q&a with Marie Lacey

It is really exciting to kick off our new series q&a with Marie Lacey, the Director of the Belfast Community Gospel Choir.

As a journalist it is my job to find and listen  'the story'.  In pursuit of this I have had the honour of meeting a lot of people throughout the world and getting all sorts of insider glances and glimpses of their lives.  It is a real privilege and one of the most favoured parts of my job - to talk to and interview people and hear some of their story, so I am thrilled to introduce this new series q&a to you.

q&a short for question and answer it is a new series of interviews on Salt and Sparkle, taking the form of a question and answer format.  

Each interview will feature the same questions but I can assure you the answers will be very different and really interesting.

q&a will feature interviews with people from across the world, who I have met, or have been introduced to.  

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

I’m Marie Lacey, daughter of Alex and Margaret Leebody (sadly both gone now) sister of older brother John, wife of Lynas and Mum of Jonathan.  I’m the Director of the Belfast Community Gospel Choir who are just AWESOME! I can honestly say I love being me. I know that could come across conceited and I don’t want it to, but I really do love who God created me to be.

I love the family and friends He has put in my life and I love the experiences, challenges, highs and lows that life has brought as in every situation I’ve proved God to be faithful. Now do I like everything ABOUT me, well that's another matter. I would love to be slimmer, have thick hair and perfect skin, no arthritis, no back ache, blah blah blah - but I am what I am and I’m contented.

Where are you from, where are you based ...

Born and bred in East Belfast, just off the Newtownards Road. I still live in East Belfast. My mum once said “when you cross the bridge you’re in another city” and that seems to have stuck. I cannot imagine myself living anywhere but in the East!


Talk about your work ...

I spent most of my working life as an office administrator and enjoyed singing, performing and leading the worship in my church in my free time. That all changed in 2009 when I formed the Belfast Community Gospel Choir and that is now my full time job … rather my vocation for it is 24/7 and I love every minute of it.

What are your future plans ...

Home life – Lynas and I hope to sell our house and downsize to a little bungalow (in the EAST lol!) I very much hope that my 28yr old son will settle down and make me a granny! I want to tour more with BCGC as our recent tour to New York was absolutely tremendous and changed us as a choir, both in our relationships with one another and our performance skill.

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

In great music artists are write amazing, truthful songs. I absolutely love KIRK FRANKLIN and all the great black gospel performers. They take music to another level!

Describe your space ... 

Warm and welcoming, not always tidy – in fact seldom tidy, but I live in an atmosphere of PEACE and that’s what’s most important.

How are you feeling today ... 


A non-negotiable in your life is ...


Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...

I am more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ!

Your work life philosophy is ...

Do everything to the glory of God.

What is your favourite smell ...


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

At the minute TASHA COBBS her voice is incredible

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...

Medium cooked rib eye steak with buttery mash, sautéed mushrooms and onions.  CHOCOLATE. CHOCOLATE and CHOCOLATE!

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

" title="" class="">Macbook Pro " title="" class="">Dulop Latex PillowBible.

How do you relax ...

TV and Movies. Bit of an addict actually – when I find the time.

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

Phone calls from my son. Saturday or Sunday road trips with Lynas. Great scenery! Great food!  Great music!  Having said all that, I know this is shallow but you’ll never find me more happy than when I’m strolling around an AMERICAN SHOPPING MALL – they’re the best.

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

I absolutely love visiting the USA and have visited quite a few states. Would like to visit Colorado and more of the southern states like Alabama and Louisiana.

What do you most value in your friends ...


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

I’m not a reader – never have been. I’m too impatient to get to the end of the story. My favourite words are LOVE. PLEASE. JOY. PEACE. HOPE.

Share some words of wisdom ...

NEVER give up on a dream. Do not waste your time in the company of negative and cynical people. Surround yourself with positive, encouraging and honest friends. 


It was a pleasure to talk to you Marie.

Until next time.

That's it for now ...



Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable



Stay creative over the weekend

How do you like to stay creative?

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


The Thief of Joy


That's it for now ...



Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Secret Garden at the Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast

The Fitzwilliam Hotel, Belfast was filled with the ethereal light for its summer party. The lobby transformed to a luminous glade from Shakespeare's Midsummer's Night Dream.   

Florist Tim Kirkpatrick from Floral Earth used soft and delicate blooms arranged with gentle grace in tones of pale pinks and blue, against green mosses, and branches.  Tim's talent shone through in the refinement of his arrangements, the causal eclective nature of the arrangements which takes a very trained and skilled eye to achieve so readily.

