Etsy Christmas/Holiday Gift Guide 2017 - A Nordic Christmas

Nordic Christmas tree gnome decorations by Littleromadecor

Nordic Christmas tree gnome decorations by Littleromadecor

Sometimes it's the little things that make the festive season special. Etsy invited me to create an Etsy Holiday gift guide that holds tradition or meaning for me. Christmas is mostly a traditional Finnish celebration for my family, due to my mother being a Finn. We celebrate on Christmas eve with a home cooked evening meal, some Finnish Christmas music, gift giving, and glögi (mulled wine). I've curated a collection of Etsy items that are reminiscent of our Finnish/Nordic traditions at home, with decorations, gingerbread, and elves included in my finds!

Traditional Christmas Decorations

What I love about traditional Finnish Christmas decorations is they instantly transform an English house into a Nordic style home. There are some tasteful contemporary interpretations of the traditional designs on Etsy, along with authentic vintage items. Click through the images to see the individual items:

See more Nordic/Scandinavian Christmas items from Etsy sellers here.

Delicious Gingerbread

Mini gingerbread house, handmade by my Finnish mother.

Mini gingerbread house, handmade by my Finnish mother.

Every year in the run up to Christmas, my Finnish mother could be found kneading gingerbread dough, cutting shapes, filling our house with divine baking scents, building little houses, and decorating them beautifully by hand. Not only was her creativity inspiring, but we got to ruin all her hard work and eat it as well, eventually! There was that one year I'm told we snuck downstairs and demolished most of it in one sitting before Christmas, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't do anything that naughty ...

There's an impressive selection of giftable gingerbread products on Etsy if you're looking for cookies, fudge, gingerbread tea, marshmallows, or a variety of other delicious goodies. Click through the images to explore gingerbread items on Etsy:

Explore all gingerbread edibles on Etsy here.

Christmas Elves (Finnish "Tonttu")

A tonttu girl - Finnish elves feature in my own work often. Yeah, maybe I still believe in them after all!

A tonttu girl - Finnish elves feature in my own work often. Yeah, maybe I still believe in them after all!

As a child I believed in tontut (Finnish Christmas elves) and quite frankly I'm not surprised, as I'd hear the bells on their hats tinkle as they ran past the house, and see a quick flash of a red hat as they'd peek through the window.

No, I wasn't imagining things - my parents orchestrated this display using broom handles with hats, and bells. I have never been so well behaved as around Christmas time when tontut, the 'spirits of the homestead' were keeping watch!

Our houses are decorated every year with the little folk; you will find a tonttu anywhere you look, from wall decorations to tableware, to ornaments, to textiles, and they are created with a variety of different materials. Here are a few of the folkloric friends I found on Etsy:

Discover more little elves on Etsy here.

I hope you've enjoyed learning about some of my 'Finglish' Christmas traditions. What holiday traditions are meaningful to you? Share with us in the comments!

A wee note: while my post does contain affiliate links, this does not affect which items I choose. It simply means if you purchase something via one of my links I receive a small commission to top up my tea jar!

Handpicked Halloween 2017: 13 spooky specimens from creative businesses on Etsy

Shop small for Halloween and support independent businesses. I've conjured up 13 spooky specimens that you can find on Etsy for a hauntingly happy Halloween - all treats, no tricks!

Candelabra table lamp & image by BootsNGus on Etsy.

Candelabra table lamp & image by BootsNGus on Etsy.

Click through the images for more info and/or to purchase from Etsy sellers directly.

Handpicked Halloween

Find even more Halloween finds, visit my Handpicked Halloween Pinterest board.

Will you be celebrating Halloween? What's your favourite thing to do? Let us know in the comments below!

This post contains wee affiliate links so I can keep my tea jar topped up at no extra cost to you. You can read my affiliate policy here.

Pinterest announcement - using hashtags for your Pins

pinterest-hashtag-tips

Pinterest have just announced the introduction of hashtags to the platform. Read on for information about the new feature, and how to best use hashtags on your Pins.

Most Pinterest users are probably aware that hashtags have always been a no-no on the platform. They served no purpose on Pinterest, and users were advised against using them. Until now!

So what exactly has Pinterest announced? The following information is a direct quote, straight from Pinterest:

"When you add hashtags to the description for a new Pin, Pinners can visit a feed of all the Pins that share that hashtag. When you add hashtags to the description for a new Pin, Pinners can visit a feed of all the Pins that share that hashtag. To learn more about what hashtags are and how to add them to your Pins, visit this article.

When inserting a hashtag, we recommend you be specific and descriptive. Use words or phrases that describe the content in the Pin – we recommend you add no more than 20 hashtags per Pin. It’s best to be objective and use hashtags that make sense and are relevant to the Pin. Depending on your Pin, consider using hashtags that are timely (e.g. #oscars, #backtoschool, #halloween) and/or hashtags for evergreen content that works well on Pinterest (e.g. #mealplanning, #hairgoals, #homedecor). This is to help make it easier to for users to filter and find relevant content they are interested in.

Hashtags are a new way to reach users interested in your content. When a user searches a hashtag the freshest pins with that hashtag will appear at the top of the feed. When a user searches the same phrase without the hashtag, it will pull up the original search results page.

Right now we won’t show any Promoted Pins in hashtag feeds, but adding hashtags to the organic instances of your Promoted content can help distribute your content in those feeds."

Below is a screenshot to illustrate how it works. In the process of pinning your image, start typing your hashtag with keywords, and a list of suggestions appears that you can choose to select from. It's just like Instagram in this sense. There are relatively few hashtagged pins so far, so why not be an early adopter?

Skeleton baby grow image from Nappy Head.

Skeleton baby grow image from Nappy Head.

Are you a frequent Pinner? What are your thoughts on Pinterest's new capabilities? Let us know in the comments! Find me on Pinterest here.

Small Business Spotlight Interview: Cambridge Puppy Training

In the Small Business Spotlight:

Gail Stafford, professional dog and puppy trainer based in Cambridge UK, walks us through her new business venture - Cambridge Puppy Training.

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Gail and I live in Cambridge, UK. I've always had a love of animals and in my early 20s started my 'dog journey' as a dog walker, then progressed to complete an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour Management. From there I went on to complete a BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour and Welfare.

I am a puppy class instructor at CCEG (Cambridge Canine Education Group) dog training, and the great loves of my life are my dogs. My life does, as I am sure many dog owners will relate to, revolve around dogs! I spend my time working with puppies, training my own dog, and writing articles for my blog relating to dog and puppy behaviour .

Describe your business

Cambridge Puppy Training offers 1-2-1 puppy home visits, and I've just started puppy training classes locally. I usually visit puppies when they just arrive in their new homes, before they are allowed out on walks. It gives new puppy owners the opportunity to learn the basics of puppy behaviour, tackle any potential issues within the home early on with my advice, and get training started early. I also offer an email advice service, puppy sitting/training (so fun!) and offer a Puppy Guide manual which I have written myself. I use positive methods of training, and follow as closely as I can the science behind canine behaviour to help with training.

Gail-from-Cambridge-Puppy-Training-with-dogs.jpg

What inspires you?

Dogs! Specifically my own dog. She inspires me every single day. I may be a dog trainer but I am not immune to being 'trained' by my dog! She knows how to get around me, and I love her for it. I work with different puppies every single week and I learn from all of them, they make me think and make me try different techniques and see what works with them. I love that they keep me on my toes!

Other dog trainers inspire me too, I have been lucky enough to work alongside some incredible dog trainers who are truly experts in their field. I have learned so much from the fellow instructors I work with. 'High profile' dog trainers inspire me daily, from Ian Dunbar to Lewis Nicholls to Suzanne Clothier to Nando Brown, all inspire me and keep me motivated to keep learning, keep researching and keep polishing my skills as a trainer and puppy instructor.

Why did you decide to start a business?

I've been dog training and teaching puppy classes for over 6 years, whilst doing various other 'normal' jobs alongside. However it felt the right time to create my own puppy business, and I was lucky enough to be in a position where I could fully concentrate and dedicate my time to it.

I truly thought setting up my own business would be too difficult for little ol' me! But I was determined to have a go and see where it took me. It was daunting at first, having the confidence to put yourself out there and sell what you do was a bit scary! But I'm more relaxed with the process now.

Has the direction of your business changed over time?

A little, yes. When I first set up my business I was very focused on setting up puppy training classes on varying days of the week, whilst doing 1-2-1s 'as well'. However, the interest has largely been in my 1-2-1s and this was a surprise to me - a very welcome surprise as I love working one to one with owners! Now I offer classes once a week as a four week course.

I also didn't realise how much my blog articles would not only give me so much pleasure, but other people too. I thoroughly enjoy writing them - I never planned to write articles but it has been a natural progression and I love researching, writing and posting the articles every day.

What challenges have you faced as a small business owner?

Puppy-training

The technicalities! Going self-employed is something I have no experience of, so it was a tad daunting to face the dreaded tax system and figure it all out. I have friends who are more experienced than me in the working of business, which has been invaluable. Social media was a bit of a challenge too. I have never been hugely active on social media privately, so using social media as a platform for my work took a bit of getting used to. Also, self-doubt. I'm sure all small business owners fret periodically about the popularity or success of what you have created, maybe it's part and parcel of running your own empire!

What's the most rewarding aspect to running your own business?

Seeing puppy owners happy! Happy puppies, and happy owners. I can't ask for more than that. When you're working with a client, you have moments where things suddenly click; they get it, they get the training and they get their puppy, and that moment is fantastic. I see it regularly and it's brilliant, seeing an owner improve with their technique through the advice I have given, consequently seeing a puppy improve is just wonderful. I get so much joy from owners telling me that the advice I gave has been helpful, that is what I get a real kick out of.

What advice would you give to new businesses that are just starting out?

Don't panic! It takes time to gain interest, so have realistic goals. Don't try to do millions of things at once, think of your priorities for that day and work your way through. Accept 'hiccups' in your planning, not everything always runs smoothly in the beginning but don't panic, it's a lesson learned which you can improve on.

Don't get so bogged down with the 'other stuff', the websites, social media or business cards etc, that you forget why you're doing what you're doing. If you have a passion, keep it and don't let it get lost in amongst all the other bits and pieces of business. Forget competition! It doesn't matter what others are doing, focus on what you do and making it the best you can.

What's next for your business?

To keep working hard. To continue delivering a valuable service to my clients, stay up-to-date with the science behind canine behaviour and training so I'm always improving, carry on with writing, and continue to run my puppy training classes. I have LOTS of ideas and things I want to achieve with my business, and a range of new things to offer clients. I aim to be original in my approach as the only purely puppy-based company in this area, and I aim to be the first in other areas too. I can't give all my secrets away though, can I?

Gail regularly posts puppy training videos on Facebook, so follow her page if you'd like to learn some simple tips for training your pup!

Learn more about Gail and connect with her online using these links: