Wednesday, February 22, 2006

My name is Nicole, and I am addicted to SuDoku.

Last time I traveled by plane, I was delighted to find that the airport bookstore had a SuDoku book, pencils, and even a pencil sharpener, all for the airport-bookstore bargain price of around $17.50. By the time I arrived at my final destination, I had completed nearly half of the puzzles in the book, and had a massive headache from staring at the same nine numbers for the last six hours straight.

At work, I take a SuDoku break to solve the sometimes diabolical daily puzzle. I find a sickening pleasure in decreasing the time it takes me to complete it, or in actually being able to complete the most challenging ones. There are many sites that offer puzzles, tips, etc., but I am partial to this one.

But let me ask you this, dear readers...

Can anyone tell me how many possible combinations there are? At what point are we going to run out of new puzzles to solve?

Although I am generally good at most kinds of math, this kind of calculation is not something I can figure out on my own. So I'm counting on my friends in blogland, or possibly my mathematical-genius younger brother, who has recently gone MIA from the blogosphere.


I had the best weekend. Don't even try to argue with me about it. It was the best.

We arrived Friday night at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort after sitting in six hours of holiday weekend, rush hour, Southern-Californians-not-knowing-how-to-drive-in-the-rain, traffic. First order of business: a long soak in the private mineral springs spa conveniently located on the deck of our room, accompanied by a delicious bottle of local Pinot Noir. Second order of business: none of your business!

Saturday morning, after sleeping in and another soak in the spa (in the rain, which was surprisingly fun), we were both treated to a relaxing massage. Then, it was off for an afternoon of wine tasting. Several vineyards, the equivalent of a bottle of wine each, and at least a case of purchased wine later, we indulged in an afternoon nap before heading out for dinner.

Dinner was interesting and may deserve its own post, but a long paragraph will have to suffice. Imagine the tackiest place you've ever been. I guarantee you, it will pale in comparison to this place. Upon first arriving and getting a brief glimpse of the lobby, we were a little apprehensive. But we were given a recommendation from a trusted source that the food at the Madonna Inn restaurant was excellent, so we pressed on. While waiting for our table (because who would think a place like this would be so popular as to need a reservation), we had the opportunity to more fully explore the premises. Red velvet jacquard walls with elaborate gold-framed mirrors surrounded us. Even the wall made entirely of mirrors had extra gold-framed mirrors hung on it. Flying golden cherubs were everywhere, most holding candle-lights. In honor of Valentine's Day (at least I hope that's the reason), there were no less than ten large, red-and-white papier mache hearts hanging above us at any given spot. Thousands of white lights produced an ambient glow that I'm sure was intended to be much more subtle. A swing band of nine men in their 60s, who I can only imagine had been playing there since the grand opening in the 1960s, was playing on the stage in front of the dance floor. All chairs and benches were made of thick, pink leather-like material and dark, elaborately-carved wood. The carpet had huge pink and red roses surrounded by greenery. Multi-colored, heavy, ornate goblets were set on pink linens at every table. Our table was apparently special -- it faced a man-made lattice corner, and we sat with our backs to the other restaurant-goers underneath a huge man-made tree. The food was good, as promised, and Juro (our waiter) gave us two free desserts -- I just wish we had thought to bring a camera to memorialize the whole experience. Too bad we didn't get to see any of the rooms while we were there!

Sunday morning, we slept in again and enjoyed another soak in our private spa before heading home via a leisurely, scenic drive down the coast.

Despite the fact that I got sick from slowing down after a couple of weeks of non-stop busy-ness, it was a lovely, romantic weekend that I hope to repeat in the near future.