I was born in New York, but I was raised in Staten Island and then I lived in New Jersey.

I finished school and I ended up getting a job with a clothing designer in Manhattan.

It looks very glamorous from the outside, but actually you’re just a workaholic. It was a fun job, but I knew it wasn’t something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I took a break from that and I ended up being a nanny for a family that had twin boys and a girl, who I was mad about. It was a couple of months later that I met Jamie, my now husband. We met in the March and I was living here in Ireland by Christmas. It was a real whirlwind.

Making moves

We were moving to Dublin, but we were staying with Jamie’s family in Rathvilly, Co Carlow, for a couple of weeks first. The first morning I woke up I could hear the cows and the sheep outside. I was like, oh my God what have I done?

I just adjusted to it. You just have to look at your situation and go, “Wow, this is completely different to what I’m used to, embrace it.” We did end up moving to Dublin within a couple of weeks and that eased me into it, because Dublin would really be more like New Jersey. Even though Dublin is a city, it’s not like New York city.

Soon after for my father-in-law’s 60th birthday I made him this giant cake. It looked like a blue tractor, because he’s a farmer and he has a blue tractor that he made from scratch like a million years ago. It’s his pride and joy.

I drove from Dublin down to Rathvilly with it in the front seat of the car. I just really enjoyed seeing the look on everybody’s faces, enjoying something that I had made. It just lit a fire in me and I said, that’s what I want to do.

I started The Artichoke and The Olive. It was a catering company. I did parties and the afters of weddings, things like that. I also made wedding cakes.

Then my two girls came along, they’re both teenagers now, and we said we were leaving the big city to go back to the country. So we moved to Rathvilly to the farm my husband grew up on.

When I got back here the boom had just finished and I don’t think catering was on the top of anybody’s list. I said, right OK, we’re going to let the catering go for a while and that’s when I started all the cooking classes. It’s called the Good Life Cookery School and I do the classes from our home here.

I have adult classes and after-school classes, which I absolutely love. Just a room of five and six year olds running around with flower in their hands, it’s absolutely brilliant. As my kids get older it’s nice to still have that going on in the house.

Things have come full circle now. With COVID I couldn’t do the classes for a while – I have started them back up now though – but because of COVID I started the graze boxes and that just took off. They’re at-home food boxes.

Culture fusion

Our house in Staten Island growing up would have been the party house. My mother was just constantly cooking something or another. Everyone sat down and ate together, we’d a real long table.

For birthdays she’d put out plain cupcakes and have 10 different huge bowls of icing in different colours. The kids were able to decorate their own cupcakes. She was all about having fun with food and so she just passed that on to me.

Graze boxes from The Good Life Kitchen.

Most of my family live in Puerto Rico and New York. About 10 years ago my mom moved here to Carlow when we lost my stepfather Victor. When she came we got the Latina music going and the Spanish language, that was all brought into my home when my mom got here. So the girls have a good background in it.

Here in Rathvilly my father-in-law and my brother-in-law are farmers and contractors, so they’re very busy on the farm. I get to go over and take a look at what they’re doing. The girls get to ride along in the tractors. It’s a different world to what I grew up in.

To me, it’s better.

It’s more family orientated. I get a feeling of community when I’m on the farm with people like my brother-in-law and his friends or my husband and his friends.

It’s very different to America where everybody’s business is nobody’s business. Sometimes you don’t know your neighbours.

Obviously there’s the idea that everybody knows your business, but I don’t really mind that because I live my life as an open book, so that’s OK for me. I find that it brings everyone together with a common thread, they’re all into farming. I love listening to the men talking about it, ‘Oh Jesus, the tractor this or the tractor that.’

It’s new for me, well not that new, I’ve been here 19 years now, but it’s different for me. I find that everyone seems to be very close, whereas where I come from you could see somebody every day for your whole life and still not speak to them.