Wednesday
Jul012015

Insta inspiration

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Monday
Jun152015

Three white wines for Father's day

The sun warms our faces as we sit in the suntrap at the side of our house.  Pots filled with rosemary and lavender beside us.  Bright yellow daisies dazzle.  The day is long and afternoon stretches to night. These are the days to sit with Daddy and sip some wine,  perhaps looking at the papers, reading to each other stories that are worth sharing.

These elegant white wines from Marks and Spencer,  I feel are worth sharing on Father’s Day.  After all there really is nothing more refreshing on an afternoon, than enjoying time together,  in the garden with a glass in hand. 

Having spent a lot of time in America I am really excited that Marks and Spencer’s wine maker Belinda Kleinig has found some fantastic American wines and made them readily available on these islands.  The wines I have selected for you are all elegant and distinctive, something that little bit special.

Kings Ridge Oregon Pinot Gris Vintage: 2013

Bright and sparky with flavours of melon, peach and pear, this wine from the Willamette Valley Oregon, USA makes a vibrant elegant wine to sip chilled in the garden on Father’s day.   A 100% Pinot Grigio it is delicious with spicy asian food, like lime salt chilli chicken.

 

Single Block Series S1 Sauvignon Blanc Vintage: 2014

This Sauvignon Blanc is delicate and complex.  Its herbaceous flavours have a polished composition, that is aromatic and distinctive.  There are top notes of gooseberry, with a slight hint of passionfuit which is subtle. The grape is 100% Sauvigon Blanc.  It works well with seafood, or asparagus risotto.

 

Charles Smith The Honourable Riesling

This Charles Smith The Honourable Riesling from Washington State is a sublime wine.

Winemaker Charles Smith is a rock star wine maker, who creates bottles that just that little bit special. 

This Riesling is vibrant, clean, stylish, fresh and balanced, with lemon flavours and a rich finish one to enjoy drinking.

Sláinte Happy Father's Day

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Monday
Jun152015

Food & Drink Father's Day picks from Marks & Spencer

Foodie gifts are great for Father's Day they are things Dad's can enjoy, without having to smile at another gimmicky gadget.

This Spirit of London Dry Gin small batch from Marks and Spencer is light and refreshing.  It is a very special gin distilled at the Thames Distillery near Clapham in Central London.  Master Distiller Charles Maxwell who created the gin is the 8th generation in an unbroken line of London gin distillers that began with his forbearer George Bishop in 1700, giving him a unique 300 years worth of knowledge. 

To make a great Gin and Tonic, start with fabulous gin, and good tonic (schwepps is my favourite), add a squeeze of lime, plenty of ice, pour in the gin over the ice and lime, then top with tonic and serve.  No straws or gimmicks, lime wiped around the top of the glass.  Keep it really simple.

There is nothing more refreshing than sipping a Gin and Tonic.  Why don't you pour a long tall drink and sit outside to enjoy it with your Papa.  Ask him questions about his life, listen to his stories, spend time where you make memories just being together, enjoying a drink.  Not rushing here or there, eating in fancy restaurants just you and your Daddy, talking and shooting the breeze.

Bucket BBQs are fantastic.  This beautiful turquoise one from Marks and Spencer's is a great Father's Day gift. I love BBQing at the beach, and taking Dad to the beach for his special day, is a lovely way to spend time togehter.  This portable BBQ is perfect for any kind of cooking and eating outside.

Load the BBQ with pickles, salsas and nuts, add a tag saying what is happening, stock up on some Marks and Spencer The Grill BBQ range, load the car, remember the dog, and head off for a day of Al freso eating, and even a dip in the sea.  Picnicing one of our favourite ways to eat, and creating a special hamper full of Dad's favourite things to eat and BBQ, combined with visiting somewhere very beautiful, creates a unique relaxing day for your Daddy.

Marks and Spencer stock a special range of American products including pickles, marinades, sauces, and other things.

