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Wedding at the CASA DORADA RESORT- A very long review


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#1 stelladiver

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    Posted 13 July 2009 - 02:21 PM

    Hi all,

    Here’s my review of our wedding that was at the Casa Dorada Resort & Spa in March of this year. As you read this review, please keep in mind that I’m as type A as they come, and pretty detailed oriented and picky. If you are a chill bride, then take my review with a grain of salt. If you’re also a perfectionist, then this review is spot on and for you.

    Hotel: Casa Dorada Spa & Resort – A+++
    The Casa Dorada was amazing! The hotel itself is new and modern. It’s akin to, say, a W Hotel, which is exactly what we wanted. Our choices were limited because there are only a few hotels in Cabo with modern d©cor (which is the style my husband and I prefer), but the Casa Dorada was perfect. (We also visited and did tastings with the other modern hotels, like the Me Cabo, Westin, Cabo Azul, and Palmilla, so feel free to ping me with questions on those.) We had over 100 guests, the majority of whom stayed at the hotel. On Friday night, we hosted a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner for the family and wedding party at the Medano restaurant at the hotel. Immediately after the rehearsal dinner, we hosted a beach party on the sand for all the guests. Then the wedding ceremony and reception were on Saturday. The ceremony was on the sand (with Lovers’ Beach and the arches in the background) and the reception was at the 12 Tribes Restaurant and adjacent deck. The hotel was extremely accommodating. The entire staff was aware of our wedding and went out of their way to make our stay fantastic. For instance, our Friday night beach party ended at 11:00 p.m. The hotel lobby bar usually closes at either 11:00 or midnight (I can’t remember now). We spoke with the bartender two days before and asked if the hotel could keep the bar open late for us. They happily accommodated us and kept the bar fully staffed and open until 1:00 a.m.

    We felt like every single employee at the hotel was concerned with making our wedding a success. Everyone was so nice and genuinely interested in providing us with excellent customer service. Let’s just say that if picky-and-type-A-me had to do it all over, I would definitely choose the Casa Dorada again. I’ll address specific points below.

    Rooms: The contract negotiations took some time because we were the first big wedding there. We were sort of inventing the wheel with them, but I didn’t mind because they were so flexible with everything. We did our contract negotiations with German Herrera, the sales manager, who was so great and responsive. (German was very nice, easy to work with, and professional. Even when he was traveling out of the country for work, German still made it a point to return my calls in a timely fashion. This confirmed to me that we had made the right choice with our venue. As many of the brides on the forum will attest, responsiveness from Cabo vendors is not always timely and often a source of frustration. But no such problems with German and the Casa Dorada.) We had 40+ rooms booked and virtually all of those guests got upgrades when they checked in. The rooms were modern and gorgeous. A lot of our guests (many of whom frequent hotels like the Four Seasons and the One and Only’s) were raving about them. Because of the large number of guests who booked at the hotel and the number and size of events we hosted at the hotel, we were given a complimentary one-bedroom penthouse suite (it was amazing, amazing, amazing!). On the day of the wedding, the hotel let us use another one-bedroom penthouse for the groom and groomsmen to get ready.

    Food/beverage: Our catering contact was Raul Badillo, Casa Dorada’s food and beverage manager. Raul was a star – he played a major role in making our wedding a success. He was fantastic during the planning process – super responsive, flexible (i.e., we played around with menu options not ordinarily available). When we arrived in Cabo and had our final meeting and walk through, Raul put my mind at ease. Not only did Raul personally attend the meeting, but he brought his entire team (he had about 6 others there) because he wanted everyone to be on the same page. I thought I was being pretty type A when I brought my binder with all of my notes, files, emails, etc. But Raul also had a folder that included all of our email correspondence and notes from our discussions. For the Friday night beach party, I had previously sent him a hand drawn sketch of my idea for a general layout. At the meeting, Raul presented me with a computer-generated drawing depicting the different pieces of furniture the hotel was going to use and the exact layout for the party. It’s pretty hard to put my mind at ease, but let me tell you that Raul definitely did. He was so professional and did an excellent job. I was so impressed and simply cannot say enough good things about him.

    The food at all of the events was excellent. At the rehearsal dinner, we served a Mexican buffet. Everyone raved about how good the food was. On Saturday, we served plated dinner with three options (filet, sea bass, and four cheese risotto). Everyone who had the filet said was very good. I had a bite of my husband’s sea bass, which was delicious. Even though I’m not a vegetarian, I ordered the risotto because it was so incredibly good during my tasting (it tasted like mac ‘n cheese!), but on the wedding night, it was disappointing. Sort of bland and not nearly cheesy enough. Food presentation is also very important to me. One of the selling points for me when we visited and did our tasting was how beautifully the food was presented. Raul and I even worked together to change the side dish for the filet from spinach to asparagus simply because it could be displayed more aesthetically. Despite having over 100 guests, the restaurant did not skip the presentation. All the dishes were gorgeous when served.

    We did alcohol on consumption. I was concerned that we may be overcharged as this seems to have happened to other brides at other hotels. But there were no problems whatsoever at the Casa Dorada! We thought the hotel was very honest with us when it came to the bill. After reading many posts on this board, I was very paranoid about being overcharged for things (particularly alcohol because we were doing beverage based on consumption). We were very careful to double check everything and were pleased to find that they were not trying to take advantage of us. In fact, where there was a question (I wouldn’t even call it a dispute), the Casa Dorada resolved it in our favor without any argument or dispute. The Casa Dorada was so easy to deal with.

    Other: We had welcome bags that we asked the hotel to deliver to guests’ rooms. We gave them a list of guest names and how many bags needed to be delivered to those rooms. I was slightly concerned that some rooms might be missed or there would be some error, but the bell staff was extremely detail-oriented and wonderful. They eventually came back to me with a chart listing all of our guests showing where bags had been delivered and noted that we were short two bags for guests who were on the hotel’s list as being wedding guests, but not on the welcome bag list I gave them. (We were short bags, so our parents agreed to forego theirs until later.) The fact that the bell staff caught this detail reassured me that they were on top of the project.

    Also, an iron in one of the rooms ruined a pair of pants belonging to one of our guests. The hotel did not hassle the guest at all and reimbursed her for the cost of the pants. Now that’s customer service!

    Cons: The biggest problem was that the hotel kept telling the DJ to turn down the music volume at the reception (which was outdoors, so the hotel was concerned about the volume bothering other guests). Music is very important to us, which is why we raised the volume issue at our very first meeting with the hotel (before we even booked anything). We were told that after 11 p.m., we would be required to lower the volume, but not before that time. As a result, we chose to end our reception at 11 p.m., so we could have full volume the entire time. The hotel nevertheless kept trying to turn down the volume, so I kept having to tell the DJ to turn it back up and eventually had to go talk to the hotel. Not something I should have to deal with at the my own wedding. There also was one minor mistake on the bill at the rehearsal dinner (like $100), which the hotel took off without hesitation. They did not hassle us at all and, in fact, apologized profusely for the error.

    If these were the biggest “problems” at my wedding, I feel free fortunate. Without a doubt, the customer service at the Casa Dorada made our wedding as seamless as it could have been. (Frankly, the customer service we received there was better than the Four Seasons Resort where stayed on our honeymoon!) If you’re considering the Casa Dorada, my advice to you is yes, go with them! I would pick them again in a heartbeat.

    Wedding Coordinator: Maye Cortinas – A – (A minus)
    Maye is very nice, responsive, and competent. I’ve heard horror stories about coordinators who don’t do much or who don’t respond to emails. This certainly was not Maye. I chose Maye because I was a very hands on bride, so I had planned to do a lot of the legwork myself. I interviewed a number of coordinators and ultimately chose Maye because of her responsive and her reasonable price. I was originally wary because I had read a bad review of her on this site. I decided to ask her about the review and still felt comfortable enough to hire her. At the end of the day, there were a number of minor problems, but nothing major. If I had it to do over, I would choose to hire Maye again.

    Pros: Super responsive, friendly, polite, understands that her role to is help make your life easier and less stressful. When we arrived in Cabo, we didn’t have a car, so Maye was nice enough to drive us to Costco to buy goodies for the welcome bag. Maye has good contacts and relationships with a lot of vendors. We needed to have some “out of the box” stuff done (i.e., we needed some steps custom built for our reception), and Maye was able to handle this pretty seamlessly. She also appeared genuinely concerned with making us happy and making our day special. I interviewed a lot of different wedding coordinators, but got the best feel for Maye in terms of professionalism and responsiveness. Maye is also more reasonably priced than many of the other coordinators.

    Cons: As most WC’s do, it appears that Maye “upcharges” the services of her vendors. Because I was doing most of the research on vendors myself, I did not want to pay the upcharges. In my contract with Maye, I specifically included a provision that she could not upcharge me for anything without first expressly notifying me and obtaining my consent. Regardless of this agreement, I caught two instances in which she attempted to upcharge. First was with our lounge furniture rental. I contacted a few vendors myself, including Fun & Motivation. F&M sent me their pricelist. Maye also sent me her pricelist, which was identical in appearance to the F&M pricelist except that the prices were all slightly more expensive. Second was with my flowers. I found my own florist (Cabo Flowers) which I had already been working with on the floral design and a price quote. I thought that I should get a second price bid from Maye. She quoted me $135 for my bouquet and $65 for my centerpieces. When I told Maye I was going with my own florist, we discovered that Maye had also planned to go through Cabo Flowers. Interestingly though, the prices that Cabo Flowers was going to charge me for the exact same bouquet and centerpieces were $95 and $50, respectively. Obviously, there would have been an upcharge here, even though I was never notified of such.

    Gloria, Maye’s assistant, was helpful during our planning process. However, at the rehearsal and wedding itself, some of the wedding party and even the groom complained that Gloria was a little bit rude to them. (She was always very nice to me, so I did not personally witness any issues.) Also, her attention to detail was not great. For example, she insisted on pinning the boutonnieres on the wedding party, but she did so with all of the pins showing (the pins are supposed to be tucked underneath, so they are not visble). Someone in our wedding party had to re-pin them on everyone. And, we almost had a problem with the processional at the wedding. Gloria couldn’t read her own notes from the rehearsal and started sending people out in the wrong order. I stood there is my wedding gown waiting for walk out when I realize the mistake and had to run after her to correct it. She had to radio down to Maye to stop everyone and get them in the right order.

    Finally, a few things fell through the cracks. For instance, at our final meeting, Maye said that she hadn’t ordered the sparklers that we requested because we didn’t ask her to do so. They were ultimately ordered in time for the wedding, so no big deal. Similarly, we arrived at the wedding reception to saw that the round paper lanterns we ordered were missing. Maye said that she never got an order from us for those. I have since found the emails to her where I ordered both items. Finally, we ordered a box of rose petals for the aisle at the ceremony. Neither she nor Gloria remembered to sprinkle them along the path, so the path was plain. After the ceremony, I found the box sitting on the ground right by the aisle.

    At the end of the day, these things were all minor. I only raise them to give a fair and full review. If I had to select a wedding coordinator again, however, I would still go with Maye.

    Flowers: Cabo Flowers – A
    I worked with Donna at Cabo Flowers and thought she was great. The style of our wedding was very modern, so we wanted flowers that followed this theme. Donna and I worked together to create a design that fit our style. We also wanted some other arrangements that were just for the cocktail hour. Because they were only being used for an hour, I didn’t want to spend too much on them. I gave Donna my budget and she was able to come up with a design that I really liked. Donna is also super responsive. There were days when she and I would literally exchange 10 emails on design issues. I should also note that I found Cabo Flowers very early on in the process before I even hired Maye. I randomly called to ask some flower questions, but ended up on the phone with her for 30 minutes as she referred me to different vendors and gave me general advice about Cabo weddings (I think she used to be a coordinator). She was so generous with her time that I really wanted to give her business when the time came for book my florist.

    My advice though is to contact Donna directly. If you go through your WC, you may be upcharged because that’s how WC’s make a part of the compensation. Obviously, if you’re have a 15 person wedding with 2-3 arrangements, the upcharge is not significant. But, if you, like us, have over 100 guests with flowers for the reception, ceremony, lounge area, bouquets/boutonnieres for 16 member wedding party, and corsages/boutonnieres over 10 family members, it adds up.

    Cake: Jennifer Hatton, Cake Diva – A++
    We got our cake through Jennifer Hatton, the Cake Diva. Jennifer was very quick to respond to my emails. (By contrast, I also contacted Sweet Dreams three times by both email and phone, and no one ever returned by call. If someone cannot be trusted to return a call/email, there was no way I would trust him/her with anything for my wedding.) I told Jennifer that we wanted a simple chocolate cake, but I wanted our guests to leave the wedding saying “that was the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had!” And Jennifer delivered!! We had a chocolate cake with a milk ganache filling and a sour cream ganache outside frosting. Our cake was so good that guests were taking slices from other tables while other guests were up dancing. Since our wedding, about 10 different people have told us that our cake was amazing. As for aesthetics, our cake was gorgeous! We had Jennifer copy the design of a cake I found in a magazine. It looked exactly like the photo. (We had another bakery copy the cake for our U.S. reception, but the result was not even close.) Finally, as tradition dictate, we kept the top of our wedding cake for our one-year anniversary. But, because the cake was so good, we decided to defrost the top after we got back from our honeymoon. We saved a quarter of the top for our anniversary and ate the rest over the next week. Yum! I had to share the fact because it’s telling as to how good the cake was.

    Officiant: Robin Clements – A
    Our first officiant, Bill Kennedy, who we booked through Maye cancelled on us about two months before the wedding. I got Robin’s name from this board and contacted him for an interview. I also interviewed some other officiants, but chose Robin because he inspired confidence and made me feel comfortable. Also, his ceremonies were beautifully worded and not a stale, generic ceremony. His ceremony style is spiritual and, to be frank, would have been a little too crunchy and earthy for us (for example, one of his sample ceremonies involves giving thanks to the elements of the earth). However, we were honest with him about what we wanted and we were able to craft a program we really liked. He also came to our rehearsal, which was important to us, because I wanted to ensure everything would go smoothly the day of the wedding. (Some officiants charge extra for the rehearsal, but Robin did not.) Also, my husband and I wrote our own vows. I asked Robin to bring a nice, presentable folder or book where he could hold my vows because I obviously had no place to hold them. I emailed the vows to Robin ahead of time. At the ceremony, when it was my turn, Robin handed me my vows printed on nice linen paper. He was very professional. The only “con” was that I wanted him to wear a suit (our wedding was cocktail attire and our bridal party wore suits and cocktail dresses), which he said he didn’t have. But, as it turns out, the flowy linen type outfit he wore was totally fine and fit in really well with our wedding motif. I would definitely recommend Robin. If I had to do our wedding again, I would still choose him to be our officiant.

    Restaurant: La Fonda - A
    On Thursday night (2 nights before our wedding), we organized a no-host dinner for the guests who were already in Cabo. We made a big reservation for 50 people and told people that they were welcome to join us for dinner, if they were available. We wanted good, cheap Mexican food to get people excited about being in Mexico. We contacted a bunch of restaurants, including Mi Casa, but they wanted us to do a banquet menu which would cost our guests $100 each after drinks and gratuity. (Mi Casa is a great restaurant, but not ideal for large groups. They require that you order from a banquet menu that has only 5 or so choices. And you can’t get traditional items like fajitas, tacos, etc., which we found that our guests were interested in, on the banquet menu.) We ultimately found La Fonda which did not require us to do any sort of preset menu. They just made a big reservation for us and every table paid on their own. The review on the food was somewhat mixed – most liked it, others thought it was average (no one said it was bad though). But the space and the fact that we did not have to do a banquet menu was key. Most people ended up spending $50 or less on dinner, including alcohol. Miguel, the head waiter, helped me organize the reservation. He was really nice and helpful, and even brought a couple free shots for us. La Fonda will be staple for us from now on when we visit Cabo. Ask for Miguel – he totally took care of us and we were very happy.

