Sharish Gin…Gin for those friends who “don’t like gin”!

Have you ever found yourself sitting around a dinner table, and you ask your friends if they would like a gin and tonic and one or two of the people say “I don’t really like gin”.

After you make a note not to invite them again, you then ask them what gins they have tried and they list the most common gins like Gordons or Bombay.

Neither of these are bad gins, but for me it reminds me of avocado. I grew up on an avocado farm and my friends at school would say they hated avocado because they had tried to eat it straight off out of the skin with no seasoning. Typically you increment avocado slowly into things; on bread with salt and pepper, or in smoothies with honey, until gradually you find the taste itself to be delicious!!

Well, Sharish gin is like the toast, the salt and pepper, or the honey. It’s the gin that eases those ‘non gin lovers’ into loving gin because it is just so refreshing that you can’t tell you are drinking alcohol. Like a good Alentejo red wine it can be dangerous as the taste is so good you can be three gins down before you realise you are tipsy. But as far as Portuguese gins go (and world gins for that matter) this one is unique and very good.

Started in October of 2013, Sharish Gin is produced in the Alentejo by António Cuco and gets its name from the nearby village of MONSARAZ.

Used during the Muslim occupation, the Arabic term “sharish”, means xara or jara, the term for estella alentejana (Cistus ladanifer), which is a scrub found in the region, known for its wonderful scent that is often used in perfumes. (pictured right)

Sharish gin gets its unique taste and smell from a range of uniquely Portuguese ingredients, from Apple Bravo de Esmolfe DOP to oranges and lemons from Alentejo, passing through fresh Lúcia-Lima, together with the traditional juniper and coriander seed, complemented with cinnamon, clove, and a soft touch of vanilla.

All these ingredients are distilled separately in a traditional Portuguese alembic,(pictured left) and then submitted to a final blend.





I approached the founder of Sharish, António Cuco, for a chat recently, and he said the project started quite by surprise, and took a lot of work to get off the ground.

“I was challenged by a group of friends to create a gin at a dinner at my family restaurant. They wanted to try a new gin and we didn’t have any, so they suggested that I should create one,” says 35 year old Antonio.

“It was not easy in the beginning. I needed to make lots of research into gin and gin making because I had no background in the area and gin making is not a Portuguese tradition.

I started with an initial investment of around 100.000 Euros.”

With a degree in Tourism from the University of Évora, Antonio was formerly a professional teacher, and without assignment for the academic year, he took advantage of IEFP’s support to create his own job, and became a distiller of Sharish Gin.

Antonio says that his goal during the research phase was to create a gin and brand where everything was chosen for a reason, and everything added to the overall concept and idea.

“Even the shape of the bottle fits perfectly to the silhouette of Monsaraz, chosen for the logo. Nothing was left to chance in this production, everything has a reason for being, and the main one is a passion for gin, linked to the conviviality among friends. As they say in the Alentejo, “que vos faça bom proveito!“.


Currently the best-selling Portuguese brand in the world, and in the top 5  in sales in Premium Gin in the Portuguese market, Sharish exports 65% of their annual production overseas, to nations such as; UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Macau, Hong-Kong, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Vert, Sweden, Norway, São Tome e Principe, and Australia ;).

With a number if different varieties of Sharish Gin, Anotonio says that Sharish Gin Laurinius is his favorite.

“It’s a special edition with 12 months aging in Oak barrels previously used in Aguardente da Lourinhã aging.”

My personal favorite, and the gin to turn those non gin drinking friends into believers, is the Sharish blue gin…which magically changes colour as you add tonic water.

“To create the blue gin I knew that the Clitorea Ternatea reacted to citric acid because a French friend introduced me to the plant, I simply used this principle as a base for the gin.”

Antonio hopes that Sharish will continue to grow and increase their exports of this unique and tasty gin all over the world…

“And from this May forward we will be having our visitors center fully operational.” adds Antonio.

Carbon Offsetting: An attempt to increase positive business public relations or a way to actually help solve the issue of greenhouse gas emissions?