These bourbon maple gherkins have a sweet smoky salt flavour, with a very satisfying crunch.

 

This American Pineapple Chipotle Salsa is the best American salsa for sale on the high street its available from Marks and Spencer American Deli range. There's heat, sweetness, chunky tomato and pineapple.  The flavour lingers but is digestiable.

 I don't think I have met a man who doesn't like nuts.  These new flavoured nuts from Marks and Spencer make great presents. A little quick thinking and you can turn a colourfully packaged bag of nuts into something much more substancial, all with the help of a little glass jar.

 St Clements cashews and almonds are really crunchy with a sticky orange taste, they are perfect served with gin and tonic, with a slice of orange rather then lemon or lime.

 Scottish heather honey and mustard have a good strong mustard flavour that spikes the sweetness of the honey.  Dry roasted the nuts are crunchy and very morish.  

My Dad loves nuts and keeps a selection beside his armchair to nibble on as he reads the paper and watches sport on television, he also has some in the car, by buying his these beautiful nuts from Marks and Spencer I know that he will enjoy the present we have got him, and I am always up for buying presents that people enjoy.

 

A little friend of mine saved their pocket money and wanted to give their Daddy some nuts for his birthday.  

 He knew his Dad liked cashews so he bought this Marks and Spencer Honey Roasted Cashew mix and we popped it into a clear and shiney glass jar 

A little change of packaging brings a regular bag of nuts into a new league.

 

 These sweet caramel nuts are very crunchy with a melt in the mouth caramel coating.

 Serve these Marks and Spencer Salted Caramel nuts with a sweet cold white wine to Dad before dinner.

This Charles Smith The Honourable Riesling from Washington State is a sublime wine, you can buy from Marks and Spencer. Dad's are worth buying good wines for, especially wines that open up their palate, to something new.

Winemaker Charles Smith is a rock star wine maker, who creates bottles that just that little bit special, perfect for your special Daddy.. 

This The Honourable Riesling is vibrant, clean, stylish, fresh and balanced, with lemon flavours and a rich finish one to enjoy drinking.  The lemon flavours sit well with the salted caramel sweet nuts.

When do you eat cheese and biscuits?  Daddy's love crackers and cheese.  This beautiful tin continues three types of biscuits made by hand in the West Country - leek and cheddar, wholegrain mustard, and salt and black pepper.

 Serve the biscuits with a good cheddar and some Marks and Spencer Gin Cucumber Mint Chutney.

 

Tins of toffee for Dad to stash in his car or beside his chair are always welcomed gits. 

Marks and Spencer bright colourful liquorice alsorts come in a bright yellow box filled with colourful sweets.

 

Marks and Spencer Coco caramel dusted macademia nuts are sweet crunchy with a firm chocolate flavour. They come in a beautifully packages tin.

Daddy's love a good cup of tea with a crunchy, chewy biscuit - these toffee shortbreads from Marks and Spencer have that perfect combination of crunch and chew, one will not be enough.  These are the kind of thing your Daddy might not buy for himsef, but that he will really enjoy nibbling on when he enjoys one of his many daily cups of tea.

Buying your Dad some lovely nuts, sweets, American chutneys and salsas, BBQs, wine or gin - are gifts chosen with thought and meaning.  Presents for Father's Day that will be enjoyed and greatly appreciated.

 

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Friday
Jun122015

BBQ season begins Summer 2015

BBQs are a relaxed way of eating.  They appeal to the primal instinct in all of us - cooking over fire outside - even the most girly girl, finds something satsifying about BBQ.  She just might not admit it.

Yet the prep for BBQs can be exhausting, there are lots of balls in the air at once.  My Top Ten BBQ tips keep things simple and that is my mantra for any type of cooking - simplify.