Jam jars packed with poseys, sat on side tables the sweet heady scent of sweetpea filling the air.

Hydrangeas in blues and greens, sat with hurricane lamps and flickering candle light.  The trendy lobby of the Fitzwilliam Hotel took on the atmosphere of a secret garden, to which only a few had a key.

Personal Trainer and Lifestyle Coach at FrankFit Brian Cahill joined by the manager of Tommy Hilfiger, Belfast, Sarah Cahill.

Glamourous and fun Grainne McGarvey owner of Pulse PR, and writer of G-Spots for The Belfast Times

The Fitzwilliam's lobby was filled with the sound of funk jazz.

Sarah from Smarts Communicate looking very pretty with flowers in her hair.

The Fitz Berry Blitz - my favourite soft cocktail combining bramble berry flavours and mint, was refreshing with just the right amount of zing.

Glasses of wine, and funky martini's in hues to match the flowers were the alcoholic drinks of the evening.

But the food, oh the food.  The Fitzwilliam Hotel do canapes brilliantly.  And I was dazzled by the sweet salty flavour combinations during the summer party.  Salted caramel eclairs with chocolate salt meringue and lemon meringue mini pies.  The lemon curd was zesty and soft which contrasted well on the palate with the smooth crisp of the meringue, and the pastry cases were crunchy and perfectly cooked.

Dill brought a fresh flavour  to the sweet brown bread, goat's cheese and roasted pepper bite sized canapes.


 The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast is one of the best Hotels and venues the city has to offer.  Its fresh funky boutique appeal, excellent service (the staff remember your name), well thought out menu and bar, the clean interiors and wonderful beds make the customer feel very special.  It is one of my favourite places to hang out and I hope it will become yours too.

That's it for now ...




Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Sláinte its Friday, time for a Dingle Vodka Lemon Drop 

Sláinte its Friday! Cocktail time.  Are you excited, because I am.  Today we are delighted to share with you a recipe that has got our tastebuds popping, using a sublime Vodka from a place called Dingle on the south west coast of Ireland.  

Dingle Distillery Pot Still Vodka

Doesn't the word Dingle, just make you smile.

Say it aloud for a moment.


Now add Pot Stilled vodka, and think Friday cocktail, and I know for sure your smile has just got bigger.


Dingle Distillery is an artisan distillery launched in 2012, one of five in Ireland, situated in the old Fitzgerald saw mill the copper stills and casks are beginningage the spirit which will in turn become Dingle whiskey.  

The spirit needs to be aged for at least three years to be called whiskey, so while the Dingle spirit is aging, the distillery have produced bottles of both Dingle Vodka and Gin.  

Vodka is a neutral spirit which can be distilled from virtually anything that ferments including potatoes. However, the very best vodkas start their lives as a grain - like the Spring Wheat used to make Dingle Vodka.  

'Whiskey is in the waiting' and the quality of water is intergal to the end product.  Dingle Vodka benefits from using the same water as its whiskey.  Water which has filtered through the beautiful Dingle Mountains for hundreds of years before being pumped up from nearly 300 feet below ground.

Created in a single copper pot still, Dingle Vodka is the purest vodka I have ever tasted.  I would go so far as to say it is one of the very best sipped by Salt and Sparkle.

It has a clarity and internal smooth energy that is not found easily.  

Clear, clean and sweet Dingle Vodka has a soft gentle flavour, that is creamy on the palate, with just an aroma of vanilla.

Dingle Distillery Vodka has a freshness that makes it very enjoyable to drink without ice or mixers.  The vodka however, should have been in the freezer preferably overnight to allow it to become really really cold.

Good cocktails, just like good food, always begin life as superb ingredients.  And, the clean fresh flavours of Dingle Vodka, heavenly match with lemonzest and lemonsugar syrup.

Lemondrops are simple and sublime, are favourite type of food and drinks.   Make lemon sugar by mixing lemon zest and superfine caster sugar, then add in equal measure to lemon juice, and stir untill dissolved. The sweet zesty scent, will transport you towards heaven while you do so.

Squeeze a lot of lemons, I typically go for two per drink, add the zest to the bottom of a pitcher or glass, and cover with ice, then stir in the vodka and lemon sugar syrup.  Serve immediately with straws if the fancy takes.

Dingle Vodka Lemon Drop Recipe mixes four large cocktails


  • 3 cups ice cold vodka
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • Zest of eight lemons
  • Ice




  1. Make lemon sugar by mixing lemon zest and sugar
  2. Add the lemon juice to the sugar and stir to dissolve
  3. In a pitcher or mixing glass stir the vodka, lemonjuice sugar and ice
  4. Add either lemon slices or zest to the bottom of tall glasses, fill the glass with ice then pour over the cocktail.


That's it for now ...



Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


The Dingle Whiskey Distillery, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland

 +353 86 829 9944



Our minds are Fragile - they need tender loving care.

King Solomon was the richest most powerful man of his time.  The son of King David and Bathsheba, he ruled Israel for forty years. 


  • He had 700 wives, and 300 mistresses. 
  • He made Jerusalem the trade capital of the world during his reign and built the cities First Temple.
  • He took 13 years to build his own palace.
  • He owned 12,000 horses, and had 1,400 chariots and built cities for them as well as he creating cities for storage. All of Solomon’s crockery or plates were made of pure gold - nothing in his house was made of silver. 


The Bible tells us God spoke to him in dreams and gave him great wisdom.

He composed 3,000 Proverbs, 1,005 songs and wrote the Biblical books of Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes.  

And, was known then and still regarded today for his great wisdom.  So famous was he that the Queen of Sheba came to visit and learn from him.

Solomon had wealth, power, glory, honour and recognition - his words of wisdom are still spoken, studied and significant, nearly 3,000 years later – but he did not have peace of mind.

He struggled to find meaning, and purpose, and rest for his mind. 

Flipping between two of the books he wrote – Proverbs as a young man and Ecclesiastes towards the end of his life – shows us just how fragile his mind had become in old age.

38 times the word meaningless is used in the scriptures, and 35 of those are in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Solomon, the man the Hebrews knew as most wise, had gained the whole world but lost his soul. 

Today like Solomon, we still expect a lot of our minds, focusing only on their power and rarely considering their fragility by subjecting them frequently to a relentless pace of life, with little downtime.  Feelings and thoughts that don’t fit with our agenda are disregarded and tossed aside without attention given to their significance.

And yet, we do nobody any favours when we deny how we feel or disregard our mind

By pushing away our feelings, numbing them, or believing them to be unimportant especially those, which are sad or difficult, all we do is give our feelings an opportunity to decay in our bodies.  Often after a period of festering they come out as physical pain in another area, because what is repressed needs to find a way to be expressed.

It is by not pushing away the uncomfortable feelings, purely because of their discomfort, but by embracing, and working them through, sometimes with others, that we weave a path of healing for ourselves and find rest for our minds.

This post was first broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster in November 2013.

Please look after your mind.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable



Speak to someone, now, you are important, you are valued, you are worthy - suicide prevention

The message came from the other side of the world.  The buzz from the brick like phone awakening me from my slumber, vibrated against my bedside table.  Grappling for my glasses, I hit the light, which as it illuminated the room, dazzled my sleepy eyes.

‘Nicky, I’m going to end it all.’

A slow chill rose up the back of my spine.  The text in grayscale seemed to leap from my mobile.  I immediately replied, then started trying to call.  The international dialling tone rang out, again and again.  As with each call I got nowhere.  I tried other phones, withholding my number.  I emailed every email address known to me.

I began to hate the sound of that dialling tone.

A red flash from my phone brought another message.

‘I’ve just had enough, can’t face this anymore.’

Again and again I punched in the number, from various phones, hoping, praying they would pick up.  Not that I had words, or knew what I was going to say except don’t, please God don’t.  There is hope. 

I continued to text, saying many things of a similar vein, ‘You are valuable.  You are important.  Whatever is going on, you are not alone. The world needs you. You are loved. Don’t please don’t do this.’

Weeks of wondering did they do it went by before, I heard from them again. 

Feelings that didn’t belong to me, crowded into this void.

‘You didn’t do enough.’

‘What if you were the last person they contacted and they still did it? It’s your fault.’

‘Your words weren’t enough.’

‘You weren’t enough.’

As a beaver gnaws at the tree trying to topple it, my soul felt  chewed by the desperation of guilt, the fear that this person actually was gone, and I was the last human they contacted.

The knife edge of despair causes an ache in the spirit when it is burdened with words no human should ever carry alone. 

I found support from the Samaritans and my church.

I heard truth, that ‘whatever had happened wasn’t my fault.'  That I had 'reached out to them and done all that was in my power to do.'

Some weeks of silence came and went, before I heard they were alive.  I had been to a sort of hell and back in the meantime.

Whether you are experiencing feelings of despair, or supporting someone else through their feelings, please speak to someone, now.  Know you are not alone, that you are needed, you are important, you are worthy.

To seek information and/or support on suicide prevention can call Samaritans 08457 90 90 90, or speak to your GP.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable