q&a with Patricia McGinnis from Maven 

It is wonderful to welcome Patricia McGinnis from Maven Belfast, for this week's q&a.  I met Patricia when we sang together in the Belfast Community Gospel Choir, we had some good conversations, and I loved to hear about her work as a designer.  Patricia is creative, talented and great fun, it is a real pleasure to interview her today.

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

I’m Patricia McGinnis and its pretty good being me.  I have a wonderful son called Lalit, who is 6 and the best thing in my life.  I have a brilliant and supportive family and fantastic friends.  I have a job that I love.  

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

I’m originally from Eglinton but am now based in Belfast (after a 10 year sojourn in London).

3. Talk about your work ...

I run a shop and interior design practice called Maven along with my sister, Catherine.  We sell beautiful things for your home.  You’ll find pieces with a Nordic twist from the likes of HAY and Ferm Living as well as exquisite locally produced items from Derek Wilson Ceramics and textiles from Enrich & Endure among others.

4. What are your future plans ...

You’ll have to wait and see… we have a few ideas in the pipeline but we’re in the early stages so I don’t want to say too much!

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

I find inspiration everywhere but especially from travelling. Most recently I visited Copenhagen.  It was my third trip – I adore the place.

I’m also an avid reader of blogs & magazines from across the world and findinstagram an amazing source of inspiration.  At the minute I cannot get enough of MaryAnne Moodie’s feed.  She is an Australian weaver living in Brooklyn.  Her wall hangings are driving me insane at the minute – they are so darn good.

6. Describe your space ... 

The shop is in a former memorial hall, just off Belfast’s Lisburn Road.  It is a beautiful space.  It’s a red brick building with bags of character.  The shop is on the ground floor and upstairs we have office space and a space for our Maven Sessions.  

The Maven Sessions are a way of learning a new skill or learningmore about a subject you might be interested in.  We’ve had things like Weaving, Floral Styling, Blogging, Flash Fiction and have lots of exciting sessions coming up for the rest of the year and beyond.  We bake a couple of cakes, put on a big pot of coffee and generally the folks who come along have a great evening’s craic and maybe learn a new skill as well.

7.How are you feeling today ... 

Great. I am bracing myself for a big day tomorrow as I have a huge residential project being installed, I can’t wait to get stuck in!

8. A non-negotiable in your life is …


9.Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...

When my parents tell me that they are proud of me.  I will never not care about that.

10. Your work life philosophy is ...

I don’t have one!  I do sometimes (quite often!) find it hard juggling being a mother to a young child on my own with running a business but I just do my best.  

9.Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...

When my parents tell me that they are proud of me.  I will never not care about that.

10. Your work life philosophy is ...

I don’t have one!  I do sometimes (quite often!) find it hard juggling being a mother to a young child on my own with running a business but I just do my best.  

11. What is your favourite smell ...  

Rose en Noir.  A perfume created by Miller Harris for Liberty.  Unfortunately it was discontinued a few years ago and I’m bereft…

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

I am a big fan of listening to the radio – normally its either BBC Radio 4 or 6 Music.  However, as I write this, it’s nearly midnight and I’m listening to FatFreddy’s Drop.

13.Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...

The best meal that I have ever had was a simple supper of bread, cheese and honey outside Rome about 12 years ago with one of my best friends.  It was perfect and reminds me of a really happy time in my life.

As far as ingredients go you can’t go far wrong with onion and garlic.  These staples are for me the basis of most dishes.  Also – since discovering Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, I cannot get enough of the middle-eastern spice blend Dukkah.  Its addictive.  Eat it with bread and olive oil or sprinkled over a salad or soup – it goes with anything.

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

My steam iron!  I’m sure I bore people to death but it is SO good.  As well as using it for the usual stuff at home, I use it at work to make sheets and curtains look crease-free.  I have even been known to steam-iron a rug for a photo shoot ...

Culinaire vegetable peeler – I’m left handed and without this I literally cannot peel a vegetable.  It is brilliant.

Moleskine Notebook – maybe it’s a tad dramatic to say it has changed my life but when I have that little black book by my side I’m in control.  I’m forever writing lists, jotting down ideas and scribbling my thoughts.  I love when I finish one and start another – its like a whole fresh start.  

15.How do you relax ...

I relax by getting together with friends, sharing a meal, some wine and lots of laughter.

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

My happy place is my home.  I spend a lot of time making it a cosy, comfortable place that I love to be in.  It is a place to snuggle reading a book with Lalit, as well as the location for some really memorable kitchen discos.

17. Where in the world would you like to visit ...  

I really, really want to visit Melbourne.  There is so much creativity there at the moment – I want to go and soak it all up.

18.What do you most value in your friends ...

At the minute, it is an understanding that I might not be able to be there all the time as I am so busy with the business and Lalit, but knowing that I still love them all.

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

I don’t really go in for quotes or mantras to live my life by.  Right now, I’m re-reading the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin.

20.  Share some words of wisdom ...

Follow your gut and walk your own path.  Be nice to everyone.


Thank you Patricia, it has been a joy to talk to you.


That's it for now ...




Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Maven, Reid memorial Hall, 4a maryville Avenue, Belfast BT9 7HE





Today we remember

Today we remember.  We think of those who passed, we think of those who mourn.  We think of those who died fighting for freedom.  We lift all these people up and ask for peace to come and reign.

Around 6am on September 12th 2001, German Shepherd Canadian police dog Trakr found signs of life under the rubble at Ground Zero.  Fire-fighters dug in, where he pointed and found Genelle Guzman, who had been inside the Twin Towers when they collapsed.  She had been trapped for nearly 26 hours and would most likely have died, had Trakr not found her.

Over 300 search & rescue dogs alongside their handlers arrived in New York City, after 9/11.  They came from all over America & Canada and as far a field as Puerto Rico and France to help find survivors among the twisted steel, body parts, piles of glass, and mountains of rubble. It was the largest deployment of dogs in a rescue mission in US history.   Working gruelling 16-hour days, under their handlers, these agile, utterly focused and determined dogs, searched for survivors in nooks and crannies, tunnels and holes impossible for human’s to access.

Federal Rescue worker Bob Sessions said, “If these dogs only knew what a difference they make. Certainly, there’s nothing that can replace the precision of a dog’s nose, in rescue situations —and absolutely nothing that can replace a dog’s heart.”

Dogs smell as humans see. A field or building to them is like the vibrant colour picture of a high definition television is to us.  A dog’s sense of smell is so animated; their noses can pick up layers of scent from the history of the area they are in.  Rescue dogs have extensive training – but this builds on their natural ability to keep searching for life, these dogs will literally follow a scent until they are called off. ‘We need a dog over here’ was the continual call around the site. 


The ability of the dogs to console humans became apparent when specialist ‘trauma therapy’ dogs were brought to Ground Zero to provide emotional support to the rescue workers who were traumatised by the disaster site.   These dogs were specifically trained to pick up on trauma and go towards it, pursuing people they perceive to be in a state of distress. Rescue workers felt able to reach out to these dogs in ways they couldn’t to those humans around them. They said that the dogs consoled them and gave them solace and strength to keep going, day-after-day in the rubble.

As we remember those that passed 11 years ago today in that terrible tragedy, we also remember those that mounted the rescue mission, and the dogs that made their jobs, just that little bit more bearable.

Nicky Cahill, This thought was originally broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster on the morning, 11 September 2012.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Image copyright


q&a with Geoff Talbot co - founder of Seven Sentences

It is wonderful to welcome Geoff Talbot cofounder of the incredible Seven Sentences website for this week's q&a.

It is thanks to special advisor to Salt and Sparkle, Mr H, who said to me, 'Nicky I am reading this incredible blog, its all done in seven sentences, you need to check it out.'  That I discovered Seven Sentences and it is in my opinion one of the most thought-provoking, intelligent and inspring places on the web, and it's all done in Seven Sentences.  

As an aside even though we live on opposite sides of the world, it turns out Geoff and I have a good friend in common - there ain't nothing like the digital world for making connections and discovering what a small world it really is!


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

Being me is like being nobody else… I am learning to be me more, to care less about assimilating to the world around me. Being me is wonderful, but I don’t think you should try being me, I think you should be you because that is wonderful too.

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

I am a free thinking kiwi, married to an American, living the dream in a city full of angels (LA) and whole crap-load of ordinary people just like me.

Talk about your work ...

I am a digital strategist, a storyteller and an ex-Veterinary surgeon. We work with people all around the world helping them to use the Internet to build relationships with others in a way that grows their business and builds their brand.

What are your future plans ...

I would like to have more children; I would like to learn how to be a more patient father, a kinder friend, a better partner and lover to my wife. I want to give more to the world… the mechanism (jobs, dreams etc) as to how these things happen is not as important to me as is used to be. There are loads of options… other than the more children part lol

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

Inspiration is everywhere; life is teaming with inspiration I just have to open the window of my soul to see it. If I don’t take care of myself through exercising, resting and eating well then I simply cannot tap into the river of inspiration flowing over me.

Describe your space ... 

I work primarily from coffee shops in our area… I love being able to chat to people. I like having life around me.

How are you feeling today ... 

I feel rich today, fortunate and grateful

A non-negotiable in your life is...

Great question. That my immediate family unit is more important than anything else…. That no matter how dark circumstances around us become, there is always hope. That compassion will always prevail over judgment.

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...

“You’re a great man Geoff” Words from my mother that affirmed me during a dark hour and gave much dignity to some tough choices.

Your work life philosophy is...

Design your ideal life and work towards it.

What is your favourite smell ...  

It is a tie between Jelly Beans and Roast Lamb; both smells are rich with nostalgia. We grew up with a ceramic jar that had jellybeans in it from time to time… I spent many hours sniffing that empty jar and imagining.

Coming from New Zealand where lamb is to a kiwi what a French fry is to an American I would often arrive home from school to the smell of roast lamb permeating through our house… mmm

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

Mumford and Sons. Gospel. Love Pharrell’s Happiness Song. Crowded House to remind me of a kiwi summer.

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...

Easy question. Roast Lamb --- My favourite 3 ingredients are mint, sauce and lamb LOL

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

Faith. A book on meditation written in the 16 century by Madame Guyon and my Mac Book Pro.

How do you relax ...

I like to zone out by myself in the cinema or I like to have a meal with close friends usually in our home.

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

A million places in my imagination,  I go there wherever I choose. It’s mine and nobody else’s.

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

I love London, specifically sitting on the trains with the rest of Europe, watching people interact or avoid interaction… I love this.

What do you most value in your friends ...  

A lack of guile and pretence…

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

Well I have a 2.5 year old son who can say the words gorgeous, fantastic and gravitas so they would be my favourites.  I am totally digging Thomas the Tank Engine, The Man With The Yellow Hat and Giraffes Can’t Dance (Highly recommended) right now.

Share some words of wisdom ...

Write as much as you read, explore as much as you absorb. We need to listen to others but equally we need to be unafraid of the voices that we have been given and the actions that our hands were created to make. Avoid passivity.

It was a pleasure to talk to you Geoff.

Salt and Sparkle highly recommend you go visit Seven Sentences, and get their daily email sent to your inbox or you can catch up with Geoff on Twitter.


That's it for now, until next time ...











A tour of Titanic Belfast

On Queen’s Island in the Belfast docks a rather intriguing building catches your eye.  It’s one of the most remarkable buildings I have seen.   My eyes drawn to it time and time again.  The silver anodised three-dimensional aluminium shards, several thousand of which cover the building’s facade, reflect light in the most interesting of ways, giving the building a slightly different look depending on the time of day.  The effect is really quite unique and holds your attention as you look at it.

It’s an angular building; its four spiky corners are designed by Eric Kuhne Associates to resemble the ship The Titanic’s Prows.  The building comprises of four Prows each standing at 38 metres high, the same height as Titanic’s Hull.  Standing at the bottom looking up I have a sense of the immense scale and sheer size of that legendary ship.

We had the chance to meet Eric when the building opened, because Belfast Community Gospel Choir in which I sing were part of the opening ceremony.  As Eric heard us sing, 'Something inside so strong' he stood with tears rolling down his eyes and said, 'We have brought music and life back to the shipyards.'

The building is Titanic Belfast and it opened in April 2012.  It is an interactive visitor experience, with galleries giving the history from a social, economic and political perspective of Boomtown Belfast which was one of the world’s major industrial cities in the 18 & early 1900s.  It includes the history of the cities great shipyards Harland and Wolff, which were at their peak the largest shipyard in the world.

Over nine galleries the exhibition uses media projection, photographic, artefacts, video, interactive features, guides and words to tell the story of Belfast at the time of the Titanic.  

The immediate interior uses galvanised steel juxtaposed with glass and wood to dramatic effect.  It feels modern and fresh, but all at once timeless.  There is a sense of history and scale that is impressive and draws out the feeling of what it actually was like to work with huge pieces of steel in the shipyards.

Life sized silhouettes of people are superimposed onto the walls of the gallery, giving the visitor a sense of walking the streets of Belfast along with shipyard and mills workers.  It is a rather immersive experience which has been cleverly thought out.  Eyewitness accounts of the men who designed the ship or owned the shipyards are displayed on cards on the wall along with views of people who saw the ship launch from Belfast in April 1912, or those who worked on the ship itself.

The gantry is a very powerful part of the gallery experience, which truly sent shivers up my spine, as we stood at the bottom and looked up at the metal scaffle rods men would have worked on without safety nets.  The height is incredible and somewhat disconcerting, it firmly places in the mind the actual scale of the ocean liners.  Standing at the top and looking down I had little shocks run up my legs from the huge height.  

There is an indoor aerial ride, which again cleverly uses a range of media to tell the story.  This was particularly impressive to us as it takes the visitor through different aspects of the shipyards as if given a birdseye view on the action.  Sounds and echoes give a sense of the noise and cramped space shipyards workers would have had to endure. 

There is a video of two men rivets, hammering in rivets in a tiny box, one hammers then the other, in a rhythm. The noise and compression of their workspace is eery to see, these men were  paid by the number of rivets they placed each day.

The physical recreation exhibits of first, second and third class cabins, and a lifeboat give a real sense of the scale onboard the ship, and the difference in furnishings depending on class, as well as the truly remarkable sense of how tiny those lifeboats actually were for a ship of that size.  Interestingly there are no actual artefacts from the ship itself, but this does not mire the experience of Titanic Belfast in anyway. 

The tour is either self or audio guided, however there are plenty of staff around, who are all very knowledgeable and if they don’t know an answer to a question they find it out for you.  We asked one at the beginning of the ride through the shipyard and had an answer by the end.  An mpressive attention to detail and desire to make the visitor experience a good one.

The galleries use light effectively to portray the story of the city and Belfast, some of the galleries are in darkness lit only in specific areas, which makes the experience very moving, as you reflect not only on the history of the city, but the lives of the people who built Titanic and ultimately those who died on her.  As well as a history of oceanic exploration and the discovery of the Titanic Wreck, there is a glass floor to walk on with projections of the ship’s wreck below.  And yes, the Celine Dion song does play at one point, and it’s beautiful.

This bold, innovative and striking museum makes for a fascinating insightful experience, one we highly recommend.

Titanic Belfast is an essential stop on any visit to Belfast, whether you are a tourist or a local.

And after touring the building I highly recommend you stop for afternoon tea, which we'll be telling you all about very soon.


That's it for now ...




Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Titanic Belfast
1 Olympic Way,
Queen's Road,
Titanic Quarter,
Northern Ireland
Tel: +44 28 9076 6399


Ice Cream Cake - a recipe, a good one 

Summer is over.  Sadly!  Are you crying?  I have to admit I'm not overly happy about the prospect of chilly air, feet in shoes and socks, and leaves falling.  Well scrap that last one actually, leaves falling is a canopy of glorious colour.  But the dark nights, not so sure about those.  Yet again there is the rather special light in November.

Lots of people will be giving you recipes for potpies, apple tarts, warming rustic soups, and me, well I am giving you a recipe for ice-cream cake!  As ice-cream although associated with summer, is really perfect anytime of the year, night or day.  Ice-cream soft, slippery and sensational, sweet on the tongue, cooling on the throat and rich.  It is the most beautiful food.

Over the summer I saw a picture of an ice-cream cake, and was immediately intrigued, and started playing with recipes.  Ice-cream cake is really a question of layering, the ingredients, wrapping, flash freezing and serving.  You can trust me when I say, it will all be gone, all of it in one go.

Children adore making ice-cream cake.  It's controlled messy.  Piles of sweeties, squishy marshmallows, oreo cookies to crunch, sprinkles, lots of sprinkles, because truly, sprinkles just make everything better.

If you are making this with children, make sure their hands are very clean, and keep some anti-bact wipes on hand as little hands go into the ice cream and into bowls of sweeties.  As well as into little mouths.

With children and teens back at school this week, a comfortable treat is needed at the weekend, and ice cream cake is possibly the most decadent divine dessert to make at times like this.

You can shake up the ingredients as much as you wish, the secret is all in the layering.  I've made this one with chocolate swiss roll cake, but you could just as easily use pound cake spread thickly with nutuella.

Ice Cream Cake Recipe



  • 1 pound cake thinly sliced and spread with nutuella or 1 chocolate swiss roll sliced
  • 2 litres of ice cream - I used a litre each of vanilla and raspberry ruffle
  • 1 packet of oreos crushed
  • 1 bag of mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of smarties
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup of sprinkles depending on how many children you have helping


There are two ways to do this, either using a clear glass bowl which will look beautiful as the layers of the ice cream cake can be seen clearly through glass.  Or use baking paper to line a dish then place on a serving plate.



  1. Using a freezerproof bowl layer slices of cake with ice cream and sweets, cookies and sprinkles alternatively, until you have used all your ingredients.
  2. Flash freeze for up to 30 minutes - too long and it will go rock hard and be very unplesant to eat
  3. Serve in slices or scoops



That's it for now ...



Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


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



End of Summer


As the long evenings end, and light begins to fade, feet that had made for flipflops and going barefoot, slip uncomfortably into shoes.  Socks feel constricting and I mourn the lost of the length of light in the day.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable