Long distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee…

Those are the beginning lyrics of “Memphis” by Johnny Rivers.  Why Memphis?  Well, as you might guess I’m planning to visit there. “Long distance” certainly as I am in California and have never been to Tennessee. I have recently been notified that the Blogger 19 are having a reunion in Memphis this coming July. I’m not big on traveling and I would probably never go there if not for the generosity of Brizo Faucets.9922638-green-memphis-tennessee-usa-highway-sign-on-cloud-background

I am a member of the original group of 19 kitchen design bloggers that were invited to attend the Fashion Week activities hosted by Brizo Faucets (already more than three years ago) in New York that included a runway show by fashion designer Jason Wu. Jason has been a long time collaborator with Brizo in their advertising campaigns and has since designed a line of faucets for Brizo.wu faucet If you don’t know Jason’s work by this connection with Brizo, then you might know him as the fashion designer that designed both inaugural ball gowns for Michelle Obama. Since then, Brizo has continued to host groups of design bloggers and the groups of ’19’ now number over 100.

Again, why Memphis? And especially, why the South in July? I believe it is because it is the headquarters for Delta Faucet that Brizo is a division of and they have facilities that can accommodate such a large group. I was also able determine that faucets are manufactured in nearby Jackson.  OK –these are deductions I’ve made from my internet sleuthing and I may be adding 2 + 2 and coming up with 6, but I’m sure more information about the event will be arriving soon.skyline

Truth be known, I’d go even if it were going to be on the salt flats of the Mojave in summer! I am very excited at the prospect of meeting up with my original B19 compadres as well as many members of the newer groups that I have become acquainted with through my social networking activities. I’ve only met a few of them in person, but am looking forward to meeting many more. I’m also happy to see our benefactors once again of Brizo and MSL who came up with this zany and cleaver idea to organize these otherwise unconnected and vastly dispersed individuals who have a vague and varied commonality of interest in kitchen and bath design that they have noted through their blogs.  Our “members” are spread throughout the US and Canada. We even have one that is from England!

“Help me, information, more than that I cannot add
Only that I miss her and all the fun we had
Marie is only six years old, information please
Try to put me through to her in Memphis Tennessee…”

More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/j/johnny_rivers/


Southern Hospitality in Louisville

Last week I was a guest at the GE Monogram Experience Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Product manufacturers have come to realize the power of social media and have begun including bloggers such as myself in their training seminars. Mind you, I am also a professional designer and am likely to be interested in the type of products they produce and will be inclined to specify them if I know about them. GE Monogram provides these seminars weekly throughout the year to those who are primarily appliance dealers, developers and contractors. A couple of weeks a year, they have seminars geared toward architects and designers –those who are likely to specify but not necessarily sell appliances directly. This past week was one of those weeks. I opted to attend the fall session because it was after the new product roll-out for the coming year.

This particular blog entry however is intended to share my Louisville experience. GE Monogram folks were the epitome of hospitality and allowed me to participate in an adventure far more extensive than I could have anticipated. I will followup with a blog later on this week telling you about the wonderful appliances I learned about (and am now completely enamored with and coveting). No problem promoting GE Monogram here! But first let me tell you about my Louisville experience:

Nancy Pollock, Concierge for the Monogram Experience Center, is absolutely phenomenal. She coordinates the agenda, travel and lodging provided by GE to seminar participants from all around the country –day in and day out. Our group was a smallish (compared to the usual) of about 15.  Saying she does a fabulous job is an understatement. I can never begin to express my gratitde or the appreciation she deserves for making everything flow so smoothly from my travel arrangements, the accommodations at the 21c boutique hotel and art gallery, the Monogram Experience Center –and finally making sure I didn’t have a bored or wasted moment when the planned activites ended on the last day several hours before my departing flight was scheduled. She really had a way of making each of us feel appreciated for the time we spent with GE Monogram in Louisville.

“21c has been voted #1 Hotel in the U.S. and #6 in the World in the Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards 2009 AND 2010.” Here is some of the art that was on display while I stayed at 21c:


This is the room that I had all to myself!

Notice the red penguins. There were 4-foot models of these all over the place. They stood as guardians on parade along the roof outside. They had a habit of showing up in some odd places. You never knew when one would be standing just outside your door. Some guests might even find one resting in their bed when they returned to their room at night! Creepy!
21c has famous (infamous?) restrooms: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bq8hk-IPWJs&feature=fvw and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsVap8Irclo&feature=related.  (These are the public restrooms not the ones in the suites.) The award-winning restaurant at 21C is Proof (referring to the local bourbon distilleries of course –there ware six of them nearby) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEWMYahdE8o&feature=related.  We had dinner there the first night and it was incredible.
Aside from the GE Monogram Experience Center Events, she arranged other activities as well such as first-time-ever visit for the design group to the Louisville Arts and Crafts Museum and Gallery that is right across the street from 21c.

These are the hand-forged iron pulls that were on the main entry doors. There were many beautiful examples of ironwork at the gallery.

I purchased some beautiful blown glass earrings with the gift certificate that was bestowed upon me.  Each of the participants received a gift certificate to spend at the museum.  We were designers after all and we DO love to shop!

Central to the MEC (Monogram Experience Center) is a cooking theatre that is a lab with several kitchens stocked with the superstars of the Monogram collection of cooking and cleaning appliances. Our “culinary trainers” were Chefs Joe Castro and Brian Logsdon.  Both were not only wonderful chefs but just delightful people to get to know.  I’m so happy they have a blog that has several of their webinars posted on there that really give you a sense of the experience I had cooking along with them at the MEC. http://www.monogram.com/all-in-good-food/

Santa Maria, California

The City of Santa Maria lies in the Central Coast Region of California.  It’s where I was born and where I returned to live after living more than 40 years elsewhere.  The population sign says there’s more than 90,000 residents here, but you’d never guess it.  The atmosphere here is characteristically rural as we have very few high-rise buildings.  In fact, there are only a couple I know of that are more than three stories tall.  One is an ugly mid-century modern building that is a retirement facility looking totally out place in it’s surroundings, and the other is the modern state government offices (also ignoring local vernacular) that are fairly recent additions to the local landscape.  Interspersed among the housing tracts and strip malls are fields of strawberries.  There is A movie theatre and A mall… Oh, and a new big beautiful ($35,000,000) library.  The city sits within the Santa Maria Valley that stretches from the Pacific to the Santa Lucia Mountains along Highway 101 just a half-hour drive south of San Luis Obispo and an hour north of Santa Barbara.   Our town is not a tourist destination by any means.  It is the home to a predominantly Hispanic population and is a bedroom community to the nearby tourist, wine, farm and ranch industries and beach communities.  There’s more taquarillas, tienditas and panaderias than I can count –so if you want ‘authentic’ Mexican food, this is where it’s at on the Central Coast.  (Our favorite is El Toro on the corner of Blosser and Main.) Just a half-hour’s drive southwest on Highway 135 (which is called Broadway in town) is the City of Lompoc, Vandenberg Village and Vandenberg Air Force Base.  We’re also near the Diablo Canyon nuclear power facility that emits infrequent tests of its warning sirens.  (Blessing?  More like a ‘kiss-your-ass-goodbye warning ‘cuz we’re that close!)  The south end of town is actually the old Town of Orcutt that was once a sea port.  The entrance to the bay was filled in by the dunes more than a century ago.

We have a regional airport that sends “puddle jumpers” to international airports.  Allen Hancock Air Field (not to be confused with Hancock Field in Syracuse) is a part of Santa Maria’s historic legacy.  The local community college is named after Captain Hancock.  My dad purchased an airplane from him in the 1940’s.  He says he was one of the nicest gentlemen you’d ever want to meet.

In 1927 Captain G. Allan Hancock founded the Allan Hancock Air Field. For years it was a peaceful setting, but with a few events of aviation historical interest. One of these was the sponsorship by Captain Hancock of the first trans-Pacific flight by Charles Kingsford-Smith and three other men in a Fokker Tri-motor, the “Southern Cross,” shown here on display in Santa Maria. This trip started on May 31, 1928, just one year and eleven days after Charles Lindbergh’s history making 33.5 hour non-stop flight across the Atlantic. ~Santa Maria Museum of Flight

The ocean is about 12 miles to the west.  On the way is the very old little town of Guadalupe which is set in the middle of the rich Santa Maria Valley where most of the strawberries that Santa Maria is famous for are grown.  The valley is flat between the desolate dunes of the 18 square mile stretch of the Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes Reserve (which is why we get the ‘benefit’ of coastal weather –marine layer, fog, wind and all- without an ocean view).  The beach has been the site of many movie sets.  In the 1930’s the Charlton Heston movie “The Ten Commandments” was filmed there.  The sets were just left there and people are still trying to dig up artifacts from them that have long since been covered by sand dunes.  Most recently, parts of Johnny Depp’s movie “Pirates of the Caribbean:  At Worlds End” were filmed there also. 

The little Oso Flaco lake is nearby. The first inhabitants of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes were Native Americans of the Chumash tribe, whose settlements were noticed by early Spanish maritime explorers. However, Europeans did not travel through the Dunes themselves until 1769.[10] These explorers were members of Don Gaspar de Portola’s overland expedition. While staying in the Dunes, the explorers shot a skinny bear by the shores of what is now called Oso Flaco Lake. After eating the bear, two of the explorers died. The skinny bear had been poisoned by the Chumash who, as a means of protection, often incapacitated dangerous wildlife by feeding them tainted meat.[11] This incident resulted in the lake’s name: Oso Flaco or "Skinny Bear." ~Wikipedia

Before the wine industry boom hit the Central Coast, the nearby rolling hills were dotted with cattle.  So Santa Maria was known for two things:  Barbeque and strawberries:

Strawberry Industry Facts (from http://santamariavisitor.com/cm/welcome/Home.html)

Local Facts

  • Americans consume an average of 4.85 pounds of strawberries per capita each year, and many of those strawberries are grown in the fertile soils of the Santa Maria Valley.
  • Most of Santa Maria’s strawberry fields are replanted every year. It’s a practice that may be more costly, but produces a better quality fruit and higher yields.
  • Santa Maria Strawberries are always hand-picked at the peak of ripeness, rushed to coolers and shipped immediately by means of refrigerated trucks or by air freight. The entire process means that, wherever you live, you will be buying the freshest, most flavorful strawberry possible.
  • In the spring and summertime, the sweet fragrance of strawberries perfume the air all around Santa Maria. You won’t have to look far to sample these succulent berries. Fruit stands line many a street around the city, offering strawberries for sale, fresh from the fields.
  • Another sure bet for finding fresh strawberries is at one of the area’s Farmer’s Markets. Contact the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau for times and locations.
  • If it’s the ultimate strawberry experience you are seeking, then make plans to attend the Annual Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival, which takes place each April at the Santa Maria Fairpark. You’ll have the chance to sample different strawberry varieties, sink your teeth into scrumptious strawberry desserts prepared by local non-profit organizations, learn about the strawberry industry, and enjoy the food, rides and fun of an old-fashioned carnival.
  • Santa Maria boasts the perfect sunny, coastal climate for growing strawberries, and its mild winters and moderate summers produce a long growing season. All in all, Santa Maria produces 10 million boxes of strawberries annually, which are transported to supermarkets all across the United States
  • Each year California harvests enough strawberries, if laid berry to berry, to wrap around the world nearly 15 times.

Fun Facts

  • Besides being versatile and delicious, strawberries also pack a nutritional punch. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, fiber, folic acid and potassium. All that, and they’re low in calories and fat-free too! So go ahead, add them to your cereal, load them onto desserts, throw a handful into your salad, or just pop them into your mouth for a sweet and healthy treat.
  • Did you know there are approximately 200 seeds in the average strawberry?
  • When selecting strawberries, make sure they have a bright red color, a natural shine and fresh-looking green caps. Santa Maria strawberries are fully ripe at the time they are picked and do not continue to ripen afterward.
  • Always refrigerate strawberries immediately in a dry container covered loosely with plastic wrap, and they will keep for several days. Do not wash them until just before they are served, and do not remove their green caps until after they are washed.
  • For best flavor, allow strawberries to reach room temperature before serving
  • Did you know that eight medium strawberries contain 140% of the U.S. RDA for Vitamin C. That’s more than oranges!
  • As part of the 5-a-day fruit and vegetable program suggested by the American Cancer Society, strawberries can play a part in helping reduce your risk of cancer and heart attacks.
  • According to a recent national survey, strawberry lovers were labeled as "health conscious, fun loving, intelligent and happy."
  • In France, strawberries are believed to be a potent aphrodisiac! Newlyweds were served strawberry soup made from thinned sour cream, strawberries, an herb called borage (tastes of cucumber) and powdered sugar. Yum!
  • If you happen upon a double strawberry, break it in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex. Watch for Cupid, because legend has it you’ll soon fall in love with each other. Believe it or not…
  • During medieval times, strawberries were served at important functions to bring peace and prosperity!

santa-maria-strawberries Santa Maria Strawberries

The Story of the Santa Maria Style Barbecue

There are places in this country where barbecue means more than just a way to cook a piece of meat over coals. It is Tradition with a capital "T."

Such is the case in the city of Santa Maria on California’s central coast. The history of Santa Maria Barbecue dates back to the early 1800s, when the mainstay of the Early California economy was cattle and America’s first cowboys, the colorful vaqueros, held large beef barbecues at the rancho following every cattle roundup.

Throughout the years, the tradition has been kept alive by groups and organizations in the Santa Maria Valley who have made the barbecue a specialty of all major events. Traditionalists will tell you that it cannot be done for fewer than 100 people, but that’s not true. You can do it in your back yard.

The only secret of the Santa Maria Barbecue is its simplicity — no special sauces or magic ingredients. It consists of thick cuts of beef, seasoned with nothing but salt, pepper, and garlic salt, and cooked over Santa Maria Valley red oak coals. It’s all served with toasted sweet French bread to sop up the natural juices from the serving pan.

The cut of meat called for in an authentic Santa Maria Barbecue is a 3-inch thick cut of boneless top sirloin weighing 3 to 4 pounds. If that is a bit more meat than you need, there is another cut of sirloin that works well, the tri-tip. The tri-tip has become the most popular cut for family barbecues in the region. It weighs only about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, a far better size for a small family. See also: History of the tri-tip.

The traditional combination of side dishes consists of pinquito beans, macaroni and cheese, tossed green salad, toasted sweet French bread, salsa, coffee, and a simple dessert. The pinquito bean, a small pink bean that retains its firm texture even after long slow cooking, is unique to the Santa Maria Valley, as is the red oak.

~Merle Ellis (This is excerpted from an article in the April 22, 1988 Los Angeles Times.)

If you Twitter, you’ll want to look up @SusieQseasoning or look them up on the web at http://www.susieqbrand.com/cart.php?m=product_list&c=8“Susie Q’s Brand is the original maker of artisan foods capturing the flavors of Santa Maria Style Barbeque, a regional culinary tradition rooted in the Santa Maria Valley.

Founded by Susan Righetti amongst the rolling vineyards of California’s Central Coast, Susie Q’s Brand products were created from old family recipes, perfected over generations and popularized at her parents’ restaurant, the Far Western Tavern. Each of these recipes is inspired by the local ingredients and legendary methods that define Santa Maria Style Barbeque.

From signature seasonings to delectable sauces, varietal beans to delicious desserts, Susie Q’s Brand invites you to savor the world-renowned flavors of the Santa Maria Valley.”

image Tri-Tip Roast

So if you are driving up (or down) the 101 on the way to one of the many tourist destinations of the California Central Coast or perhaps meandering through the vineyards and tasting our fabulous wines, you just might want to stop along the way for a meal of Santa Maria Barbeque (we recommend Jocko’s Steak House which is actually 9 miles north in Nipomo or The Far West Tavern- 9 miles west in Guadalupe) or stop by El Toro and pick up some freshly made tortillas and salsa.  For a little bit of local history, stay at the Santa Maria Inn http://www.santamariainn.com/html/boutique-hotels-california.asp.  They have a great Sunday brunch and an enclosed dining patio with a fountain that you can enjoy almost every day of the year.

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The Ofrenda

El Dia de Los Muertos is actually a two-day event that is today and tomorrow.  It is a Mexican tradition that is very old.  It has its roots in Aztec, Olmec and Mayan lore and is colored with Catholicism. Though it may look a bit like Halloween with skeletons, skulls and the bright orange marigolds that adorn the homes of its celebrants, it has very little in common with it except the date.  My husband (who is from Mexico) tells me that there was a tradition in his village that might appear even like “trick or treating” from the outside, but it was really a solemn occasion.  It was called Los Rosarios.  The organizers of the town would get together and begin a procession where they would stop at each house and recite Rosarios.  They would be given food and treats.  At the end of the evening, the food and treats would be divided among those who participated.  (It sounded not unlike Halloween but with a religious twist.)  He said somewhere around 1978 the tradition came to an end when a new priest in town put a stop to it saying that it was an old fashioned tradition that was pagan. 

Perhaps reciting Rosaries is not what the priest took exception with or even that it coincides with All Souls Day, but the beliefs and other traditions surrounding the celebration that began thousands of years before in Pre Columbian times.  Believers contend that during the two day celebration, it is easier for the souls of departed loved ones to communicate with the living.  Ofrendas which are like altars, are prepared in homes and sometimes at grave sites.  Throughout Mexico, even public buildings including schools and government offices will have them (without the religious symbols) as it is intended to honor their rich heritage. Ofrendas are usually decorated with pictures of the loved ones, flowers (orange marigolds called "cempasúchitl"), and food and drink that the deceased were fond of.  It is sort of like Memorial Day with a twist of humor and colorful decorations.  It is not a time of sadness.  It is a celebration of life.

In the City of Santa Maria where we live on the Central Coast of California, our population is predominantly Mexican.  As I sit here writing this, it is Halloween and the ‘trick or treators’ have just about depleted our candy supply.  From my upstairs balcony the loud and riotous Banda music is blaring as someone is throwing a party.  The party goers are not wearing costumes, but the home is decorated with calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls) and bright decorations.  Every once in awhile a bright light flashes followed by a loud pop of an illegal firework display somewhere in the town.  The excitement is contagious.  The music is an acquired taste. 

The following are pictures of ofrendas that were created in our mall by many local families and the local high schools participating in a club that celebrates Mexican heritage and traditions: 

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Old Paris

One of my favorite shops in Morro Bay has nothing to do with being on the ocean or fishing or has anything that you would expect to find here.  Though there are abundant art galleries and antique stores in most every town along the California Central Coast, this one is unique.  Yes it’s true that you will find a few antiques, but mostly you will find beautiful artifacts that are representative of the Old World.  The shop is located on Morro Bay’s main street:  Morro Bay Boulevard which is not near the seaside shops along the Embarcadero.

Old Paris 001  Old Paris 008 There are lots of pretty fountains, garden statuary and ironwork for garden decoration displayed around the outside.

Old Paris 004 A lovely fountain is positioned in the center of the main lobby.

The building is not old.  In fact, it is a ‘70’s contemporary building that used to be a bank.  The vault is used to display one of the vignettes.

Old Paris 005      Old Paris 003

There are beautiful things to see around every corner.

Old Paris 002 

Old Paris 006   Old Paris 007  

If you are looking for the perfect piece to finish off the look of a Parisian bistro for your breakfast nook or a little French Country for the boudoir, Old Paris may just have it.  I have found their prices very reasonable.  Their staff is also very helpful and willing to look for items they may not be showing in the store through some of their many sources.  Stop by and take a look the next time you’re in Morro Bay.

  • Old Paris ·
  • (805) 772-1112
  • 590 Morro Bay Blvd ·
  • Morro Bay

Morro Bay

Morro Bay is a little seaside town on the California Central Coast and is almost exactly midway between LA and San Francisco. It is directly west of San Luis Obispo and is where Highway 1 meets the Pacific Ocean heading north.  Highway 1 is a beautiful drive from Morro Bay as it twists and turns along the coastline to Monterey.  The trip takes more than twice as long on Hwy. 1 as does Hwy. 101 –but it’s worth it if you’re not in a hurry.  The best time is in the fall when it’s not too foggy.

the house

My family (mostly my mom’s side) lived and worked here for more than half a century.  My grandfather, John Ennis, was an albacore tuna fisherman who fished from this home port along with my uncles, great uncle and other assorted relatives. 

fishing           Memorial

Morro Bay is probably best known for Morro Rock which is the top of a dormant volcano at the end of a range of peaks.  It is attached to land by a man-made strip of land that creates the actual bay.  Because of the flow of the tides, Morro Bay is slowly filling in, and it is estimated that between 35 and 50 years from now the bay will no longer exist.  The ‘Yacht Harbor’ where my family once docked their fishing boats, is no longer populated by the fishing fleet as the bay in that area has become too shallow.  Most of the boats you see nowadays there are pleasure craft.  Today, the commercial boats that remain are at the north end of the bay near its mouth at Morro Rock.

The Morro Bay I knew as a child is history.  The town is no longer a sleepy little fishing village but a tourist destination.   Dean Tyler’s aquarium on the Embarcadero is still there.  He was a roommate of my Dad’s when they were bachelors attending Cal Poly before Dad became an officer in WWII –he was a pilot in the Army Air Corps. (Dad and Dean sometimes run into one another at The Hungry Fisherman restaurant –a popular eatery for the locals.)  When I was little there was a big tank outside next to the aquarium that had a seal in it… The seal’s name was “Lucy” –it said so right on the side.  (I think there had been several “Lucys”).  The aquarium is now occupied by several rescued seals and sea lions that call it their home.

Bay 1 bay 2

The Edison stacks, along with Morro Rock, can be seen for several miles on Hwy. 1 long before you see the town of Morro Bay.  When I was a child, the sight was met with a sigh of relief by my parents who had been hearing the constant plea for at least an hour by my siblings and I:  “Are we there yet?”  Many consider the stacks to be a blight on the otherwise quaint landscape.  However, for my siblings and cousins who grew up with them, we rue the day they will be torn down.  For us, they are the sentinels watching over the town and help give it an identity shared by the rock, their partner.

 bay & stacks Edison Stacks

The Embarcadero has a number of wonderful restaurants –some of them have been there as long as I can remember such as Roses’ Landing which was recently rebuilt after a fire –the food is better than ever.  The Great American Fish Company (the locals call it Gafco) has great food too. It has pictures of local fishing boats in the lobby (including my grandpa’s and uncles’).  New on the scene is The Dockside –though the Tognazinni’s are a longtime fishing family in the area. 

Also not to be missed along The Embarcadero is the Shell Shop.  It’s also older than me and has an interesting history that was written about a couple of years ago in Sunset Magazine.  Though shell shops are not unusual to coastal towns, this one is likely to have the largest selection you’ll ever see of shells from around the world including “jaws” from a great white shark. 

There’s plenty more to see and do in and near Morro Bay.  Hope to see you there someday!

July 4 @ Santa Barbara

Here are some views along the shore at the famous walk along Cabrillo in Santa Barbara.  We were able to park at the far east end.  Some would call the “nose bleeds” for the fireworks show that was going to be on West Beach that was on the other side of Stearns Warf.  As it turned out, our seat was just fine.  Sorry I don’t have other pictures of our day.  BOTH batteries died…. time for a new camera I guess. 


 4th in SB '09 001         4th in SB '09 007         4th in SB '09 010


We were parked about a mile from Stearns Warf on East Beach.  I think next time though we will rent one of these pedal cars.  Looked like a lot of fun… and my out-of-shape body is still complaining.  I’m not used to being on my feet all day.


4th in SB '09 005 Don’t know what the deal was with the couple pushing the other couple.  Slaves perhaps?

  4th in SB '09 003                                                                                                   4th in SB '09 004

It was a bit breezy later in the day.  Wonder if they were able to keep their straw hats from blowing away.


Flock of Pelicans This flock of pelicans enjoying the fabulous weather on the east side of Stearns Warf in a little inlet along the beach.


The reason for coming to Santa Barbara was to celebrate Mico’s 16th birthday (his choice) at the skate park that is near Stearns Warf along Cabrillo and the beach. We had room in the car to bring a friend.  He chose bud Scotty.

Mico & Scotty plannin their moves    Mico & Scotty contemplating their moves.  The “OneWay” shirts represent the board shop they skate for                                                                                                      

 Mico Grinding           Mico BD '09                      

Mico grinding a rail.

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