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  • Writer's pictureKasi DeStefano

Kicking off the new year in New Jersey


My family and I started off the new year back in New Jersey visiting with my mother and brother. We made it early on New Year’s Eve morning, so we were able to ring in the new year together. When I say “ring in” I mean, we all said goodnight at 10:30 p.m. I have no interest in staying up past my bedtime and 10:30 was already two hours past it.


We came up for a week and I have to say this was one of the best trips for me. I had an amazing time seeing family, friends, eating great food, laughing and of course my visit would not be complete without a smattering of arguments. If you know me, you know I enjoy that as well!


Prior to our arrival, I asked my brother if he wouldn’t mind picking up a few things for me at Grubr Eats in Medford so I had something delicious and gluten free waiting for me. He told me he grabbed an order of their Honey BBQ wings which I was so excited about. As soon as we left Florida I started to think about the wings. The last 10 miles to my mom’s house were pure torture as I was anticipating eating them. As soon as we pulled in, I made a beeline for the house. I walked in and it was dark and quiet, which was surprising because it was 10 a.m. I decided not to look for anyone and ripped open the refrigerator to grab my wings. I quickly heated them up and started devouring them as if I just came off a five-day water fast. (I’ve done this before and thought I was going to die) I had BBQ sauce all over my hands, face and by the time my brother came around the corner…it was on my forehead and in my hair. The funny thing is, he wasn’t even phased. We hadn’t seen each other face to face in over nine months and this is the condition I’m in when he sees me, which for him wasn’t surprising at all.

Every single day was jam packed with fun things to do. Some of the memories that stand out to me are: Going to the Funny Farm in Mays Landing to meet up with my friend Mandee and her kids and dragging my mom along. She got chased by a goat named Ebony and I just about peed my pants watching her have a near nervous breakdown. Having dinner at the Maplewood with friends and family. There were 11 of us and I thought for sure we were going to get kicked out because we were all being so loud! When I say all, I mostly mean me! I spent a lot of time with my cousin Michael and his family, which was really fun. I brought my dog, Pepper, along and she played with their dog, Louie. Pepper is a seven-month-old Catahoula Leopard/Blue Heeler mix and has a lot of energy. At one point I thought she was going to give seven-year-old Louie a heart attack, but by the grace of God, he managed to stay alive.


I also visited with my friend Miranda and that was filled with the usual laughter, hot tea and even hotter gossip. I swear after hanging with her I felt like I had an ab workout from laughing so much! My friendship with Miranda is proof that you don’t need to be in close proximity to someone to have a close relationship. Since the day I left for Florida, we haven’t missed a beat!


Of course, I visited my friend, Gina at The Gazette, which brought back so many memories for me, especially since I used to live on Tilton Street. I was so happy that the week I got there was the week my last column was in, so I actually got to go to Wawa and pick up a copy.


I visited all of my usual gluten-free spots and ate a grotesque amount of baked goods. I went to Christine’s Bakery in Northfield, Kizbees Kitchen in EHC, LesbiVeggies in Audubon and Grubr Eats in Medford. In my opinion, Grubr has the best pizza. I ate there so many times, I not only gained 10 pounds, I spent the equivalent of a mortgage payment there. (Worth every penny/pound!)


A trip to N.J. would not be complete without visiting my favorite spa, SoJo Spa Club, with my friends Holly and Christina. The food there is also insanely delicious. I’m now realizing that most of my good time was had by food and I’m not mad about it!


My little one had play dates with her friends and it was so nice to see the gang all back together again. We made sure to bring the game, Jumanji, with us and played that with my mom, brother and cousin Michael at night, which was interesting to say the least. If you haven’t played it, it’s a favorite of ours. Even though there isn’t supposed to be any competition between the players, my family is so dysfunctional, we started making up our own ridiculous rules and spicing up the game.


As great as this trip absolutely was, the only downside was the non-existence of plastic bags! I know you are all probably used to it by now and some of you may even support it, but when you go to Wawa and cannot get a bag to carry your items, but watch as they are handing out plastic bags to anyone who ordered food, I would classify that as a “swing and a miss!” It seriously doesn’t make sense at all. Every store I went to, I forgot about the no bag thing and left feeling more and more angry, which turned into sheer bliss knowing that I would be heading back to Florida where they toss them around like beads at Mardi Gras.


I’m sure at some point during the year I will be back for a visit. I miss my mom and love torturing my brother too much to stay away. I’ll make it a point to bring lots of plastic bags with me when I come. Maybe I’ll do some community service, stand outside and hand them to anyone who wants them. Until we meet again, New Jersey…


Kasi DeStefano was a long time resident of Hammonton. She resides in Fernandina Beach, Florida with her husband, two girls and two dogs, Pepper and Moo. She can be reached at candidlykasi@gmail.com.

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