I always wondered whether when I clicked on the “offset my carbon footprint” option when booking flights whether or not the 6 euros (or the relatively low addition to the overall flight cost) was actually worth while…

Did the money actually go towards offsetting my carbon footprint or was it a scheme to make me feel as if I was doing something good when the reality was that the money wasn’t helping the environment, or worse it was actually being counter productive?

By definition “Carbon offsets are measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) and may represent six primary categories of greenhouse gases:[5] carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).[6]

One carbon offset represents the reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.”

There are two markets for carbon offsets, and both have both good and bad elements.

On a larger scale big companies, governments, or other large entities buy carbon offsets in order to comply with limits placed on the total amount of carbon dioxide they are allowed to emit. This exists to comply with obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, and the Emission Trading Scheme.

On a much smaller scale,  individuals (like me and you when we choose to fly) or smaller companies,  purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electricity use, and other sources.

This money is then supposedly put towards financial support of projects that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases in the short- or long-term.

I always thought that the money might be spend on planting trees and thereby offset the carbon footprint that way but there are a number of reasons why tree-planting to offset carbon production is not a viable choice, but mainly because trees reach maturity over a course of many decades and it is hard to guarantee the permanence of the forests and because often in an effort to cut costs, some tree-planting projects introduce fast-growing invasive species, that end up damaging native forests and reducing biodiversity.

So instead the 6 euros you choose to pay to offset your carbon footprint on an individual level typically goes towards renewable energy sources such as wind farms, biomass energy, or hydroelectric dams.

Carbon offsetting has gained momentum and appeal on both an individual and corporate level, and the Kyoto Protocol was set up to keep a check on governments and private companies, who can now earn carbon credits that can be traded on a marketplace.

Basically, organizations that are unable to meet their emissions quota can offset their emissions by buying CDM-approved Certified Emissions Reductions.

So basically you can buy your way out of having to reduce your fossil fuel consumption…

While the scheme is at least raising awareness to the fact that companies need to measure and effectively be charged for the damage they do the environment, this doesn’t actually solve the problem…

One website outlines the element of the ridiculous in the scheme., makes a clever point by drawing a parallel between the scheme and infidelity…

 “When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in the atmosphere,” the website explains. “CheatNeutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and not cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience.”

Others liken it to those who use religion as a way to be forgiven so they can go out and commit more sins…

On a global scale it’s a money business where companies can buy themselves more tickets to produce more emissions…

On a personal level it comes down to the question…Does the money I am spending actually achieve any carbon savings as promised? Truth is no-one can say for sure…

But here some questions we do have answers for…

Why is the offset price so low…can 6 euros really offset my long haul overseas flight?

The carbon offset price is low because there are all kinds of ways to reduce emissions very inexpensively, and so yes theoretically even a small amount can make a difference.

Why do different companies quote different carbon offset prices for the flights of the same distance?

Companies quote different offset costs because often they estimate the impact on the environment using different measures.

If carbon offsets do work, shouldn’t these projects be financed by governments anyway? Are the two really related?

“Even if offset projects do work as advertised, some environmentalists argue that they’re still a bad idea. If we’re to tackle climate change, they argue, the projects being rolled out by offset companies should be happening anyway, funded by governments around the world, while companies and individuals reduce their carbon footprints directly. Only in this way – by doing everything possible to make reductions everywhere, rather than polluting in one place and offsetting in another – does the world have a good chance of avoiding runaway climate change,” such critics claim.

However, those who support carbon offsetting programs say that the projects that are invested in with my 6 euros are long term, and may actually offset my carbon footprint 3 or 4 times over, meaning I might not only offset my footprint but reduce it even further…

The truth is I am not sure if this is the right message to send, that we can buy our way out of the pollution we cause, and yet, when I see the option on the flight website to offset my carbon footprint I click yes, and I pay the 6 euros, because well, I am hoping it ends up doing even a small amount of good.

Jet Lag…Is it All in your Head?

After taking a few long-haul flights from Europe to Australia during the last 7 years I often wondered whether jet-lag was a real thing or whether we just made ourselves believe that we would feel pretty rough after being stuck that long in a small flying box breathing the same recycled air for up to 15 hours.

When I was young did I get jet leg? I can’t remember. The first time I flew from Australia to Europe I was 13 and I can’t say I noticed feeling tired, but I was most likely fairly excited and preoccupied by other more interesting things!

So is Jet-lag just in our heads? Or is it a physical thing the body experiences? And can we prevent it?

For years, jet lag was considered merely a state of mind but studies have since shown that it does actually result from an imbalance in our body’s natural “biological clock” caused by traveling to different time zones.

Our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called “Circadian Rhythms”…This is why I start yawning at 10 minutes to 10pm and I wake up promptly at 7am without an alarm (note that some peoples clock is more persistent that others), and while my body clock is fairly set in its way I know some people who can push the snooze on their body clock and it doesn’t seem to notice.

This circadian rhythm flexibility (or lack there of) does have an impact on jet lag!

If you are a “morning person” who wakes up promptly it is most likely that you find it difficult to sleep in past 9am, and for those “morning people” jet-lag is probably going to hit you a lot worse!

The  “circadian rhythms” in our body are measured by the distinct rise and fall of body temperature, plasma levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake.

When traveling to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when it’s actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night. This experience is known as jet lag.

Cristina Ruscitto (PhD) has done extensive research on this topic after completing her PhD in Health Psychology, at the University of Surrey in England.

Last year Cristina led two major studies into how to reduce jet lag: 1) Ruscitto, C., & Ogden, J. (2017). The impact of an implementation intention to improve mealtimes and reduce jet lag in long-haul cabin crew, Psychology and Health, 32(1), 61-77, and 2) Ruscitto, C., & Ogden, J. (2017). Predicting jet lag in long-haul cabin crew: The role of illness cognitions and behaviour. Psychology and Health, 32(9), 1055-1081.

Cristina says she chose this topic for her research because of her previous work as a member of a long-haul cabin crew (experienced jet lag and sleep disruption) together with her interest in Health Psychology.

“The study particularly showed the importance of mealtimes for alleviating jet lag in long-haul crew. There is plenty of evidence in animal research that feeding times affect the body clock but this evidence in humans is limited:  e.g. a study found that late eaters lost less weight than early eaters. In my study, the group of crew who made a meal plan (to eat regularly, breakfast lunch and dinner) before a long-haul trip,  had reduced jet lag symptoms after a long-haul trip when compared to a control group (no meal plan). The results showed that planning ahead your meal times by eating in line with the local time help adjust more quickly and reduce jet lag levels.”

So basically, if you are flying to the Uk from America you should put your self onto the UK meal and sleep time as soon as possible.

“These findings are new because traditional countermeasures look at improving sleep or taking medication to deal with jet lag but this study shows that ‘when’ you eat can also help reduce jet lag levels.

This is particularly useful if the person in question is unable to take sleep aids as in the case of a crew member, who must be working during the flight.”

However, as I mentioned above not everyone suffers from jet-lag, at least not to the same degree.

“Not everyone suffers from jet lag,” says Cristina. “This depends on different factors, but one of the most important is a person’s chronotype, whether one is an ‘evening’ or ‘morning’ person.

Evening people, or people who can easily sleep in past noon, cope much better with jet-lag because they find it easy to prolong sleep.

“Their sleep is more flexible (e.g. they can extend their sleep) and therefore can adapt more easily than morning people following time zone transitions.” adds Cristina.

So how then can meal times help us adjust more quickly?

Well of course when we eat our blood sugar levels spike, and our blood sugars plays a role in regulating our body clock.

So if you are planning a long journey, and you are a morning person like me, the best you can do is get onto the new sleeping schedule as soon as possible by adjusting your mealtimes accordingly!

Want 3% better rates and no Fees when Transferring Money Overseas?

When I first moved overseas 7 years ago I was often shocked to see the transaction costs and rate of exchange offered by the leading banks when transferring money from Australia to Europe. It wasn’t as if they actually had to rent a boat and ship it over, and yet the click from their computer to a computer somewhere else seemed to cost a small fortune, and the larger the amount you were sending the more they seemed to take.

My mum was told about Forex Sport by a good friend of hers and we have been using their service ever since. Offering a 3% better rate than the banks, CEO and founder Dion Ciavola started the company ten years ago, and is happy with the growth of her business as it expands into new markets.

“When we started ten years ago we were looking after the foreign exchange needs of international athletes. (Hence the name Forex Sport)

Since this time the business developed a need to do foreign exchange for individuals and business  and for the last 10 years we have had  a strong commitment to our customers providing them foreign exchanges rates that are close to market as possible, “ says Dion.

While the business still looks after over 400  Australian international athletes, Dion says that personal and business customers have far exceeded expectations and is now the majority of work that the company does.

“The company is regulated in Australia and has an AFSL (Australian financial service license). We are based  and owned in  Australia, but we employ people that have lived abroad so that they better understand the costs of sending money around the world, and have experience with it personally.” adds Dion.

Saving their customers, myself included, a large amount of money on foreign exchange transactions Dion says that her company is the better choice for a few major reasons, but mainly because they offer excellent rates and no fees on transactions over 1000 dollars.

Using a very simple online platform, customers simply need to register online and then begin…For my first transactions I actually wrote to Dion personally and she was able to help me through the process. I received the money in Portugal within 2 days which was quite a shock considering I was used to the ten day lag time when dealing with the big banks.

“It’s important for expatriates to get locally domiciled accounts so the transfer on money can be electronic. Most of the transfers arrive within 24 hours!” says Dion.

For transactions under 1000 dollars there is a 10 dollar transaction fee, so it is better if you are living overseas to transfer in larger sums.

My only question was, given the great rate and no fees on larger sums of money, how does the company make a profit?

“We get close to market rates and we show the customer a worse rate than we get, but as an individual the rate that we give them is a lot better than they would get stand alone!”

In my experience with the company we often had savings of up to 400 dollars on transactions over 4000 dollars, (this is including fees, bank rates and exchange rates), and after using Forex for 5 years I wouldn’t consider ever putting my business back in the hands of the big banks!



For more info contact

Dion Ciavola
Forex Sport Pty Ltd

ABN 22 147 363 175
AFSL 401379

T  +61 3 9008 1880 / 1300 36 99 73
M +61(0) 435 966 957

Level 2, 100 Collins Street
Melbourne Vic 3000

or register online at and start saving money on your international transactions!!

If you are looking to move to Portugal or invest in property here I work with a real estate company for a more personal and fun approach to finding your dream home…contact me at for more info, or any advise on living and loving this great country!

Second Chances…

I have always been really fascinated with the power of  the mind, but this weekend was all about realising just how powerful the human body can be.

I headed to Copenhagen to visit my Danish sister and friend of 20 years and I was fairly anxious. My first MRI in two years and my first bone and joint evaluation in forever.

At age 20 the scans showed bipolar pelvic fractures, oestepenia of the lumber and hip, and ruptures at the insertion of the hamstring.

I was not kind to my body for many years. I did things that I feel ashamed to even remember, and did not take care of the fractured hip or myself, at all.

I was punishing myself for my fathers death, and felt that I didn’t deserve to be ok. Course it was more complex than that but that was at the heart of it.

I carried that with me for a long time. So I was worried to see how much degeneration had occurred in the last 12 years since that evaluation as the doctors at the time said that you cannot reverse any of the bone degeneration and it will only get worse.

But you can slow it…

Sitting in a room with some of Denmark’s best bone and joint specialists looking at my results and their faces looking at me like, why are you here?

They said that because I broke the bone so young it has completely regenerated, and in the right place.

Amazing isn’t it that almost every cell in our bodies is completely new again in 4 years. Every single bone is completely regrown. However if you break a bone after a certain age it regrows with degeneration in the cells, like an instruction manual with spelling mistakes.

The doctor who evaluated my oesteopenia at age 20, said there was nothing I could do, but that for sure the bone would continue to slowly decline. Well, it’s true it didn’t reverse itself, but instead almost stopped time completely, and I have now almost no degeneration or less for someone my age.

“You have the hip and back of a 20 year old”…is the exact way they put it!

I felt so incredibly grateful, and for the first time without that other feeling of guilt for something good happening to me…I don’t remember how long it has been since I felt that. Like I deserved it.

Such a simple concept and yet for me such a complex one.

They said there is still a way to go because I have to continue the work I am doing to balance the muscles and tendons that took all the wear and tear over the years while my body did the hard work.

They also said that in 6 months time, if I continue as I am doing, there is no reason why I can’t make a full recovery and enjoy riding for quite some time!

They said though, that there is a big chance that I may always have pain in my hip. There is still so much we do not know about the connection between mind and body and after over ten years of pain it’s hard for the brain to forget it. He said then I will need to look at other avenues to better cope with pain, or he  said “learn to love it”…I didn’t understand at first but he meant learn to appreciate it, it’s part of who I am, my past, my life, my character. I have a childhood trauma printed in the cells in my body, as a reminder that happened, so it’s still a part of me.

I thought it was an interesting way to look at it and wondered why it couldn’t be something awesome like telepathy, but I guess you can’t choose how your scars form and how long they stay there ;).

But the best part was that now I can do the muscle and tendon work knowing that I am on the right path…and I will get back riding. I also am lucky to have the help of Ana luis Martins from ALM pilates, and Jorge Pereira from Clinica Benfica and oesteo Patricia Trigo da Silva…Three of the most amazing, humble, talented, and fun professionals I have ever worked with.

I have been told so many times that to get the right help I need to go to Germany, and see “Dr somebody” who is supposedly “the best in the world”, and I truly believe that I am actually in the best hands because they actually are extremely good, but also for one major reason.

You can go to the supposed best at something, but do they really give a £$%^ about your specific case?

It’s like a dressage rider going to the best trainer, only to find out that that trainer doesn’t find much potential in their horse, and the lessons are like reading off a script.

My mum is my best ever trainer because she is passionate about it. We have all had that amazing lesson with someone who supposedly hadn’t done that much, but was just so enthusiastic and passionate about you and your horse, that you got a lot out of it.

Ana and Jorge are that good, and yet still passionate, and more than that I feel that they think I deserve to be helped.

I got so used to telling myself that what I had done would stay with me forever and that as I grew old I would feel it more and more. A physio last year said I was limited in my riding years and possibly by 40 I won’t be able to walk, and then a surgeon tell me that I need to fuse the hip bone together with metal.. Because of all the work I have done to stabalise the joint the pubic bone that was not aligned, now is, with no sign of any chronic inflammation, and the fluid in my spine is also gone…I dedicated myself to my recovery, and did everything I was told, and then some, and well, hard work pays off!!

It took a doctor saying to me that I am physically younger for my age than I am, by a lot, for me to realise that I have a second chance, and I will take it!

But more than that, whatever I still blame myself for is irrelevant, because if my body forgave me, then I can. I am allowed to be happy, and I deserve good things. I know a lot of people who struggle with that concept, so I don’t feel weak for sharing my story.

Sometimes I see people empathising with me, but they don’t have a suicide, or a specific trigger, and they feel even more like they don’t deserve to be happy and the cycle continues. To those people, it’s ok to take too much on board, as long as you learn from it or use it to make you a better person.

So I learnt a lot this weekend. I was also reminded of a lesson that I learnt when I was travelling the world alone, and people would ask “you are by yourself?”. It fascinates me that people don’t realise a very simple fact of life, so when they ask me this question I reply “No, I am with myself.” Course they probably think I am nuts, but my point is that enjoying your own company is one of life’s greatest lessons, because if you don’t enjoy it, why should you expect anyone else to?! I am also lucky in that I come back to the best person in the world, 🙂 🙂 , but I do feel sorry for people who can’t do things alone, and think of that as valuable time spent with you…you’re the only you you’ve got!

When I got back, someone I admire and cherish said that I look younger. She is someone who really sees people, and what she is actually seeing is that I am lighter.

For the first time I don’t feel lucky, I feel extremely grateful..and there is a big difference between the two.





Equestrian Cyber Bullying…

“Tis the season to be jolly”…Or is it?

“Tis the season to be jolly”…The famous line from one of the most well known christmas carols, and yet the reality of christmas leaves many people feeling less than festive.

When you are young christmas is the most exciting time of the year. I still remember waking up at 5am to check the end of my bed to see if Santa had been. I got to spend the day with my cousins and my grandparents, and everything that I remember about that day was bright and shiny and exciting.

Is it that as adults we miss that sense of pure joy? Or it is that at this time we evaluate our lives? We think back to the image we had as a kid of what our lives would like like, and think…oops!

When I moved overseas I didn’t have any family living here, and for me christmas represented a day where I could go to my horse and there was no-one, and I loved it. To be the only ones in the whole world on that day just doing what I love to do. But other people got in the road of that. They would ask me, sometimes up to ten different people a day, starting from about the week before christmas, “What will you do for christmas?”. I would reply “ride my horse”, and they would look at me like “You poor sad pathetic homeless girl”, which was not the case at all, as I was perfectly fine. There was one time I even made something up, just because I didn’t want the pity, but then I thought why should I?

I believe more than anything it’s the expectations people put on christmas that ruins it, for them and for others. The expectations that the meal be perfect so the person cooking has to worry about it for a week before. The expectations that family will need to get along, which inevitable ends in a heated family discussion/argument between two people who never liked eachother but were forced together for the occasion. The belief that if you are alone you are somehow to be felt sorry for, when in reality it’s just one day…What about caring if that person is alone for the other 364 days of the year?

A study was released that reported “People say that they dread Christmas because of the expectations for social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances that they’d rather not spend time with. And finally, many people feel very lonely at Christmas, because they have suffered the loss of loved ones or their jobs.” (psychology today)

This I know to be true.

Anyone who lost a very close family member early on will tell you that christmas after that, even if they were still a child, was never the same.

In fact, it became a day where you would sit around a table, decorated and warm, full of people that you love, but somehow instead of seeing all the people you love, all you would feel was the absense of the person that you once loved, who was no longer there, at that table. The table was full, and yet it was empty.

So actually I loved christmas in Portugal even when I was alone, because there wasn’t suppose to be anyone there that was missing. Yes my family were in Australia, but that’s where they were suppose to be.

It sounds strange, but I felt a sense of freedom from the expectation, and I could just enjoy the day.

Truth is though, if my dad hadn’t died when I was young, I would be one of those people with the tree warming up towards the end of November. The type of person who asks you in late august if you thought about what you want for christmas, and the person who, with absolute pleasure, cooks christmas dinner for everyone she knows.

A part of me is still that person. Recently I had dinner with a couple who I genuinely admire, and the wife was asking me “where my christmas tree was?”. I could see in her eyes everything that is still good about christmas. Forget the commercialism and the overeating, and the waste from the commercialism and the overeating…She had that warm excited child look, which I think every adult is lucky to hold to, even in just a small way.

I have that when I am with animals. Animals were the part of my childhood where I was free from everything else. At one point I had a magpie (gobble docks), a kangaroo(millie), two dogs ( beron and eddie), a cow (goosebumps), and my pony (jimbo) and so when I am with animals I feel like I am 6 years old again.

That’s what I saw in this beautiful person, that sense of warmth and care, and for lack of a better way to put it “christmas spirit” that I think is what still makes a part of this holiday truly good.

I worry about all the people that are alone this christmas, or are alone for the first time after a breakup or divorce, or are at a table where someone is missing… And to those people I think the best you can do is to be kind to yourself. Don’t expect it to be a miracle magical day, but instead just enjoy the best bit…Maybe it’s the dessert that you only have on christmas, or your crazy aunt that keeps things entertaining…Maybe it’s your dog who enjoys the turkey you cook more than you do, or maybe it’s going to ride your horse on a day when there is no traffic, and no noise…Focus on that one thing and who knows, it might not turn out as bad as you thought it would, or better still, you might even enjoy it!


%d bloggers like this: