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I was out of coffee pots.

I had broken my 3 cup Bialetti espresso stovetop pot (called a Moka), which I use daily for my morning coffee. I was forced to switch to my rarely used drip pot, one that I keep in case I have drip-drinking guests.

The drip pot hates me. See, I happen to know that big boulders of grind do not espresso-strong coffee make. Every time I grind beans, I try to find that fine line between too fine and just right for a strong-brewed drip. About 5 times out of ten I go over the line, ending up with too fine of a grind, clogging up the filter, and resulting in a countertop, toaster oven, cupboard front and floor full of weak coffee and trails of wet grinds. This last happened yesterday. I had turned on the pot and left the room. When I came back…..well I just described what happens right?

Fed up, I remembered that I had an old French press somewhere, managed to find it, and made a pot. Tried to drink it. It pretty much spit itself out it was so bad.

You know, I know we all know that the French, while culinary geniuses in general….well, don’t make very good coffee. What I don’t understand then, is why there is such a market for their coffee pots.

No angry cards and letters please, I gave you the “culinary geniuses,” you can’t have everything. If any of you actually like a cup of French press coffee, I won’t stop you from drinking it. But I do reserve the right to turn up my Italy-reared coffee-snob nose at you while you do it.

Obviously, I need to go out and buy another Moka pot, which I was prevented from doing yesterday by Mother nature, who in Maine, is currently having an affair with Mr. Snow (who’s first name is “Wholelotta”), and they are both in cahoots with the city plowman to make sure the mouth of my driveway is absolutely not useable as an exit. I had to wait until this morning after my plowman cleared it out so I could run out before breakfast in search of a pot. I stopped at the local kitchen store to find, as a sad reminder of the current economic conditions in this country, that it is closed for good. The Maine Roasters coffee shop I tried was out of stock. And it was through this series of seemingly non-events, that I drove to the next town up the coast for a Moka pot and a serendipitous Only-in-Maine occurrence.

After yesterday’s severe blizzard, we were left with a huge pile of snow and the parking lot for this 2nd Maine Roasters was pretty deep in it although it was plain to see that efforts to plow it out had been made. As I parked, the woman in the car next to mine was pulling out and her wheels started spinning uselessly in the snow. We made commiserating shrugs at each other as she rocked back and forth trying to dislodge and reverse out. I went around her to see if there were any large hard snow clumps blocking her tires, as it seemed (and there were), and she rolled down her window laughing as I kicked at the clumps that she was in her mother’s old car and “gee, I guess she doesn’t have snow tires on it.” I suggested a lower gear and laying off the gas, which she did and she started to move as her wheels finally gripped. Just a quick moment, 2 strangers, barely connecting, over living in the snow. As I walked towards my new coffee pot, she yelled out “wait, I have something for you.” Turns out she was at the coffee shop pushing her wares, and had a last sample.

Eat Me!

Eat Me!

She gave me what looked like an ordinary sesame bagel, individually wrapped. The last in a large sample box she had in the car. Sesame happens to be my favorite bagel and I hadn’t as yet eaten breakfast, having, if you recall, left the house in search of a coffee pot before eating. 

“Take it” she said. They are wholesalers only, so she wasn’t selling any, it was just a gift. A small kindness – 2 strangers. This is the essence of Maine. I had to ask her for a card. This old mailer was all she had (see left) to give me. 

The bagel, I was informed, is made of spelt, is all organic, healthy, natural, and made locally (click on the image on the left for more info – interesting facts on spelt and the bakery too) in an old mill building powered by the Royal River in Yarmouth. Right up my alley. Made locally, I mean. I am a big supporter of local business and am always looking for new ways to make sure that any money I spend stays right here in Maine. Plus, a water-mill powered bakery? How cool is that?

So, I went in to the shop with a big smile on my face, bought my coffee pot, went home, and made breakfast (and coffee – ahhhh!). 

Can you spelt "Breakfast?"Since I had this beautiful fresh bagel, I couldn’t not eat it, right? I’d never eaten anthing made from spelt that I know of and decided to try it. Karma seemed to be flowing in that direction. I cooked up a few egg whites (my favorite, for those of you groaning “ew” – it isn’t about health or diet, I just like them that way), toasted the bagel, spread a little whipped cream cheese on it, and made an open face sandwich. 

IT WAS DELICIOUS!!!! The taste is hard to describe, like regular wheat bread but with a nutty undertone. Crunchy, light (not overly dense) yet quite filling, great texture, like a good bakery whole grain, but didn’t scratch the roof of my mouth the way whole grain breads do when toasted. 

All in all a great breakfast, eaten with a smile due to a stranger and a shared snow moment. And, what do you know, I just discovered that I like spelt. Or, that I like Spelt Right baked goods. For those readers in Maine, look for Spelt Right products at a store near you (too Madison Avenue? Comment and let me know. But Spelt Right has no idea that I’m writing them up here, ’cause that’s the way I roll – no pun intended).

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You have to forgive my prolonged absence (just 4 days!) from the blogosphere recently, I haven’t been feeling so well and was not making much sense in writing (or in any other medium either). As a favor to you, dear loyal readers, I decided not to subject you to my crazier than usual rantings – which is a nice way of saying, GET OFF MY BACK ALREADY! But, as long as I’m here……….

When I first moved to Maine, I was regaled with all sorts of useless advice from a whole cross-section of people “from away,” as if they had anything worthwhile to contribute on coping with life in this remote northern corner of these United States.

The one piece of useful advice I did get was from an older brother who lives in upstate New York. He told me that I absolutely without fail had to buy myself a Subaru Forester if I were going to survive Maine roads in the winter. Not that he’s an expert on Maine, far from it, but he does live and drive in the snow in winter and he happens to have lots of experience with just about every car there is.

In his opinion the Forester, which is All Wheel Drive (as are all Subarus), is the best possible snow car, better than any vehicle for any amount of money, domestic or imported (not that “any amount of money” was in my budget, but you get the idea).

I did some checking upon arrival in Maine, having donated my barely functioning California vehicle into the open arms of Father Joe’s Villages,* and found I could not get a four wheel drive hybrid – so with “green running” off the table, safety and survival became key. Off to the Subaru dealer I went.

I found and bought a barely used (300 mi) silver Subaru Forester, LL Bean model – what else? VW has Karmann, Lincoln has Bill Blass, Subaru has Bean. Price couldn’t be beat, all was well, and I bought the car.

First trip to a rather large Hannaford’s supermarket with the new car, I go inside with my list, do my shopping for the week, come out with a cart full of groceries, and…….Uh oh!

You see, it appears that my dear brother is not the only one who knows that the Forester is the best snow car.

All I can say is thank goodness for remote door locking/unlocking with attendant beeps and light flashes or I’d still be wandering around that parking lot looking for my car, and my groceries and I would all be frozen solid by now!

Who knew that Maine had a state car?

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*Father Joe’s Villages (St. Vincent de Paul) will take your unwanted vehicle as a donation. Go to http://www.fatherjoesvillages.org/donations.html for more information

Remember The 2 Bushes?

No, not those 2 Bushes. These Bushes:

The Bushes in Fall

The Bushes in Fall

The 2 bushes that stand outside my living room window from my “A fungus among us…..” post. Well, here they are today:

The Bushes - Not much of an approval rating.

The Bushes - Not much of an approval rating.

Uh-huh. We had a doosey of a storm last night, dropping up to 2 feet of snow in parts of Maine (as you loyal readers know, that’s 2 – 3 inches in Mainer-speak).

Here’s the thing. Snow isn’t just snow. You see, there’s all kinds of snow. There is light, fluffy, dry snow – the kind you can’t even make snowballs out of. Then there is heavy, wet, sticky snow. Which is what we got last night. Snow this heavy turns big fluffy pine tress into scrawny telephone pole looking things by virtue of the sheer weight of the snow on the branches. Snow laden birch trees bend over in big arches, their tips almost touching the ground. And bushes, my precious bushes, get flattened like pancakes. Not to worry, as soon as this melts, they’ll pop up again and do something else photo-worthy.

Now along with this blizzard – so named in Onlyinmaineland because all of this snow fell in one overnight session and did so with 20-30 mph winds – we got another phenomenon. Let me see if I can explain. When it snows this kind of sticky snow and the wind is blowing at the same time, the snow sticks to everything, including vertical surfaces, like tree trunks.

It snowed sideways.....AGAIN

It snowed sideways.....AGAIN

Once it stopped snowing, the wind started in earnest, and the most horrible noises ensued. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on and it sounded like the house was being battered by a Mack truck.

I couldn’t not go investigate, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it. So I forced myself out of my toasty warm bed, put on my snow gear and knee boots and waded out into the deep snow and howling wind to see what was going on.

With all that wind, dang if the tall birch tree next to the house that was bent over in an upside down “U” shape under the weight of snow wasn’t bitch-slapping my house!

Giant gobs of snow were flying off of the trees and slamming up against the windows. The dog was going nuts and I spent the entire night feeling like I was being attacked by Visigoths hurling cannonballs…..

Never a dull moment.

Before I moved to here, my Los Angeles friends regaled me with their idea of life in Maine: “you know, you won’t be able to get a decent meal there.”

This is funny on so many levels.

First, it is almost impossible to get a good meal in LA. By that I mean reasonably priced unpretentious food in regular sized portions in a pleasant atmosphere. You either pay through the nose, eat garbage, or the atmosphere is too weird for words (assuming you can get past the velvet rope at the door in some cases) like disco-loud music, or ridiculously bad acoustics or frightening decor and funny seating – it’s always something.

And “service” isn’t even a word in the dictionary anymore.

There is just no such thing as going to a decent place with interesting well prepared food that that doesn’t rape your wallet or strain your taste buds (shrimp salad with strawberries? Come on! Especially when the shrimp is canned) or your back (with the funny seating).

Second, I have to say that since I moved to Maine I haven’t had a bad meal (except for a dinner I burned and that one mistaken visit to the chain “Italian” family style joint). If you stick to locally owned businesses, you’ll do great.

Mainers believe in buying local, and restaurant food reflects that. Fresh local food, well prepared, unpretentious menus, decently priced. No strange seating – like tall tables you stand at or sofas you eat on while bent over a coffee table or floor seating or bed seating whatever other crazy ideas they come up with in a place like Los Angeles to get people in the door. I guess good food is passe` as a marketing concept on the west coast.

OK, so we’ve had a good laugh at Los Angelenos’ idea of a “decent meal.” 

This is not a food blog per se, and I hesitate to write about food again so soon but I have to mention a place I ate at yesterday, for the third time this month. Normally, I rarely eat out. Mainly because my favorite food is my own. I’m on a budget. And I like to keep my health up and my weight down without dieting which means making my own foods – low in fat, almost no sat fat, and lower in salt without sacrificing any flavor or texture. And without resorting to “fake foods” like margarine. Or anything with creative spelling on the label, like “Bac-o-bits.” Or “cheese product” in a green can (you know who you are, and don’t write or sue. When you package synthetics as food, you can’t complain if people don’t like you and say so. Repeatedly).

Back to the topic at hand: Paciarino. Enough has been written about this place that I don’t need to repeat. Suffice to say that the owners, Fabiana de Savino and Enrico Barbiero are from Milano (Italy) where they owned 2 restaurants. They fell in love with Portland while visiting and moved there a few months ago, opening a little place downtown called Paciarino. Fabiana explains to me that Paciarino is Milanese dialect for – near as I can translate to English – a homemade “nosh” – not really a full on meal, not kids fare, and not something out of a box. Think “pacifier” in the Jewish sense – food that’ll make you very happy ’til your next meal.

This is Fabiana:

Fabiana de Savino - her food makes me want to cry

Fabiana de Savino - food so good it makes me cry!

Fabiana makes her own fresh pasta and sauces at Paciarino which is more of a store with a few tables than a restaurant. Fresh pastas and sauces are for sale alongside other Italian delicacies. They list 4 or 5 homemade pasta dishes on a chalkboard which can be had as take out, or you order and pay at the counter, find a place to sit, family style, and they bring you your food. Hot lunch with table service for well under $15. Not only hot but heavenly. I miss real Italian food and Fabiana hasn’t had a chance to be corrupted by what American customers think they want in an Italian dish (let’s hope she never is) – so her recipes are pure unadulterated Italian. The lasagne I had there made me want to cry it was so good. I’ve never had anything like it anywhere in the USA. It’s hard to find it that good even in Italy.

And this is her food:

Oops, (*urp*) delizioso!

Delizioso!

 

Or it would have been had it not been so good it disappeared before I could get out the camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paciarino is located at 468 Fore Street in Portland right by the Portland Harbor Hotel. Tel: 207-774-3500, e-mail: info@paciarino.com. Closed Monday. Take out or eat in, not yet open for dinner.

Dear State Representative,

I am a voter of age in your district.

I urge you to vote yes on Senator Damon’s Marriage Bill.

It is high time that the concept of equal CIVIL rights be applied to all American citizens.

A marriage license is a civil document applied for through local government, not through the applicant’s church. It is a legal document that confers certain CIVIL rights, not moral or religious ones. It has nothing to do with adopting children, is not about eroding family values, or any moral or religious objection being raised by the religious right. If God made us all in his image I think He would not be happy to see us discriminating against any one group of His children.

Enough.

Give same-sex couples the right to file joint income tax returns, to share health benefits, to be able to sit by a hospital bedside or make funeral arrangements etc.

I cannot see how conferring these rights will affect “family values.” If one has certain values and teaches them within one’s family and lives life as an example of those values to one’s family, then one needn’t be worried about one’s children being negatively influenced by outside sources. 

With or without the sanction of state licensing, same-sex couples will continue to live together. If it is prohibited by a religion to marry a member of the same sex, then that church will most likely not be performing these marriages and same sex couples would probably not be welcome in that congregation. Why then the hysteria?

Why in this time of national crisis and world economic and political turmoil is this the issue worth making a stand against with such venom?

Sincerely,

Only in Maine

PS: I tried to leave a message on the state House of Representatives messaging system tonight but was informed that “the mailbox is full.” I take that to mean that I am probably not the first voter you will have heard from tonight. Any other explanation for that would just be too awful.

During a trip to the Whole Foods in Portland the day before this year’s Super Bowl, I found they were hosting what amounted to a rollicking party, buffet style.  

Taking advantage of the uniquely American tradition of stuffing your face with finger food while watching the grandaddy of all football games, Whole Foods was featuring Super Bowl party fare – New England Style. That is to say, not New England style foods, but foods made or grown in Maine.

We may think of a lot of things when we think “Maine” (like “snow”), but I’m betting “salsa” is not one of them. Well, guess again. I was truly amazed at the selection of locally made salsas – and after having lived in Southern California for 25 years, I like to think that I know a little something about good salsa. Well, this selection blew my socks off.

I thought I might make a regular feature showcasing local foods, and you can consider this the first of many such posts.

Here is the best of what I found at Whole Foods that day:

Roy Guzman of Guzman's Gourmet Salsa

Roy Guzman of Guzman's Gourmet Salsa

This is Roy of Guzman’s Gourmet Salsa. I ate enough for a whole first quarter at this one table alone. They have enough flavors to start their own Salsa Supermarket. Flavors like Tequila Lime and Mango Tango and Black Bean Corn, which you would expect in a salsa and most likely have seen before, but Guzman’s takes that extra step and has flavors like Tropical Passion, Blueberry and Cranapple. All fresh tasting and truly divine. I was loathe to leave, plus Roy was a nice guy and didn’t mind feeding my endless pit of a stomach. Hi Roy! Guzman’s has a whole line of foods made right here in Maine, check out the link above.

 

John Farnsworth of Tiger Teeth Pepper
John Farnsworth of Tiger Teeth Pepper

Meet John from Tiger Teeth Pepper. See that hat he’s wearing? That’s not because he’s a chef. It’s because the top of his head has been blown clean off by the Fiery Habanero Salsa he makes. Boy that stuff had a kick! I adore spicy but am not one of those people that lives by “the hotter the better,” to me flavor is very important. Heat alone just doesn’t cut it. This stuff is sublime. Not only is it spicy but you can really taste the pepper flavor. Delicious. John is homegrown, and his salsa is produced right here in Maine too.

 

Pam Granese of Pam's Black Bean Salsa

Pam Granese of Pam's Black Bean Salsa

This is Pam, of Pam’s Black Bean Salsa. This stuff was awesome and I don’t even like beans!! You can really taste the “fresh.” Let me interject here and inform you that my cellphone was doubling as an inferior camera that day so you (and Pam) will have to forgive the glaring, well, glare, right smack dab in the center of her logo sign… Pam is a nice lady too and I know she will forgive me. Pam’s isn’t Maine produced – she’s from a bit further south in some state we don’t like to mention. But it is still New England, and she helps prove that the western states don’t have a lock on salsa!

 

So with all these salsas, we really need some chips. I found these while meandering through the market that day:

Fox Family Potato Chips

Fox Family Potato Chips

How about that? The only Maine made potato chip. These were yummy. Very crispy and fresh tasting, more substantial than your regular chip (strong enough to dip) but not as thick as some kettle chips. The result is crunchy and light, very tasty but not too salty. De-licious. It’s really hard to believe that they have no cholesterol, no trans-fat and no preservatives as advertised on the label – they are that good.

Not everything I tried that day was delicious. Some stuff was OK, but wasn’t worth writing about and I wouldn’t waste your time or mine. But these foods were truly special – check out the links for complete product lines and information on where to find them near you.

Did your team win on Super Bowl Sunday? Mine sure did – Team FOOD that is.

I’m caught a bit short, the next few posts I have planned need a ton more work between uploading, downloading, photo editing, and let’s not forget actual writing – but I’m being relentlessly hounded by a few readers – and you know who you are – to post something RIGHT NOW (jeez, get a life!) so I thought I would oblige because I’ll do almost anything for my dear loyal readers (read: will pander shamelessly at the least provocation).

One of the (many, many) things I love about Maine are the colors. They are never static. Every time you look outside, the view changes. There is always something new and the colors are constantly changing. I swear I feel like I stole something every time I look out the window because how can it be that the whole world isn’t beating a path to this door? Or am I the only one that sees these things?

This post is almost like cheating because I’m letting Maine do the work for me.

'Shrooms!!!

'Shrooms!!!

These were new last fall – they weren’t there the previous fall. I had never seen mushrooms quite this color – not shown to it’s best advantage (the color), but such a bright, almost fluorescent orange that I had to run and get the camera. These appeared only in this spot. Maybe there’s something special about the rotting host tree, I don’t know.

The Bushes in Fall

The Bushes in Fall

This bush is one of two just outside my living room windows at the front of the house. I have no idea what they are called but the leaves turn bright fuchsia every fall, and when the leaves finally fall off small red berries develop that cling to the bush until spring. Perhaps one of you could enlighten me.

Little red berries.....

Little red berries.....

I am fascinated by these bushes. When I bought the house it was summer and the bushes looked a little silly and forlorn sitting under the windows with no other surrounding landscaping except the lawn. They are twiggy at the bottom and not very attractive, or so I thought.

Meanwhile I now have more pictures of these bushes than any other single object, living or dead. I cannot stop snapping away. Because in winter, other things happen and they are beautiful all the time. Except summer, when they are nondescript – and were almost ripped out as the first “improvement” I was going to make to the house’s “curb appeal.” Thank goodness, in this case, for procrastination. Because once I saw what happens in the fall – well, they’re still there, modeling for my camera through the seasons. Except summer.

All covered in snow...

All covered in snow...

Did I mention that these bushes fascinate me? My biggest disappointment this year was that I could not for the life of me take a decent shot of these bushes after the ice storm when every single twig and each berry was completely coated with ice, making it shimmer like diamonds.

I guess if that’s my biggest disappointment I don’t have much to complain about, huh?

It has been awhile since I’ve posted something that is uniquely Maine and not having to do with winter which we are all sick of anyway. Besides, we are having a one-day record breaking heat wave – highs of 45 today. I’m shfitzing*, I tell you. 

*For those of you not from New York or Eastern Europe, that means “sweating like a pig” in Yiddish. OK, not like a pig, but you get the idea.

So here’s a photo I’ve been saving up for just this occasion.

 

No parking here.

No Parking - Any Time

I’m not going to have a contest for it, there’s no need, the photo speaks for itself. I’d leave it at that and end here but who can resist?

The roadside pond that this sign is in was frozen solid, even though it was fall and temperatures were in the fifties and hadn’t reached freezing yet. I cannot explain this but I do have two witnesses one of which is my nephew who snapped this photo for me with my camera because I just couldn’t seem to frame the shot so that it made sense. I guess he couldn’t either because I’m pretty sure it still doesn’t make any sense. Are they worried that the U.S.S. George Herbert Walker Bush is going to pull in here and park overnight? Actually, that would worry me too.

I did notice, when I moved here, that parking signs abound. There are very few street signs here, in a place where streets have different names for every block – but there is a parking sign every few feet. Sometimes they are made of paper and are stapled to trees. For real. Official city signs. I don’t have a photo of that handy so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Now if this were Italy, where I lived for 20 years, I’d assume that the mayor’s brother-in-law had a sign company, but this is Maine and we don’t do things that way. We just want to make sure you know exactly where to park, for how long and also where not to park, any time. And in case you are still not sure, we will waive your first parking ticket every 6 months.

So in case you pull in here, next to our newest aircraft carrier, you’ll still get a bye!

A friend of mine asked if she could put in a request for a post on a particular subject. Are you kidding me? Would I be amenable to having the dreaded burden of coming up with a topic taken off of my shoulders???? I most certainly would. I am more than happy to take requests so please feel free to suggest any topic you like. Whether or not I actually write a post on the subject you suggest will, of course, be entirely up to me. Because I am the Queen of Onlyinmainelandia, and my word is law.

So what was my friend’s topic suggestion? I copy it here:

“So do you take blog requests? In Maine, are you living in an igloo or what? When it snows 3 feet, does your electric go out and you have to rely on your wits and a good woodstove? Lets hear how the mainlanders survive like the pilgrims!”

Yes, my friend, I do live in an igloo….

 

MY IGLOO

MY IGLOO

If only it would just snow only 3 feet, there wouldn’t be any problem. The electric does go out every so often due to,,,,,”1 to 3 inches of snow,” and I do have to rely on my wits. Luckily I am a very witty person. 

I have no woodstove, but a very nice fireplace which I use to heat the house and I cook in it as well when the power goes out. Mostly I run over to my neighbor’s house and they feed me and keep me warm with their woodstove. I have very lovely neighbors. I like them a lot.

By “mainlanders” I assume you mean “Mainers.” How do they survive? A Mainer’s answer would be “How do we survive what? A little snow?” 

Just another day to a true Mainer. To illustrate, whenever there is a storm bad enough to knock out power, shelters are opened all over but they usually remain empty, perhaps a couple of nonagenarians (that’s people in their nineties, Erwin) if the power outage is long enough. Because no matter how much denial there is about the winter weather, a lot of houses have either a generator or a woodstove or both. And Mainers are neighborly. They check on each other and help each other out. Very few people have to avail themselves of their local shelter.

The snow does not bring us hardship. It brings business (skiers and winter recreation, etc.) and work (plowing, roof sweeping, road and drive sanding, shovelling jobs, etc.). BRING IT!

I like this topic suggestion thing, and may make it a regular Sunday feature. What do you think? Let me know, leave me a comment here!

OK, I promise that this isn’t going to be a “weather blog” but you gotta go with what’s out there, you know? There will be all sorts of other stuff, I promise, just not today.

This morning, before getting dressed to leave the house, I checked my usual internet weather feed….

 

Today's local weather forecast....

Today's local weather forecast....

So far so good right, “Fair,” “Sunny”….But WAIT! What do we see there up top in red? Does that say “SEVERE WEATHER ALERT?” Why yes, I believe it does. What severe weather could be in store if the powers that be are predicting “Fair” and “Sunny?” Conversely, if they know that severe weather is coming, why aren’t they predicting “Severe Weather” instead of “Fair” and “Sunny” with a side of alerts?  

I hear that a side of alerts is always good with katsup, but I digress.

Moving right along, curiosity and common sense had me immediately clicking on the appropriate hot button which yielded this bit of no-longer-surprising news:

 

SEVERE WEATHER ALERT!

SEVERE WEATHER ALERT!

I say “no-longer-surprising news” because after living here for 2 and a half years, I’ve already figured out how they manipulate their weather findings

To recap:  According to the prediction, today’s weather is going to be “Fair” and “Sunny” with winds topping out at 18mph but I should watch out for 35mph winds and snow so thick, it’s going to reduce visibility to half a mile?????  

How much snow?  

Only an inch, of course!

I’ll write an epilogue for this tonight when I’m snowed in under a foot of the stuff…….