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Sorcha’s Healthy Living

This feature is part of the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network, ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series. Written by Sorcha Mc Elchar, a qualified Nutritionist, Healthy Lifestyle Blogger, columnist, Fitness instructor, and YouTuber from Donegal.


My nutrition story began early on and from a very young age. I had a keen interest in Nutrition and still have a project from Primary School where we had to write what we wanted to be in the future. Some of my classmates wrote they wanted to be a Hairdresser, a Guard, a Teacher etc but what did I write…. a Dietitian. Most 12-year-olds didn’t even know what a Dietitian was…but unfortunately, I did because I had met several growing up…. along with numerous Doctors, Consultants, and Nurses. Why was that? …I hear you say.

At the age of two I became very ill. It began with sore eyes so bad I couldn’t bare to go out in daylight (I also had very pale skin so you could be thinking Vampire here….) but along with chronic diarrhoea and a failure to thrive the Doctors just couldn’t figure out the cause. That was until at age four when I went into a full body cramp (very painful) and it was discovered my blood Calcium levels were extremely low and I was finally diagnosed with a rare Auto-immune Disease called APECED syndrome. Due to two faulty genes, my Immune system was attacking the hormone producing glands in my body. My failure to thrive was because my gut didn’t absorb enough nutrients from my food. The Dietitians tried everything to help me put on weight from shakes to a ‘green card’ allowing me to eat as much junk food as I could…but nothing worked. If I managed to put on a few kilos I would become ill and lose it all again. Life was running in a vicious circle. I had no quality of life. It was either school (if I was well enough) hospital or home. I had no energy for anything else. If I managed a full week of school, we celebrated.

Then at age 17 my Doctors decided I wasn’t going to live much longer if they couldn’t get enough nutrients into me so in a last ditch attempt to save me I was put on a specialised personal Intravenous Nutrition that bypassed my Gut entirely through a permanent central line in my chest at allow the nutrition to go straight into my bloodstream. Then a miracle happened…. within days we could see improvements. I had more energy, I slept better, I caught less infections, I wasn’t cold all the time. my hair, skin and nails were healthier looking. I also felt happier in myself and stronger.


This was my light bulb moment where I saw how important Nutrition was. I still had my condition…I still had loads of medication to take…. I wasn’t cured… but my quality of life improved one hundred-fold.
Thankfully growing up my parents instilled in me the importance of hard work and perseverance. I also had an amazing SNA at Secondary school Trisha Redmond (Finn Valley College) who helped push me out of my comfort zone more and I realised I could do a lot more than I thought I could if I just put my mind to it and now, I had the energy to do this!


I was able to start dance classes with Aislingi Academy in Stranorlar and there I found a new ‘happy place’ where I could get stronger and foster a love for performing. In time I started college at LYIT doing an honours degree in Food Science & Nutrition where I graduated with a first-class degree thanks to the amazing support from my PA’s Therese Fitzsimmons and Bernie Alcorn and all my lecturers who realised despite my illness I was willing to give them 110%. The Disability officer Rosin Mc Cormack in LYIT and everyone at the Curve including the College Nurse Hannah Glackin saw my abilities instead of my disabilities and encouraged me all the way.


When I graduated, we were in lockdown so even though I had ideas of where I could get a job, I had to stay isolated due to my immune deficiency. So Covid motivated me to set up sorchashealthyliving.com where I Blog scientifically sound Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyle advice. I also upload videos to my Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channel and offer one-to-one Nutrition and Lifestyle consultations and packages which can be found on my webpage and Facebook page.
My goal is to help people realise how important good Nutrition is, because healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Small steps can often make the biggest change….and most importantly….enjoy food!

Contact details for Sorcha: 

Visit her website at: sorchashealthyliving.com

Email: sorchashealthyliving@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SorchasHealthyLiving/

https://www.instagram.com/sorchashealthyliving/

https://www.tiktok.com/@sorchas_healthy_living?


Sorcha’s Healthy Living YouTube Channel


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

Five tips for a plastic free July

This feature is part of the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network, ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series. Written by Angela Mc Glanaghey the store manager of Simple Simons in Donegal Town, to raise awareness to the global movement and campaign ‘Plastic Free July’.


As the manager of a local health store business ‘Plastic Free July’ is important to us because every single day we see such needless waste. As a business we try and reduce this in any way we can; providing refill solutions to cut down on plastic, offering boxes instead of plastic bags to carry shopping, reusing old packaging to send out our online orders etc. If we don’t stop what we are doing our world is going to run out of space. We must act now to make things better for further generations.


Plastic Free July begins this month, but what is it all about? We all know by now how important it is to cut down on plastic but sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. There are so many small changes we can make which WILL add up to make a difference, so here are my top 5 tips for a plastic free July. 

The main thing I recommend is first of all not to be too hard on yourself. When you first try to start it can be really daunting to try and cut all plastic out. Just realise that to make this planet a better place we don’t need 1000 people being plastic free all the time. We need as many people as possibly making small changes which are sustainable. I recommend trying two or three small swaps a week and building that over time.


Here are a few you can do

Reusable coffee cups. SO many of us are fond of our takeaway coffee. During the pandemic really it was all we had. So many nice things were taken away from us and sometimes getting out for a takeaway coffee was a lifeline. Making a swap to a reusable cup can make SUCH a difference. Remember, it’s not about ditching ALL plastic, that’s a really hard sacrifice to make. It’s more about reducing single use plastic. Even if you only get two takeaway coffees a week if you’ve got your own cup that’s over 100 cups you have saved from landfill. And many of us drink way more than that in a week!


Bring your own bag! How many of us have a drawer sitting at home full of plastic bags? By simply popping one or two into the boot of your car or into your handbag you can reduce the amount you buy from now on. Investing a few euro into a “bag for life” means you will have a strong and sturdy one you can use for years to come. 


Menstrual cups. The amount of waste a single woman produces in her lifetime simply by having a menstrual cycle is shocking. Menstrual cups are a fantastic solution. Each one lasts for around 10-15 years. No need for tampons or pads then. Most menstrual cups are silicone based, and while they may take a cycle or two to get used to they are fantastic. Much more hygienic, clean and plastic free. This is probably my personal favourite of the swaps as I think they are a real game changer!


Refills. In Simple Simons we offer refills on dried foods, body care, household cleaners, natural yoghurt, milk, olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Simply bring in your own container and we will refill it for you. We aren’t the only shop doing refills so ask around. This means the plastic bottle or tub you normally use once and then throw away can be reused hundreds of times, saving so much unwanted single use packaging.


Beeswax wraps. In most Irish households clingfilm is a staple for wrapping sandwiches, leftovers etc. By swapping to a beeswax wrap you are choosing a much more sustainable option. The wraps are made with cloth and coated in beeswax. You can wrap food with them or use to cover food in a bowl. They can be wiped clean with a hot wet cloth and each wrap will work for up to a year. After that you can re-wax them and use again. 


Contact details for Simple Simons: 

Visit there website at: www.simplesimons.ie 

Email them on: hello@simplesimons.ie 

They can also be found on facebook: here


Plastic Free July is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities. Will you be part of Plastic Free July by choosing to refuse single-use plastics? To find out more about this global movement check out the Plastic Free July the website


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

Remembering My Mother Through Baking

On 14th March 2021, Ireland celebrated Mothering Sunday a day to pay tribute to all the mammies and mothering figures in our lives, past, present and future. In this women’s lives, women’s voices feature, Grace Gerry reflects on her memories of her last mother and the love for baking her mother has passed on to her.


I pull out the greaseproof baking inserts for the loaf tins from the lower kitchen cupboard, in behind the Pyrex dishes and cake tins. And then I realise the last person to touch them was my mother, and she died ten weeks ago. It strikes me with a sad blow. She will never bake again. My sister showed me a photo recently that she took of my mother sitting in front of these same loaf tins at the kitchen table, the tins filled to the brim with boiled cake. Was this the last time she baked? When was that? Was it really only a little more than a year ago that my 94-year-old mother had baked these cakes?

Today I decide to make a lemon and orange cake. It is a quiet afternoon; the kitchen is tidy; I am alone and I love to bake. I measure out the butter, which is nicely soft from hours sitting on a plate in a warm room. I weigh the castor sugar followed by the self-raising flour, the eggs, the milk, and the baking powder. Today I am taking my time to get organised, assembling all the cake ingredients mindfully on the kitchen table before I start. I turn on the oven to 190 degrees, pull out the non-stick loaf tins and line them with the baking inserts. They are so much handier than greasing the tins to stop the cakes sticking.


I open the Styrofoam container of free-range eggs and crack each of them into my mother’s Pyrex bowl, a perfect size for the job. She always advised me to crack each individual egg into a cup first to make sure it wasn’t bad. I take my chances and crack each one in on top of the other, adding several tablespoons of milk according to the recipe and orange essence.

I recently bought a micro plane grater-zester, which is a great gadget for taking rind off citrus fruits. As I drag it around the freshly washed orange and lemon, the rind gathers in the folds in the device and falls into the bowl in clumps below. Later, the microplane releases a wonderful citrus scent as I wash it under the hot tap.

Now that I’ve measured everything, I put it all into the mixing bowl, retrieve the mixer and push the blades firmly in place, ready for action. I will leave the rind to stir into the mix at the end. Otherwise it clings to the blades. Three minutes later the cake mixture looks well blended and I use a spoon to stir in the fragrant citrus rind.

I carry the bowl of cake batter over to the kitchen table and ladle globs of it into the lined loaf tins, aiming to make both cakes the same size. I smooth out the surface of the cakes with the back of a spoon, open the heated oven, and arrange them on the top shelf.

With the timer set for thirty minutes I wash up the sieve, the mixing bowl, the mixing blades; tidy away the flour, baking powder, castor sugar and the eggs and wipe the kitchen table and counters. The cakes send out an aroma of sweet baking.


It’s time to make the icing. I search for a glaze icing recipe that involve orange juice and icing sugar. I find one and squeeze out an orange and lemon juice combination and pare the rind from a second orange as I have already used up the rest in the cake. After I have measured the icing sugar into a bowl, I wonder if it will be too dry. But as I stir in the fresh orange juice and rind it looks perfect, not too dry and not overly runny.

The oven alarm rings so I check the twin cakes. I take one out, push down on its top with my finger and it springs up again. It’s done. I turn off the oven and the kitchen is suddenly quiet as the drone of the oven fan is missing. I leave the cakes in their tins for a while to cool down, then spoon the icing over the top. I am not sure how it’s going to behave. It spreads nicely and drizzles down the sides. I keep heaping it on top of the two cakes until I use it up. They smell divine, a mix of hot cake and warm orange and lemon scent.

Once they are cool, I make a cup of tea and share a slice with my brother. It tastes divine. I know however if I don’t give them away they will tempt me to eat too much. I decide who to give them to and slide the cakes back into their tins for ease of carrying.

I ring the lucky recipient. They are at home, careful because of Covid. I tell them about the cake delivery and they are pleased. I drive a mile or two to their house and have a chat at the door. I suggest they lift the cake out by its paper insert and return the tin to me. They are delighted with the unexpected gift and I am glad to share it.

As I drive back home, I think about my mother. I am surprised how alike we are. She too loved to bake and to share it with neighbours and friends. Noticing the ways we were similar is warmly comforting, and while baking can never bring her back, every cake I make will always remind me of her.

Below is a boiled cake hand written recipe by Grace’s mother and an orange drizzle recipe from 1967. 


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

Why doesn’t she just leave him?

In this Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature in support of the 16 days of action campaign  Donegal local Jenna talks about the issue of domestic abuse, highlighting why it’s so important to understand the realities of victims and survivors.


Did you know Ireland is currently taking part in the annual International campaign known as the 16 Days of Action? This internationally recognised campaign runs from 25th November (UN Day For the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10th December 2020 (International Human Rights Day). It is a campaign used to highlight the issue of gender based violence and an organising strategy by individuals and organisations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. (UN Women)

Gender-Based Violence refers to “violence that is directed against a person on the basis of gender or sex and includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other denials of freedom” (cosc.ie)

And while both men and women can experience gender based violence the reality however remains that in 2020 it is women and girls who are disproportionately affected by this violence. With 1 in 4 women in Ireland having experienced domestic abuse by a current or former partner. (Women’s Aid)


Why doesn’t she just leave him?

By nature people are quick to form judgments. Have you ever sat just drinking a coffee and watching strangers pass by as you contemplate what kind of people they may be? I think it’s normal for us to create stories in our minds now and again about the lives of others and the characteristics they may possess.

Or maybe you can think of a time when you have read or watched a news story on television and had speculated about those involved and how they might have found themselves in a certain situation.

We take in what we can see in front of us and somehow our brains begin to connect the dots and form opinions about people. Maybe in some cases we judge correctly but in others we are just guessing without any real depth of knowledge.

Perhaps it is something we can teach ourselves to refrain from doing. Maybe sometimes we need to take a step back and really truly think about the person we are making the assumptions about.

“Before you judge my life, my past or my character, walk in my shoes, walk the path I have travelled, live my sorrow, my doubts, my fear, my pain and my laughter” – Unknown

After my sister’s death last year I learned a lot of life lessons that I’d never imagined I would have to. I had to face things that I would never have dreamed could have happened to our family. I definitely learned that we don’t know what is going on in other people’s lives and the difficulties they face.

Since Jasmine died I think that people feel as though they can talk to me about their own problems more so than a person who hasn’t experienced this tragedy. Through this difficult journey I have had several women talk to me about their past experiences with domestic violence or the current situation that they are in.

I truly don’t think that enough people are aware of the extent of people who are having to deal with gender based violence in their lives. So many of the victims who I have spoken to are probably the women who society would ‘never expect’ would find themselves in a situation like that. But unfortunately this type of violence is happening more than we think.

Why doesn’t she just leave him? A question that has probably been asked a million times. Maybe to some people this is a logical question. Just walk away. Simple? Every million times this question is asked there are another million responses as to why this question isn’t in fact helpful or logical.

When I was asked to take part in 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence I knew that I had to take this opportunity to share some of the reasons that the women I have spoken to share with me.

One of the reasons that came up over and over again was because of the children.

“A mother will do almost anything to protect her child and I stayed because I didn’t know what could happen if I tried to leave.” – Lady 1

“I felt as though I was trapped and if I moved then my children would be in danger” – Lady 2

Another reason that we discussed was the guilt that the victim is made to feel.

“I stayed with him because he said he was going to kill himself and it would be all my fault ” – Lady 3

This type of threat was also used against a victim but while adding the extra danger by involving the child. “I stayed with him because he threatened to kill himself or run away with our daughter if I left” – Lady 4

Other reasons why these women stayed included an immense sense of fear. A feeling of shame about the situation they are in and also financial constraints. If they left, where would they go, how could they leave without the money to escape.

But all of the victims I spoke to did express something that it is so important, that gender based violence becomes something that people are more aware of. That questions and judgmental statements aren’t helpful in preventing it from happening. Awareness is key and in order to help these people we must understand that everything isn’t always black and white and there are so many factors involved in these extremely dangerous circumstances.

So why doesn’t she just leave him? It’s most definitely not that simple.


Please know you are not alone, there are people you can talk to. If you or any one you know have been effected by domestic abuse you can find support with the following services;

Local county wide support in Donegal 

Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service is a frontline service providing crisis accommodation, 24 hr helpline, support (1800262677) and information and outreach service throughout the County to women and their children who are victims of domestic violence.

Donegal Women’s Centre operate a domestic violence counselling service delivered in the Donegal Women’s Centre with outreach centres in, Killybegs, Ballyshannon, Falcarragh, Dungloe and Carndonagh. Call 074 91 24985 for appointment or more information


National support in Ireland

Women’s Aid Ireland Freephone Helpline (1800 341 900) operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and provides support and information to callers experiencing abuse from intimate partners.

Safe Ireland You can find a list of County services across Ireland here.

Men’s Aid Ireland is a service for men who are experiencing domestic violence. You can call them on 01 554 3811or email hello@mensaid.ie.
Their helpline is open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.

The National Office for Victims of Abuse provides assistance, support and advice for people in abusive relationships. Freephone 1800 252 524.

Anyone who may wish to report or discuss an incident of Domestic or Sexual Violence can contact 112/999 or their local Garda Station.


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.