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Current Events Ink Slingers Martina

Catholic Sistas 2013 Year in Review

2013 has been an AMAZINGLY fruitful year! The talent of our Ink Slingers and their ability to convey the Faith in a variety of ways to meet you where you are in your faith walk, our prayer campaigns shared exclusively through our Facebook fan page, our prayer intentions on the fan page as well as the website, our splash onto the Instagram scene with our debut Lenten photo challenge, our saint of the day photos, Catholic Nerd series created for chuckles, our daily #WFD posts on Facebook {that’s What’s For Dinner for all you greenhorns!}, our strong presence at the DC March for Life on Twitter and lastly, quadrupling our following on Pinterest, this year has been marked with a lot of projects and activities, all centered on sharing the Faith. I am excited that we have had a well-balanced presence on the most popular social media platforms!

I would like to take a moment to reflect on Pinterest, friends. Stick with me. ūüôā

Though the primary mission of Catholic Sistas has always been 1) to inspire others to learn and grow in the Faith {transmission of the Faith} and 2) to connect others through prayer, I am pleased to be able to offer something else I find important and almost integral in the life of a Catholic Рbeing connected to other Catholics and Catholic resources to assist our ongoing faith formation. Our Pinterest account exploded this year! After careful review of the content we were offering in early 2013, it became necessary to restructure the boards. All this means is the boards that were broad in nature were carved into specific niches, creating a more streamlined experience for both myself as well as all our followers. In April, I took over the Pinterest account responsibilities and saw how much the previous ladies had done, first Heidi and later Birgit. It was incredible to me the amount of work they put into getting it where it was! I initially had some reservation about making changes, but knew it was inevitable. The account went from 30+ boards to currently sitting at 120+ boards, with a few more on the horizon {mostly taking broad categories and carving them out a bit}.

YearInReview2013

Because our schedules are so busy and our time precious, this became the motivation for me to create very specific boards for our Pinterest account. I want our followers to find what they need and pin it and not get sucked into the Pinterest vortex! From all things Catholic, such as feast days by the month, Catholic homeschooling, sacraments, vocations, our pope, respect life, articles, youth ministry ideas, and domestic church, to food, design, homeschool resources, organizing, fashion and more, you will find there is something for everyone! If you have not yet ventured into the world of Pinterest, I invite you to come check us out. I even wrote a how-to article on Pinterest for those interested in the pros and cons from a Catholic perspective. We have become one of the largest, most organized Catholic Pinterest accounts and look forward to your company!

Our 10 most popular posts for 2013 are the following, thanks in part to our readers like you who continue to support us by reading and praying for the blog and its mission. Without further ado, I give you:

10) Getting Over the Free-Range Chicken Syndrome, Order in {Catholic} Homeschooling

9) Why Christians Opened the Door to Gay Marriage

8) 19 Shockingly Simple Ways to Live Your Crazy Catholic Life

7) Your Handy-Dandy List to Lenten Sacrifices

6) A Chemist Believes in Transubstantiation

5) 7 Things the Secular Media Should Know about the Pope and the Church

4) We Will Remember: How Being Chained to An Abortion Table Saved a Life

3) 10 Steps to Start {Catholic} Homeschooling

2) Will the Next Pope Be the Antichrist? The Last Pope? Is The End Near? and other burning questions

1) Super Bowl Show: Trying to Make Hell Look Cool

If you could continue to keep Catholic Sistas in your prayers as we head into 2014, I sure would appreciate it! With a simple mission, it allows us to explore so many avenues, ideas and projects and we always make every effort to place God at the center of those decisions.

Thank you, friends, and God bless. ūüôā

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Advent Christmas Colleen Ink Slingers Our Favorite Things Resources Your Handy-Dandy List

Your Handy-Dandy Guide to Catholic Christmas Shopping!

I know, I know! Thanksgiving is still 2 weeks away, and Christmas isn’t even on your radar. But when it comes to Christmas shopping, the earlier, the better, especially if you’re relying on the USPS to get your stuff to you. One year, Martina made a commitment to get ALL her Christmas shopping done before Advent began, to prepare for a peaceful, less-stressed Advent. What a great idea – it is a little stressful to track your package online on December 23 and see that it is currently in Denver, 600 miles away from you, and that your city is expecting a huge snowstorm overnight, and you may have to show up at the relatives’ house with an “IOU – your present is on its way!” card. (raises hand.)

It is also stressful trying to figure out WHAT to buy for someone who seems to have everything. Maybe you want to buy a religious-themed gift, but don’t want to go with the ol’ standby of a Bible (which is a great present, by the way, but just in case they already have one, or two, or five…)

I present to you: Catholic Sistas’ Favorite Things, a compilation of our favorite religious gift items for young, old, and everyone in-between.

(Click on the title of each item, and you will be redirected to their site to purchase.)

 

Something to Wear

 

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1. Holy Hair Bows (email martina@catholicsistas.com to order)
2. Little Flower Heart Necklace
3. Blessed Virgin Dress-Up Outfit
4. Lego Pope Shirt
5. Veils by Lily
6. Keep Calm And Pray Your Rosary Shirt
7. St. Gerard Rosary Bracelet
8. Miraculous Medal

 

 

Something to Listen To

 

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1. Brother Francis CD: Let’s Sing!
2. Stories and Songs of Jesus
3. Hug Me Jesus
4. Blessed John Paul II Glory Stories (also see St. Kateri & St. Cecilia, Blessed Imelda & St. Juan Diego, and more)
5. St. Catherine of Siena Audio CD – Mary Fabyan Windeatt
6. Advent at Ephesus – Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles
7. Mater Eucharistae – Dominican Sisters of Mary
8. Pursuing Holiness: Lessons from St. Francis de Sales

 

 

Something to Watch

 

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1. Holy Baby! The Rosary in 7 Languages
2. Nicholas, the Boy Who Became Santa – CCC Saints Movies (Also see Juan Diego, Messenger of Guadalupe, Patrick, Brave Shepherd of the Emerald Isle, Francis, the Knight of Assisi, Bernadette, Princess of Lourdes, and other titles)
3. Brother Francis Movies
4. Retreat With Fulton Sheen

 

 

Something to Play With

 

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1. Forever Treasured Wooden Saints – St. Miriam & Friends
2. Brother Hubert Rag Doll + Story Book
3. Sister Mary Clara Doll
4. Fr. Juan Pablo Doll
5. Shining Light Dolls
6. Tiny Saints Charms
7. No Room At the Inn Puzzle
8. Saints Pillowcases
9. Make-A-Rosary Hanger Kit
10. Catholic Coloring Poster
11. Little People Nativity (a classic!)
12. Playmobil Nativity

Something to Pray With

 

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1. Children’s Miniature Mass Kit
2. St. Edmund Campion Missal (for Traditional Latin Mass)
3. Rosary Steering Wheel Cover
4. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Art Print
5. St. Paul Daily Missal
6. Magnificat Subscription
7. Laudamus Te (like Magnificat, but with the 1962 Missal readings/propers)
8. Children’s Colorful Rosary
9. Wooden Sick Call Crucifix
10. Sterling Silver Military 4-Way Medal
11. Shamrock Rosary
12. Madonna and Child with Lamb Statue

 

 

Something to Eat

 

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1. Mystic Monk Coffee – Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel
2. Trappistine Creamy Caramels – Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey
3. Trappist Beer
4. Hazelnut Fudge – Brigittine Monks
5. Clover Honey – Cistercian Nuns @ Redwoods Monastery
6. Monks’ Bread
7. Prayerfully Popped Corn from the Cloister
8. From A Monastery Kitchen: The Classic Natural Foods Cookbook

 

 

Something to Read

 

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1. The Friendly Beasts – Tomie dePaola (also, see The Night of Las Posadas, The Legend of the Poinsettia, and other titles)
2. Who is Coming to Our House?
3. E is for Eucharist – A Catholic Alphabet
4. An Alphabet of Catholic Saints
5. Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms
6. Small Steps for Catholic Moms
7. Catholic Daily Planner by Michele Quigley (if my husband is reading this, hint hint!)
8. Real Men Pray the Rosary: A Practical Guide to a Powerful Prayer

(see our Pinterest board for over 100 other book ideas!)

 

Honorable Mention

Looking for a unique, non-religious gift, but still want to support Catholic shop owners? Check out these:

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1. Handmade Toy Soldier – Steadfast Tin Soldiers
2. Nest Egg Charms – BlueJayBabies
3. Handmade Soaps – Corner Shop Soaps
4. Lady Mary Hat & Fingerless Gloves Crochet Pattern – Nat’s Niche
5. Handmade Tote – Sew Sweet by Shannon
6. Artisanal Soaps & Lotions – The Little Flower Farm
7. Yellow Dotty Vase – Donnabelle

 

 

Be sure to check out our Pinterest gift boards, Christmas Gift Guide and Gift Ideas, as well! In case none of these 67 gift ideas struck your fancy. ūüėČ

Got any favorite Catholic gift ideas or shops you support? Planning on purchasing any of these items for a loved one? Please share in the comments below!

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Ink Slingers Martina Resources Your Handy-Dandy List

Your Handy Dandy List – Pinterest: What, Why, and How To

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard people talking about Pinterest. Once by invitation only, sometimes taking upward of two weeks to get your invite or be approved into the exclusive {and somewhat illusive} newcomer to social media, Pinterest has taken the interwebs by storm. But, what¬†is it and why should¬†you be a part of it?

What Pinterest is.

Taken directly from their website, Pinterest is a tool for collecting and organizing things you love.¬†I could continue to pull information from their site, but let me give you my own “Martina” spin on what I think it is.

Do you remember back in the day when we would find articles or recipes or things that inspire us in magazines? What did we do with them? Well, if you were nerdy like me, you’d tear them out {in photography lingo, we refer to these as tear sheets}, stack them in piles according to their specific category, label your manilla folder accordingly, alphabetize them, and VOILA! You have the things you like right at your finger tips, ready for access when you need them. OR, you might like this visual better. You pin them to your cork board in areas designated for specific topics of interest.

That. is Pinterest.

Seriously.

It’s an online cork board.

When Catholic Sistas was a wee fledgling, I repeatedly heard friends talk about this Pinterest РI was newly pregnant {translation: in the midst of what I not-so-affectionately call the mack truck phase}, failing miserably at homeschooling, and trying to juggle the demands of a one year old. This along with the other kiddos alongside the demands of the blog=fail like a BOSS. Fortunately, I was able to see the value of Pinterest as an extension tool for the blog, even though I was overwhelmed at the idea of taking on one. more. thing. I asked if any of our contributors knew what it was, used it, and interested in setting up a Pinterest account. We brainstormed and a plan was hatched. In January of 2012, Catholic Sistas officially became a part of the Pinterest world!

Thanks to Ink Slingers Heidi and Birgit who led the charge in getting it going and building up some great content, a good deal of it Catholic. Recently, I was handed the Pinterest baton and, while initially timid to take on such a large group of pins, I eventually dove in with both feet. Over a year ago, I created my own personal account and found out how easy it was to pin! Almost too easy! My family quickly learned the benefits of my account because I was soon inspired with all kinds of new recipes to try vs. the daily 4 p.m. fridge stare down. So, by the time I took on the existing CS account, I had already figured out worked through my Pinterest fears. With that, I have some tips I want to share with you. Hold on, friends. Here we go.

Why you should use Pinterest-as a Catholic.

  1. It’s engaging.¬†If you are consistently pinning, you increase your chances of someone picking up your Catholic pins.
  2. It’s a great way to network.¬†Your blog, yourself, your business, your brand. You’ll find that in Catholic circles, friends are always anxious and ready to share your unique content as well as any relevant repins.
  3. Information is always new and fresh. 
  4. Evangelize.¬†It’s a great way to evangelize with non-Catholic friends without saying “hey, YOU, non-Catholic friend-read this.”
  5. Create a good mix of specific Catholic boards.¬†For other Catholics. For non-Catholic Christians. For everyone else. As part of evangelizing, creating specific Catholic boards can be helpful for friends and family to easily find content. Start off with a few Catholic boards that interest you. Love the saints? How about a “Saints” board? Or “Pope” board? Maybe a board for Catholic current events?
  6. Create non-Catholic boards. For other Catholics. For non-Catholic Christians. For everyone else. We all have to eat, right? What about organizing tips? Finances? Do it yourself projects? A good account will have a well-rounded collection of boards, some for the non-Catholic, most for the Catholic, but all of it engaging, no matter the audience you intend for any given board.
  7. Promote your apostolate, ministry, or cause!¬†Pinterest has the capability to provide people with tools and resources, so PLEASE UTILIZE this feature by collecting excellent resources in one perfectly and clearly labeled board. Ex. I did a recent search on Catholic miscarriage and infant loss resources – I was disappointed. There was not much from a Catholic standpoint…on Pinterest. But I knew this was a sorely needed resource. Catholic Sistas teamed up with some personal accounts of Ink Slingers to help build out the¬†Miscarriage.InfantLoss board.

How to get started. How to use it.

  1. Sign up. Set up your account thoroughly. This is especially important if you have a decent following as a blogger, even more important if you run a business. Don’t forget to verify your account.
  2. Create boards.¬†Don’t overwhelm yourself, though. Start with a handful of broad categories and later carve out niches as your interests become more fine tuned. {i.e. Food, Jesus, My Favorite Things, are all great first boards} Pinterest currently has two options for boards, public and private. Private is great if you need time to¬†buildout¬†a board or think through the content you want to work on before other eyes see it. I highly recommend utilizing this feature.
  3. Make board titles short, catchy, memorable, but most of all distinctly titled from your other boards. Board titles that are too long get chopped, leaving pinners wondering what’s inside, and they likely won’t click through. Give them what they want by using 18 character allotment for board titles to fit IF YOU USE ALL CAPS and 24 characters if you use all lowercase. One thing I would also suggest is checking out your board titles on smaller mobile devices – the 18 ALL CAPS and 24 all lowercase, I have found, only apply to computers, but hey, most of us are on iPads or smaller devices. That means you need even fewer letters, so think short and to the point on titles, and then check boards on your devices to verify the length looks good. This is especially important for any boards you have that serve as resources for others. ::EXTRA TIP:: I learned this the hard way, but once you name a board and it is linked up on your blog as pinterest.com/catholicsistas/jesus* and you change the name, it will change the name of the Pinterest URL as well, which leads to broken links. Choose titles wisely the first time and avoid this potential mess.
  4. Write board descriptions that are intriguing but short and give good detail. These are SEO {search engine optimization} rich, so take advantage of all 500 characters. The jury is still out on the search effectiveness of #hashtags on Pinterest {to date}, so use them if you want, don’t if you don’t.
  5. Follow friends, family, strangers. Ask them to follow you back.

    Food.Break the fast
  6. Add Pinterest bookmarks and buttons to your blog to boost traffic.
  7. Pinning and repinning. Pin quality content. Make sure the picture represents the content of the pin and the description is accurate. Again, this is SEO country. This is how pinners find your content, so go big or go home.
  8. Be consistent. Better to pin once a day than once a week. The more often you pin, the more frequent you show up in your followers’ feed, the better the chance of your pins being liked and repinned, increasing your chances of picking up new followers.
  9. Choose great photos.¬†Your cover photo for each board matters. As a photographer of more than twenty years, I can’t stress this point enough. This is what draws pinners to your board. Make sure your photo is not only visually appealing, but represents the content of the board-a breakfast board would not make sense if you had a stellar picture of a sunset, or poorly lit hashed browns. Keep in mind that cover photos are always horizontal, but you have the option to crop verticals to horizontal. Same goes with pinning your own content. Pick the best possible photo – this draws followers’ eyes in and gets the likes >> repins >> new followers. Easy peasy.¬†Great photos. Rule of Thirds. Done.¬†
  10. Utilize Pinterest stats. This is particularly helpful for businesses who pin a lot of their own content, but also bloggers who share their posts.
  11. Consider creating a disclaimer board.¬†This can be particularly helpful if you are part of any program under the diocese or you just want to make it 100% clear that third party links don’t represent what your account is about. We have lost followers on occasion to this, and while those numbers are infinitesimal, I find putting that disclosure out there to be helpful in preventing snafus. I would venture to guess the majority of the Pinterest world understands the relationship between the account holder and third-party links, but better to be proactive on this front.¬†¬†

Normally, this would be where I wrap up my post, but I realize there is more to be discussed. Read on, if you’d like to learn more from a tech standpoint as well as some fun facts!

I’m going to need more to go on. Can you share more tech-oriented details?

Pictures

  • QUALITY images. When blogging, find or produce images that inspire others to pin. You want them to stand out in the world of Pinterest.
  • ENHANCE your photos. Featured images are a GREAT way to create visually enhancing pins. I recommend PicMonkey¬†as a fun way to add the title of your post along with your website address to encourage traffic to your site. There are many other fun apps out there for use on your smart phone. I recommend looking into adding some popular photo-editing apps to your phone or iPad.
  • SIZE your photos appropriately where possible. To date, images should be at least 400 pixels wide – the maximum allowed is 554 pixels. Longer images such as info graphics have a better tendency to standout.
  • NAME your photos using keyword rich file names. IMG29737.jpg won’t rank as well as decadent-chocolate-mousse.jpg. If your “alt tag” is missing, Pinterest will assign the title based on your file name.
  • ALT-TAGS should be keyword rich as well. This helps increase rank in search ability.
  • PIN IT BUTTON should be installed correctly – make sure it takes you to the specific post and NOT the home page of your blog or website. Test, test, and test some more.

Best time of day to pin

  • IT VARIES, the best time to pin. Having read many articles on the matter, and based on my own personal experience, I can safely say there is no¬†one specific formula that works for everyone. Add to that, the articles I have read deal primarily with secular matters and we end up with a truly unique situation. My advice is experiment with different times and see what works best with your brand, your niche, your audience.¬†

Fast Facts

  • 25 million monthly unique visitors {source: comScore}
  • only 1/3 of the top 1,500 brands in the US are on Pinterest {as of fall 2012} but only have an¬†average of 124 followers with estimates of 90% of the top brands on Pinterest by late 2013. {source: LifeReimagined}
  • a pin lasts longer than a tweet. Half life of a Twitter update is 5-25 minutes, compared to 80 minutes for Facebook. Pins often have a half life of over one week. Result: more eyes on your message, brand, post, picture, YOU.
  • call-to-action pins and descriptions see an 80% increase in engagement {source:¬†Social Fresh}
  • 68.2% of users are female* while some studies show upward of 80% female {source*: comScore}
  • 50% of users have children*
  • 28.1% have an annual income of over $100K*
  • 4.1% are age 12-17*
  • 17.3% are age 18-24*
  • 27.4% are age 25-34*
  • 22.1% are age 35-44*
  • 17.9% are age 45-54*
  • Shoppers referred by Pinterest are 10% more likely to make a purchase than visitors who arrive from social networks, and spend 10% more. {from Wayfair}
  • Time spent is 15.8 minutes vs. Facebook 12.1 minutes*
  • 3rd most popular popular social networking site {source: Experian}
  • 4th largest traffic source in the world {source: Shareaholic}
  • mothers are 61% more likely to visit Pinterest compared to average American {source: Nielsen}

And there you have it!¬†If you are a Catholic business, I can’t stress the use of Pinterest enough in addition to your website. If you are in need of help strategizing and organizing your account, please do¬†contact me.¬†I would love to help you with tips and advice. Readers, do you have any tips or advice you’d like to share? Please comment below!

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CS in the media Current Events

Keep Up With The Catholic Sistas on Pinterest

 Announcment!  Announcement!  Announcement!

Some of our readers may ¬†have noticed the new Pinterest button on our home page. ¬†That’s right, Catholic Sistas is on Pinterest. ¬† ¬†For now we have categories for Respect Life, Book Recommendations (for kids and grown ups), Daily Prayer and Devotions, Liturgical Seasons and more. ¬†We look forward to adding boards for homemaking and homeschooling in the near future! ¬† All of the boards are organized and moderated by a team of Ink Slingers from Catholic Sistas.

See the books and ideas that inspire us!  There is no way, however, we can catch every web resource, great book, and fabulous liturgical idea alone so here is where our readers come in.  If you find something that might be interesting to other Catholic Sistas readers, be sure to tag us (@Catholic_Sistas) in your own pin.  We will be able to see your tag and then pin to one of our own boards.

When I first came to Pinterest personally, and searched “Catholic”, there wasn’t much to be found, but now you can join your favorite Sistas in the ever changing, ever inspiring, and ever growing world of Pinterest!

Follow Me on Pinterest