There are some days that you just want to freeze into a time warp... and slowly unwind them at leisure. Days that are a daze and a happy haze that you never want to end. We have just come out of a week of delight where the Delhi Eichers were with us... and so were Mum and Dad as a huge bonus!
It all started - as it should - around a meal. Mum and Dad had arrived a few days before - and we had celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary. Then the next day - Christmas Eve - Stefan and Neeru and their pack of 3 - Ashish, Anjali and Anita arrived.
We got out a 'kids table' - just like we had when we were small - and the laughter and conversations began. Later that night we sang and read about Jesus' birth and the joy He brings us, which was followed by a treasure hunt where the kids unearthed various gifts that we had for each other.
The next day we celebrated at church... and then had another meal - this time with all the folks who had attended the Christmas morning service.
We had plenty to do at home - there were hamsters to play with, puzzles to be done, football to be played downstairs. What a treat for Asha and Enoch to have their cousins with them.
Asha became the heroine of two adoring cousins for a variety of fine reasons.
And there are lots of books... and some comics to be read. Especially classics like Tintin, Asterix and Lucky Luke.
Plus, when we want the general volume to be a bit lower than it is, there is always the joy of watching a video on ye olde computor...
Since our loved ones had come from so far - and since Thane is not really bursting with family-friendly things to do - we decided to venture further a field. An over-nighter in Alibaug for all of us!
Crisp, morning air as Mumbai started to groggily get up. Cruised down and before we knew it were at Flora Fountain. A quick decision and all 11 of us were out!
Almost immediately we ran into the late M.F. Hussain's iconic horses that he had painted on a wall of a cafe - and which still remain today for the urban art-lover to enjoy - even when everything is still shuttered up...
Our short walk took us past the Kala Ghoda area - with the Jehangir Art gallery tempting us a tiny bit (but being only 8.45 we didn't want to wait till 11 AM to go in)...
Once we got to the Gateway of India, we had to take a good tourist shot:
... and almost before you could say 'Jack Robinson' (or should that be 'Janak Rabinathan') were were on to a ferry plying through the morning murk, surrounded by seagulls.
Magical. Out of sight of land. On the top deck eating (again - this was almost Enid-Blightonian) cheeze-onion-tomato sandwiches and tossing bits of buns to the gulls.
Definitely an experience where the journey itself is well worth the destination.
And so we burbled across the bay, till the other shore loomed out of the haze and we were alighting at Mandua. There a bus awaited us and took us to Alibaug - which was a 45 minute ride through rural hinterland - dotted with the play-palaces of the Mumbai elite - and increasingly large smatterings of tourist kitsch.
But in this case, the destination was well worth the journey. An oasis of quiet. Hammocks. And view like this as you gently swing under the coconut and aracea nut palms...
Having your son with you in the hammock is not bad too!
And add to this place for badminton, swings and a slide, and 3 large male turkeys strutting around doing their 'gobbling thing', a totally relaxed atmosphere is at hand. Greenwood Cottages is the name of the place. At Angaon - another 30 minutes out of Alibaug - but well worth the trip.
With this visit, we saw a whole new person the youngest cousin of the lot - Anita who will be reaching the ripe old age of 2 this month!
Throw in some ice-cream and we have a winner of a place!
And as delightful as games of badminton and pick up cricket are for the younger generation - as pleasing as eating poha and bread omlettes outside in our green cathedral is for the seniors ... there is something more to Alibag that hanging out at a resort.
We are after all here for the elemental pleasures of running on sand and diving into the murky brine...
Asha must be part mermaid. She just loved the waves and kept pulling me to go back with her to get some more water time. Having a jet ski pulling an inflated contraption got a chorus of 'please can I go on that' by our intrepid daughter. That will have to wait for another day... in the mean-time we enjoyed the water as the sun travelled in its down-ward arc.
What a wonderful world - to be able to be with those we love in a beautiful place.
We look back on these days - and the whole slightly blurry year - with amazement and delight.
Having stepping into the new, we now have so much more to look forward to.
Thank you Stefan and Neeru and kids for the memorable visit. We are already looking forward to the next time we can link up. We missed our sister Premila of course - having her would have made the time complete... but a day will come we know.
What a wonderful family we are blessed to be in.
May this year unroll more and more of these experiences.
Dreams do become reality! We have just been through one of these wonderful times!