 Preparing a lighting a BBQ is something all the family should be involved in.  It is the perfect time to teach young boys about fire safety.  I read a report once about teenage arsonist and it suggested those that decided to do this had not been exposed to safely lighting fires as a young person.  Chatting with a psychologist who worked in the probation board dealing with teenage arsonist, I definitely thought there was something in it.

Use BBQ to teach people about fire safety and cooking safely over burning coals.  It also heightens the sense of anticipation and excitement - collecting sticks, scrunching newspaper, preparing the coals - to eating food cooked over fire.

BBQs also teach children to love food its preparation, cooking and the dreaded but absolutely essential health and safety.  Cooking with children encourages them to eat well, to think about what they are eating, and to enjoy cooking.  It makes it real rather than theory, and visual learning, and learning by doing is always exciting for children.

 Today is the perfect day to GET YOUR GRILL ON.

Sitting in the sun, eating food cooked over fire, laughing with friends - that is my idea of a great time.

Even if you hadn't thought about BBQing it is still possible because Marks and Spencer Grill Range take away all the thinking, and all you need to do, is pour a long cool drink, fire up that grill, and get grilling!  What could be easier I ask you.

Life for us all is so busy, I am frequently amazed by the frantic pace of life we all work and live too.  The essence of BBQ waiting, slow and steady cooking, is the antithesis of hurry, fast, wolf it down, type living and eating.  Food is to be prepared and enjoyed, taken slowly.  

Eating together sharing life around a table is beautiful.  It is where our memories are made, we are not meant to be alone.

 The boys finding a way to entertain themselves while the coals turn white.  Their laughter was infectious and we all stood around cheering Frankfit on as he pushed up and down, with these little ones on his back.

 My brother Frankfit practicing his core strength, by pressing up three little boys.

 And he did it several times - serious kudos bro!

 I passionately love bringing people together around my table, and while the food is always paramount, I have learnt that I don't need to slave over everything myself for guests to feel radical hospitality or welcomed.  This is why I have absolutely no shame in choosing BBQ staples from my favourite high street store Marks and Spencer.  

This means we can enjoy food of a superb quality, infused with a variety of flavours, that have been carefully researched and thought about.  Again and again the Marks and Spencer Food team impress me with their desire to create dishes that are authentic.  They travel the world looking for inspiration, and then developing products that deliver.

 Some of my favourites this year from the Marks and Spencer Grill Range included the Lamb Ribs with a sticky beer glaze.  This soft succulent lamb which has already been slow cooked for several hours, and only needs finished on the BBQ.  The foil trays means the food can be cooked over the coals before, being finished on the trays sitting on the grill with the glaze bubbling over the meat.

The Grill Pork Belly Hog Roast with Kentish Apple sauce and crackling crumb was like eating your very own hog roast, without the whole hog.  Soft melt in your mouth meat, spiked with slightly sweetsour applesauce, and a crunchy crumb.

BBQ HACK -  Gently brushing meat with a mix of lemon juice, olive oil and pepper, keeps the meat succulent while it cooks.  Just watch out for flame brusts.

 The Grill range spiral sausage inspired by South African Boerewor had a good mix of spice and meat, the apple mustard dressing stopped it being dry.

 The spiral sausage looks fantastic to serve and is one children love to try and unravel.  The British pork meat has been mixed with cider and mustard, giving it a sweet smoky flavour.

 Kebabs are always a BBQ hit, maybe they kid us into thinking we are not eating as much eat as we are - especially when we reach for our fourth or fifth kebab.  Perhaps they feed into our childhood instinct to eat meat from sticks - remember the cocktail sausages a staple of all childrens parties?

One of the little boys who was visiting with us - doesn't really like food, and getting him to eat can be tough - however he was very taken with the Marks and Spencer kebabs, that his mum was off to buy some jsut after the BBQ.

Marks and Spencer The Grill kebabs - 

 

  • Tandoori Lamb Kofta - infused with aromatic spices, apricots & a hint of mint with sweet red peppers
  • Chicken Tikka - yogurt and spice marinated kebabs
  • Chicken souvlaki - with onion and lemon, baby and pieces of marinated chicken
  • Lamb Shish kebabs - minced lamb marinated with spices

 

 Sweetcorn is a huge hit whether you are young or old at the BBQ.  Marks and Spencer sweet corn this year comes fully loaded with sour cream, a dash of chilli and a bit of cheese.  It disappears very quickly I recommend buying more than you need.

Burgers and BBQ - well they really just go together.  The Marks and Spencer Aberdeen Angus steak burgers combine great meat with a deep rich flavour seasoned only with salt and pepper.  The patties are thick and juicy.  Top with a piece of chilli cheese.  We served them with a range of mayos and dips, corn bread baps, seasame seed baps, and the new Marks and Spencer broiche baps.  I like to serve burgers on platter just the bun and the meat or wooden board, and let others add their toppings.

This cheddar with smoked jalopeno burger toppers are delicious - but they are spicey, if you don't like spicey food, don't try them they are hot.  But they are yummy yummy, get in my tummy if you are a fan of heat and cheese.  Chillicheese I love it!  They work brilliantly with burgers, and sausages, as well as chicken burgers.

Marks and Spencer also have very meaty bean, cumin and chilli burgers for vegetarians and fantastic chicken and chorizo burger which is surprisngly juicy and lighter than a beef based pattie.

The Coriander, chicken and lemongrass burgers were my favourite.  I loved their spiky, lemongrass flavour, and the smoothness of the chicken, and the coriander, oh the coriander, it is one of my favourite herbs, fresh and light.  It just heightens the tastebuds.  These chicken lemongrass, coriander burgers are a firm staple in my summer bbq menus.  They really are that brilliant.

 Marks and Spencer Posh Dogs have been a fundamental part of the M&S Grill range since it launched  this year the posh dogs are Cornich Cove pork with bacon.  These meaty littly fellas are firm, lightly seasoned, sweet and yummy.  Add some spicy mayo to the picture and you might just dunk them straight from the plate.

Marks and Spencer American range of authentic seasonings and sauces are fantastic.  For someone who has spent a lot of time stateside, I am in heaven being able to pick up real American sauces and flavours on the High Street.  This smoked chilli mayo is thick and wholesome, with a good smoky chilli kick.  All the children at the BBQ were big fans, dipping and dunking straight from the plates of meat.

 

The Lamb Shish Kebabs were a big hit with children, there is something as I have said about eating meat from a stick that is just appealing.  Meats that chicken would not normally eat were quickly finished and more asked for, when the meat was presented in a different way - just something to think about to all the Mums out there struggling to get little ones to eat.

When you BBQ it is usually a meat feast, and it is worth knowing that grilled pineapple eaten after meat helps with digestion.  Simply cut a pineapple into wedges and grill for 5-10 minutes on each side on a medium heat, then serve on the meat platter.

 

The Marks and Spencer chicken breast escalopes with cocnut, lemongrass and lime leaf, are sweet and mild, perfect for those who aren't keen on lots of spice.  

 

Woman and man cannot live on meat alone, and luckily for us Marks and Spencer's have some truly delicious sides that are wonderful.

Hasselback Hedgehog potatoes are served with a rich garlic butter and parsley topping.  They are very morish, and easy to eat.  The garlic flavour is strong, so sits well with all the other BBQ tastes.

They can be cooked on top of the BBQ in a foil tray, or pop them in a really hot over to cook.


 

 The fully loaded potato salad, has scallions, cheese, bacon bits, mayo and chunks of baby potatoes, it is a great mix, that is very enjoyable.  It comes in a packet that is perfect for picnics and BBQs, or mixed together and placed in a bowl it looks very appetising on the table.

 

 This smoky, tomato, corn and black bean pasta salad is as delicious for lunch as it is on the BBQ buffet.  The sauce is rich and sweet, with a smooth flavour, the beans and sweetcorn add differing textures.  Rocket brings a peppery flavour and green colour, whereas the smokiness flavour is genuine and smooth, rather than overpowering.

 

 Bread is very important for BBQs and it is often overlooked.  Marks and Spencer have lusiciously soft white or brown rolls with seasame seeds.  There is a lovely take on cornbread with a soft white bread crumb in a bap, and some broiche rolls.  Marks and Spencer have lots of ideas on how to make burgers which might give you some inspiration.

 

 Serve kebabs on a slateplatter in a circular pattern, mixing up the flavours.

 

The Marks and Spencer Grill Range is in my opinion without doubt a brilliant, tasty, accessible and delicious selection of products.  Everything has been thought of – all we need to do is light the grill, and cook, then enjoy the tasty results. 

Pick up your favourites and 'Get your Grill on'

 

Happy Barbeque.

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Thursday
Jun042015

Super easy Salted Chocolate Truffles

Salted Caramel is everywhere these days.  Silky, coating the tongue with cooked sugar sweetness with a slight stickiness.  The tiniest pinch of salt balances the flavour, instensifying it, in only that combination of sweet and salty can do.

This very simple recipe found its feet one afternoon when I was at a loose end and we had a pile of tiny mars bars left over from a children's party.  With guests coming that evening for dinner, I wanted something to sweet to serve with coffee.  A good chocolate hit.  

These little super easy truffles were born.

I'd advise keeping them in the fridge until you want to serve them as they are soft set.  Wear gloves to roll the balls or your hands will take on a sticky shade of brown.

Recipe

Super easy Salted Chocolate Truffles

ingredients

 

  • 300g of mars bars chopped
  • 100ml double cream
  • 1 tsp of crushed flaked sea salt and more to decorate
  • 100g coco powder

 

Method

 

  1. Bring the cream to the boil, immediately turn the heat to low, and add the chopped mars bars
  2. Stir the mixture until smooth and it thickly coats the back of a spoon
  3. Stir in the sea salt until it is evenly combined
  4. Pour into a silcone or lined square (8'') cake tin, cover with cling film
  5. Freeze until firm about 1-2 hours, remove only when ready to start rolling
  6. Spread the coco powder out on a low lipped dish
  7. Wearing gloves take 1tbsp of the semi solid chocolate, drop into the coco powder then roll into a ball, pulling the top of each ball upwards between your thumb and finger, continue to all the chocolate mixture is used 
  8. Set each truffle in its own space. place a couple of flakes of salt on top of each truffle
  9. Cover the dish with the truffles inside with cling film and place in the fridge until ready to serve
  10. Serve with quarted pieces of fresh strawberries, and crushed honeycomb
  11. Truffles will keep for 2-3 days refridgerated

 

 

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Wednesday
Jun032015

Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

Maybe it's that stick to the roof of your mouth tart, sharp, sweet lingering flavour Rhubarb brings, which makes me want to eat it again and again.  Or perhaps its the huge Rhubarb patch in the garden, that sprouts twice a year with huge pink stalks hidden under vast green leaves.  There again there is the memory of being taught to cook it as a little girl.  Remembering the rolling rhythm of the knife to cut through the long fibres, and the sharp almost stinging green smell that rose from the chopping board.

Rhubarb reminds me of home, of cooking with my Mum.  Learning to make tarts and pies, crumbles and cordials.  It was one of the first things I learnt to cook, and I eagerly await the stalks growth each year.

Be careful picking rhubarb - (rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb) doesn't the word itself sound glorious - as nettles lurk low under the leaves and many times I've stung myself as I cut my hoard.

 

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble

Ingredients

For the crumble

  • 250g wholemeal flour
  • 100g rolled oats
  • 150g butter, cut into cubes
  • 50g golden caster sugar

Topping

  • 400g strawberries, hulled and halved if large
  • 250g golden caster sugar (vanilla sugar is lovely to use)
  • 500g loosely chopped rhubarb
  • Vanilla or coconut ice cream, Greek yogurt or warm custard to serve

 Method

  1. Layer the chopped fruit and sugar in an oven proof dish or swallow cast iron saucepan
  2. Heat oven to180°C (fan 160°C/350°F/Gas 4). Put the flour, oats, butter and sugar in a bowl, rub together with your fingers to create a crumble texture
  3. Sprinkle the crumble over the top of the fruit
  4. Bake for 45 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the fruit juices are bubbling
  5. Serve warm with ice cream, yogurt or custard

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

Monday
May182015

q&a with David Cavan photographer

It is a tremendous honour to have had the chance to interview one of my favourite photographers the sublimely talented, and all round 'great guy' David Cavan.  I went to school with David, his sister was in my year, he was in the same year as my brother.  

David sees the world with clarity, creativity and collaboration.   He is a man of integrity, honour and wisdom. His images tell powerful stories, evoking the heart to memory, they are full of emotion, capturing a little of the lives of his subjects in frame.  

David also has great taste in books!  

You can connect with David on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or head to his website.  

Welcome David.

Who are you, what’s it like being you …

Who am i? wow, I am David Cavan [31], I am a husband to the beautiful Julie, Dad to the brilliant and gorgeous Reuben [4] and Ollie [2]. I do some work for Tearfund [An International Development Charity] and the rest of the time I run my own photography business, which has been going for just over 5 years. Whats it like being me?

I feel HUGELY privileged for my life, for all my family and friends. From a work point of view I feel I have the best job in the world, taking photos of people, trying to see if I can tell a story at 100th’s of a second at a time - I feel people let me into parts of their lives, others don’t get to see, moments that are normally private for families. However, over and above all this, the best part of my life is my family, being a dad and husband is the best thing that ever happened to me.

Oh and I’m a Liverpool fan and the degree joy of my life is dictated by how well Liverpool did the previous week, thats maybe a slight over exaggeration. 

Where are you from, where are you based …

I feel like a bit of a nomad, I grew up in Carrickfergus, went to school in Belfast [Belfast Royal Academy], Lived in Northern California for a year and then lived in Bangor for 4 years. For the last 4 half years I have been up the beautiful North Coast living in Coleraine. However I still do a lot of work in and around Belfast and all around.

Talk about your work …

As a photographer, work is split in three; 

Making the images and engaging with the people who have trusted me to take their photos. 

Editing and post production, making small adjustments to the photos to help them be the best representation of how I made the image in my head. 

Admin; general correspondance, etc

Yes before you ask this list is in order of preference. I love getting out and meeting people, entering into their story and seeing how I can  best represent that through the lens of my camera. 

What are your future plans ... 

I have lots of ideas, but no real plans as yet, I still feel I am learning my trade, I hope I always feel I am teachable and learning, however, I am still trying to understand and get on top of the present. The future, I do believe if I continue to focus on the present and be the best person I can be in the present, the future will look after itself.

However the only thing thats in my head is that, I have always felt whatever talent/skills I have with photography are to be used for more than just running a successful business. There has to be more to it than that.


So I am looking into ways where photography can be a catalyst in hearing and change in peoples circumstances. I have loved travelling and doing some photojournalism especially in places of obvious need. I have just come back from a trip to Lebanon to visit some Syrian refugees in the boarder towns.


My heart is still broken from that trip.   


How do you find inspiration, who you are inspired by ...  

I am inspired all the time, sometimes that inspiration can be helpful and drive me forward, at other times of insecurity, the inspiration from other peers around me can make me feel like an impostor in an artistic world that I don’t belong in. However I feel this is down to the fact that I would never have considered myself an artist until my mid-late 20’s.


So I am learning to accept the creative part of myself and owning it a little. I find massive amounts of inspiration from my boys. The eyes of wonder they possess inspire me to see the world through their eyes, how they can find beauty and wonder in literally anything, things that I have taught myself over time to discard as useless.  

Describe your space ... 

I am very fortunate, I have recently just moved my office back into the house. We live in a three bed semi in Coleraine and for the first few years of the boys being on this earth they had different rooms, as their sleeping patterns were different, however, once they started going to bed at the same time, we thought we could put them in the same room and leave a space for a spare room/study.

So when this happened I contacted my friend who is an amazing artist in his own right, except his paint brush is a blowtorch and saw. He made me a custom desk with shelves and I now love the fact that I can be surrounded by my family whilst I work and my boys can come in whilst I work and ask me the brilliant questions the ask. 

How are you feeling today ... 

Today has been strangely productive. Since coming back from Lebanon my levels of productivity have fluctuated. But today lots of things are being marked off the to do list. Since as completely this for Nicky, who asked me to do this AGES ago. 

A non-negotiable in your life is …

I think of myself as a flexible person about a lot of things, I love the sense of accommodation when it comes to life, the to and fro and working together creates a lot of energy. However the things that I am very protective of are my family and friends. I have a strong desire for people being allowed and encouraged to be the best version of themselves. 

 

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ... 

I have been very fortunate to have people in my life who have encouraged me along the way. However the one time that sticks out in my mind is with my former Headmaster.

I have failed my 11+, went to Downshire Secondary School for 2 years and then transferred to Belfast Royal Academy, this was because my sisters and family friends went there and I always wanted to go. However, the academic expectations was greater, and that wasn’t my strong point in life. So whilst my social skills in school with being developed no end, I was struggling academically. I literally scrapped by with my GCSE’s and got back into school for my Lower 6th year. At the end of that year I got my AS Level results and they where less than impressive, I hadn't put the hours when it came to study but I was still surprised i did as bad as I did. I got DUU.

However, I was called into the headmasters office at the time, Mr Billy Young. He sat me down and expressed how disappointed he was in my results. However this wasn't done in a way that made me think less of myself, it was done in a way that was empathetic and understanding. He said I have a few choices but continuing on into the Sixth Form with my class mates wasn’t one of them. He said I go could to a technical college, which might be great for me, but he felt I could get lost in an environment of independent study. The second option that was offered was initially very jarring and a bit humbling. I was offered the chance to repeat the year. This was the last thing I wanted to do, to drop into the year below, was embarrassing and it meant leaving my friends behind.

However, Mr Young, sat in his office and said something to me that will stay with me for the rest of my life. He stated that he had faith in me, not just as a human but that I could work hard and prove the thoughts I had about myself wrong. He said he didn’t want me to leave and would I trust him and agree to repeat the year. He also said that he would personally look at the subjects of offer and point me in a better direction to what would suit better, and he would meet with me once and week, and check in with my teachers to see how I was doing to make sure I was keeping up.

Now this is one of the top schools in Belfast with 1200+ pupils at the school, and the head  master was pouring confidence into me that I could do. I was very fortunate at school, mostly I had teachers that where very good, and I got on very well with them, however at the moment of me being the lowest, I walked into an office expecting to be told that I wasn’t good enough to come back to the school I loved. That day literally changed my life in lots of ways. I ended up leaving school 2 years later with CDE in my full A Levels and having been unconditionally accepted into university. I am not saying that a university degree is the best thing for people but for me, it wasn’t the qualification that at the end that inspired me, it was the effect that one mans confidence in me, had on me and how far it sent me. 

Your work life philosophy is …

For me, whether its life or work, I want the things I do to make a difference in the world or someones world. I love being a photographer, and yes there are days where getting my camera out feels a bit more like a chore than I would wish, I want to create a work/life balance that compliment and balance each other out.  

What is your favourite smell ...  

The slightly damp smell of my boys hair after they have come out of the bath / Julie’s perfume / BBQ’s! haha 

Who do you like to listen to, what’s playing just now … 

An album that has been on repeat for a long time in my ears. Bears Den - Islands is what I am listening to now. Its amazing. However, my musical tastes range from random people few people have heard of, right up to Taylor Swift, who is incredible and even a bit of One Direction. 

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients … 

I do love food. I did photos at a wedding in Texas last year on this huge raunch just outside Dallas. Americans do weddings a bit different. So the night before the ceremony they have a wedding rehearsal followed by dinner, were they eating, drink and do the speeches. The dinner at that and the actual wedding day was mind-blowing. It was slow flame grilled Brisket. I would say, without any shadow of a doubt that was be my favourite meal.

From an ingredients POV - its simple for me, I love meat. So chicken, beef and bacon.

 

Three things or products that have changed your life... 

My first Apple Mac, it was a beautiful white iBook and it started me on the road of realising how my creativity can be supported via computers.

My first digital camera. I had just come back from my year in America, and my best friend was out in Hong Kong, he kept telling me how much cheaper cameras where, so I got him to pick me up a tiny canon point and shoot, from there I realised I love the instant nature of digital photography.

I am a visional learner, who HEAVILY relies on trial and error, and digital photography gave me the platform to see what was working and how it was working. Even though this wee camera sits at the bottom of a storage box and hasn’t been used in years, it for sure was my first step in the door.


The film Good Will Hunting. For lots of reasons, this film changed how I approached life. The importance of engaging with life and not just experiencing it from the passenger seat. Plus Robin Williams. 

How do you relax ... 

Watch or play football, playing football whilst it reminds me how unfit I am, it puts me back to zero, re-calibrates me. Love watching TV shows/Films with Julie. Playing super heroes or cars with my boys. Finally, getting all my work done. I like to feel a sense of being of top of work before I can truly relax.  

What makes you happy, where’s your happy place … 

What makes me happy is watching people not accept 2nd best in themslves, especially when their opinion of themselves has come from someone else in a negative way. My happy place is sitting on the sofa with my family around me, just enjoying each others company, our boys bring us so much joy, so no matter how difficult a day/week/month has been, listening to their take on the world they occupy does it for me. 

What is your favourite journey, where in the world would you like to visit ... 

When I lived in Northern California, I drove the 12 hr drive from LA to San Francisco a few times and the coast road is beautiful! My best friend lives in Hong Kong and I would love to go there or India. Cultures that are so different from ours really interest me, and love meeting people there and hearing how they view life.

What do you most value in your friends ...  

I love being my friends biggest fans. In Northern Ireland especially where saying your good at something is considered over confident, I like to make sure people are aware just how amazing my friends are. What I value most in them is loyalty. Not necessarily to me, but to themselves. 

What are your favourite words, what are you reading, just now ... 

I am not much of a reader, I am dyslexic and find reading a chore but I do have subscription to Audible so listen to audio books in my car. I have just finished a few books, Love Does by Bob Geoff, The Zim Zum of Love by Rob & Kirsten Bell and Scary Close by Donald Miller. All are inspiring and gaving me different ways of looking at things I thought I had made my conclusions on. Favourite word is grace.

Share some words of wisdom …

When it comes to wisdom, I wouldn't suggest that I am someone who emits it in abundance. However, I would say with lots of things I do in life, I feel there are people doing it bigger and better than me. I have a constant feeling that one day people will notice that I am making it up as I go along.

However, I am learning to accept that I am always moving forward, it may only be tiny steps but its always in a forward motion.

When this happens, its only when you look back and see how far you have come. Even when life knocks you, you realise you have made a mistake, things aren’t working out, whatever it is, you learn and dust off, even if it takes a while and keep moving forward. Live life to the fullest and don’t forget the things in life that are most important, for me its people. 

 David, thank you for joining us at the Salt and Sparkle Q&A

That's if for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable