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Donegal Day Out

This feature is part of the ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series. Written by Elena Tabandzhova, founder of Donegal Day Out website and Facebook group


My name is Elena T.

I’m originally from Bulgaria, a mother of three children, and a web designer in our family web design agency. We came to Ireland in 2017, and since then, we have been happy to live in Letterkenny.

When we arrived in Donegal, the curiosity about the county was immeasurable. We had to know where we live and what our new homeland looks like. Also, our move to Ireland was supposed to bring lifestyle changes – a more active life, more outdoor experience, nature education for my children.

The problem is that it is a bit hard to force ourselves to go out of the house. All the things that are waiting to be done – laundry, dusting, cooking are waiting for us, and I feel if I don’t do them soon, the whole household will collapse on my shoulders. Also, it is hard to go out in the rain and wind instead of enjoying the comfort of the home and your favourite show. Lastly, going out with children could be a bit of hell. So much food to prepare, so many clothes to take, and someone is always unhappy.

But in the end, I didn’t want to watch cool places on Facebook; I wanted to experience them!
So we made a short trip to Woodquarter in Mulroy Bay and liked it. It was so rechargeable to our minds, and our little boy was so happy. Then we decided to do something more significant – to visit all 39 Wild Atlantic Way discovering points in Donegal. We planned it for two days in the Easter break, but it was so amazing, and there were so many things to see, so we couldn’t do even half of what we wanted.

After those two days on the road around Donegal, we started to go out every weekend to find new places to visit. Slowly being out and about becomes an essential part of our weekly routine, as important as the morning tea.

And the need for Donegal Day Out came up.

When we travelled on the Wild Atlantic way, we had a hard time finding the correct locations of some of the stops. Also, there was not much information about many of the places we visited. So I started to collect information for myself – to easily plan family trips for days out in Donegal. Then I thought I could share it with others who may find it helpful. It could help people improve their lifestyle – outside the house, the shops, the noise, and the commercial world.

So when we started our family website business, one of the first sites I created was www.donegaldayout.ie It had to be an easy-to-use, well-organised, complete informative online guide for outdoor experience planning in Donegal. And at last, it had to give the users a bit of rest from all the advertising and commerciality that surround us from everywhere.


When an idea meets creators and how “I” became “We.”

Soon after I created the first pages, a very close friend, Dalia Taftazani, hugged the idea with her heart, and we became a team. She is a great photographer and loves outdoor adventures and exploring Donegal.

When the project grew up and became more significant, the third team member came to take care of it – Sonya Pepelyashkova. She is a business consultant and our project manager who works with us to develop Donegal Day Out into the most used online guide to planning a day out in Donegal.

It took time to settle up and find our place as a team, but slowly we got there, and now the project benefits a lot from our different personalities and skills.

Today Donegal Day Out has a spirit.

Today Donegal Day Out is an online guide with more than 120 places in 11 different categories. We add more every month and improve the guide by seeing the user’s needs. And it is lovely to see how it already works and has hundreds of users every month.
https://www.donegaldayout.ie/

Our Facebook community has grown up, and for about a year, the group has over 3,400 members. In this group, everyone can inspire others with a great place to go or get inspired for a day out in Donegal, so don’t miss joining and inviting your friends.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/487215939072024

We keep our followers on the Facebook page informed of what is new in the guide and how it is improved.
https://www.facebook.com/donegaldayout

You can also enjoy our beautiful pictures from Donegal on our Instagram page.
https://www.instagram.com/donegaldayout.ie/

If you feel the same about Donegal’s nature and the significance of the outdoor experience, then Donegal Day Out is an excellent place for you. And if you like the idea – please help us spread the word and get more people to have an active, mindful, and happier day out in Donegal.


Women’s Collective Ireland- 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.

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.