgia Kit

Bring on the nostalgia! Bookworm Bri loves her “Baby Sitters Club” Book Fair goodies.

This present made Bri light up with glee! As a child, there was nothing more magical to her than a book fair and no series more worth reading than The Baby Sitters Club.

In fact, she still holds every library, bookstore and book up against the magic of a book fair and the joy of waiting for each new title in The Baby Sitters Club series to come out! And everything has fallen just a little bit short!

So we brought the magic back, thanks to this KOTAWesome Etsy store: Sweet and Lovely by Kate Gabrielle

PS: Bri is now filling her “My Reading List” (included in the Book Fair Kit!) with every title she reads as we complete the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge together!

Daydreams Print — Original Illustration by Helen Dardik

Daydreams art print

This colorful art print by Helen Dardik livens up Bri’s KOTAW office in LA.

Just a little reminder from me to Bri, to always, always follow her daydreams.

Madeline Double Sided Gift Tags Made From Vintage Book

Madeline book handmade gift tags

Bri turned her Madeline gift tags into a hanging decorative accent in her KOTAW office (these are too cute to give away, she explains!)

More happy nostalgia — one of Bri’s favorite books (even as an adult, she still asks me to read it to her every now and then!) turned into decorative gift tags!

Shop owner Tanya Joseph wrote a charming note to go along with the listing that the vintage Madeline book she used to make the gift tags was very old and falling apart so she recycled it — she would never have just torn out pages of a book! This note made Kelsey and I want to buy from her even more!

For Love Abridged

Love Abridged Project Film Reel

Kelsey found this film reel canister while walking Ivy and LuLu around her neighborhood in Los Angeles! She scooped it up, painted it pink and turned it into a sentimental work of art for her filmmaker sister, Bri.

For those of you who don’t know, besides being KOTAW’s Executive Brand Journalist and Creative Projects Director, Bri is also an award-winning writer, director, producer and actor. Her latest project, LOVE ABRIDGED, is a feature-length screenplay that challenges the romantic comedy version of love and asks whether its media or biology that’s preventing us from finding — and staying in – love.

Kelsey, besides being an amazing magnetic memo board maker and KOTAW’s Chief Digital Strategist, used her art background (she holds a minor in Fine Arts from the University of Southern California) to design a beautiful symbol of Bri’s forthcoming Love Abridged Project — a film reel canister painted in pink with artful quotes on love painted in silver.

KOTAW Content Marketing WOOF Productions Love Abridged Project Collaboration decorative wire charms handmade

KOTAW + WOOF Productions = a match made in creativity heaven!

Dangling from the film canister is a pink wired heart that interlocks with the words “WOOF” and “KOTAW”, symbolizing the exciting news that LOVE ABRIDGED is officially a KOTAW project, in association with Bri’s WOOF Productions, which donates film proceeds to animal causes.

This amazing Etsy shop owner made the personalized colored wire word charms, which Kelsey affixed to the film canister.

Vertigo Twist

Vertigo Kim Novak Spiral Hair Twist Bun Greeting Card

Kelsey proudly displays her ‘Vertigo’ letterpress card in her ultra-girly KOTAW office + studio.

I snuck in a little Etsy purchase for Kelsey without her knowing it! She has always aspired to perfect Kim Novak’s spiral undo in Vertigo and so when I found a Vertigo greeting card with the spiral-y hair on full display, I had to buy it for her!


To quote Bri’s Madeline book, “That’s all there is — there isn’t any more.

Except for the all-important…

Back On the Clock!

The truth is, despite the fact that our magical Christmas tree is very much past its expiration date, ignoring our fears to the contrary, it has never actually ceased to be magical. And that’s the way it should be. Anything worth enjoying in life should not fade over time — the magic should keep on glowing, just like the Christmas-is-every day motto that makes up our KOTAW lives.

In your business world, put your personal brand, storytelling and content marketing to the “evergreen magic” test: Does your online identity remain as magical as my KOTAW tree, even over time?

If the answer is no, kick the tree to the curb and find the magic elsewhere.

I for one plan to have overcome this flu and channeled my inner Mary Poppins to clear up the pine needles — and tree — just in time for Valentine’s Day, when my daughters and I will reignite the magic by making lots of pretty-pink macarons.

And while I’ve got Valentine’s Day on the brain, I would like to share with you this KOTAWesome Good Deed Project:

Debbie Gerstein Rice, board member for Kids of Love is having a Valentine’s Fundraising Event on Facebook to raise money for children with cancer. Debbie tells me that so far 30 different online vendors are participating in her event, the idea being to shop for Valentine’s Day presents through one of the online vendors participating in the fundraiser so that a portion of the sales will be donated to Kids of Love.

This KOTAWesome Good Deed Project began January 15th and runs through February 15th.

The reason I wanted to talk about all the Etsy shops Kelsey and I bought from this past Christmas was because I think it’s very important for entrepreneurs and small business owners to support each other.

The Kids of Love Valentine’s Fundraising Event combines that same principal (supporting artists and independent vendors rather than shopping at the big-brand stores) AND helps children at the same time, the very definition of KOTAWesome!

Let’s all extend the magic of Christmas and the Valentine’s love YEAR-ROUND and SUPPORT one another and DO GOOD!


Blog Update! 

Valentine’s Day is over, but the word “evergreen” is in the title of this blog for a reason —I believe in spreading love and doing good deeds year-round.

So let’s keep the good-will going. If you’re an animal lover, please consider adopting an animal rather than going to a breeder. Or sending in a donation to an animal shelter or rescue group— every little bit truly does help.

If you want to support another cause I hold near and dear to my heart, consider donating to a Women’s Shelter to help women and children who are survivors of domestic violence.

And if you want to spread the Pit Bull love in honor of KOTAW’s Brand Ambassador, Ivy (and get to wear a beautiful bracelet at the same time!) I would highly recommend checking out this wonderful Etsy Shop, Shore Cords, that donates $8 of every sale to charity organizations such as MCSPCA Pittie Project, Pitties and Pals Rescue, RBAR Pitstop Program, Louie’s Legacy Animal Rescue. As of December 2014, Shore Cords has raised and donated $4500 to charity. Ivy and I think that’s pretty darn KOTAWesome!

What are YOU doing to support your peers or help those in need?

How do YOU extend (or reinvent) the magic of your personal brand, storytelling or content marketing strategy? IS YOUR magic evergreen, or do you need to sweep up the dead needles and find magic anew? Please share your thoughts below!


  1. Dear Kat

    I had made up my mind to read this article tomorrow morning, but when my eyes fall on a KOTAWesome article, they cannot look away!

    Anyway, I don’t have much to say today because my heart is heavy with oodles of love for all of you. And these thoughtful gifts are dousing my cheeks with happy tears.

    May GOD always bless this beautiful family.

    Love you all

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      I’m going to keep this short, Kitto, because I’m reading this late, and it’s Day 17 of the Worst Virus Ever!

      But, I couldn’t go to bed without letting you know how happy your words made my daughters and me.

      Love from all of us,

      The KOTAW girl gang!

  2. Brian J Wood says:

    I liked reading about your Christmas and really enjoyed the part where you shared Kelsey’s film canister creation. The woof in the heart is really cool. Thanks for sharing the Kids of Love fundraising event! A few of the vendors are people I have known for years and I do believe they have their hearts in the right places with wanting to help this charity

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      I am SO happy you introduced me to the Kids of Love fundraising event, Brian. It is a great cause, and I’m happy to help in my small way. I also think you may be the person who introduced me to Etsy, which is a treasure trove of talent. If I’m remembering correctly, thank you! If not, you can put the thank you in your pocket anyway — I know I owe you many more.

  3. Katherine, I can’t wait to read your upcoming memoir! I just finished watching Gilmore Girls in way too short a time. There was something so cozy about it. I’m so happy to hear you and your girls love it, too! You have a gift, my dear! What a pleasure to read your posts. It’s so nice of you to give us a glimpse into your magical life. Hugs!

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      A Gilmore Girls fan! It’s such a smart and fun show. And I’m looking forward to writing the memoir. It means the pups will get extra walks (I get most of my writing done on our outings) so they’re happy about it, too. Thanks for visiting here. You always brighten my day!

  4. It’s a privilege to read these stories, Katherine. Lots to absorb here — but what special times you share with your daughters, and Ivy (& the others) too! You’re lucky to have each other — definitely the best mother-daughter-daughter-pit-etc. team on both sides of the Mississippi. :-)

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Probably the ONLY mother-daughter-daughter-pit etc team, but I’ll take the compliment anyway. :)

      And, yes, we’re very lucky to have each other. And the story material never runs dry.

      So happy to see you here in this space.

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