    Lounge Furniture Rental: Oxten – B+
    The d©cor of our wedding was very modern. As a result, we wanted to rent modern furniture for both the Friday night beach party, as well as the lounge/bar area at the wedding reception. We looked into renting from Oxten and Fun & Motivation. We ultimately rented from Oxten because the prices at F&M were a little higher for the items we wanted. I was able to negotiate a bit with Oxten. Because we needed furniture rental for two days, we got the items for half price on the second day. The quality of the furniture itself was fairly nice. The sound system we rented for Friday night was great, and even included a live technician who stayed the entire duration of the event in case there were any issues.

    Cons: One drawback was that my contact, Hector, was scheduled to come to the in-person meeting I had with the hotel a few days before the wedding. However, he cancelled at the last minute and send someone else in his place. I was originally worried because he and I had worked together for months, so I was concerned that the new folks would not be up to speed. However, the people he sent (including an audio tech) were very knowledgeable. Hector set a “meet and greet” meeting with me for the next day, but ended up cancelling at the last minute. Ultimately, it was a non-issue because everything worked out. But, it was not great for my peace of mind, especially in the final days leading up to the wedding. (In my opinion, having a vendor inspire confidence and eliminate stress is just as important as their execution.) Another issue was that, despite receiving explicit instructions regarding what color lights were supposed to be used in the light up furniture, the wrong color was used at the wedding reception. Once I informed Maye though, she had them immediately change it.

    Hair/Make Up: Suzanne Morel – A-
    Suzanne did a good job with my hair and make up. The day before the wedding, some of my bridesmaids and I scheduled manicure/pedicures. Susan set up a private room at her spa for us. Unfortunately, the mani/pedis were not amazing. If I had to rate them alone, I would give them a “C” grade. (This is why the total grade above is an A-.) The nail technicians were very slow. The treatment was supposed to include an exfoliation scrub, which essentially included the technician applying an exfoliation scrub onto my hands and feet, then wiping it off with a towel without any actual exfoliation. The price was $75 before gratuity, which was pricy for not being great. (In L.A., I can get an amazing mani/pedi for $25!) I also had a hair trial that day, which fantastic. Suzanne handled my hair herself and pinned it up into a gorgeous side chignon for the rehearsal dinner and beach party. I got so many compliments on it. On the wedding day, Suzanne personally oversaw my wedding prep. She personally put the finishing touches on my hair and did my make up. Suzanne really listens to what you like. I normally do not wear a lot of make up and wanted to look natural on my wedding day. I felt like there was initially too much make up, so I told Suzanne and she fixed it. Ultimately, I was very happy with my hair and make up. I think the key was having Suzanne personally involved.

    Spanish Guitarist: Arturo Sotomayor – A-
    We hired Arturo Sotomayor to play Spanish guitar during our ceremony and cocktail hour. Our WC told us that he could learn anything we wanted, so we had him learn a particular list of songs. Many of the wedding guests said he played very well and that they recognized the songs. A friend, who was a professional vocalist, sang at our ceremony, and said he was very professional during their rehearsal immediately.

    Cons: The week before the wedding our WC informed us that Arturo was going to charge us extra to learn our songs. We felt like we were put in a bind because he was demanding extra money at the eleventh hour (we had sent the list of songs a month before the wedding) and we would not have been able to find a new guitarist, if we were not willing to pay. At the end of the day, had Arturo requested the extra payment earlier, we would have paid without issue, but it was the principle that we had no meaningful choice at that point in time. The other con was that he continued to play on the beach after the ceremony was over and the guests had gone upstairs to the cocktail reception area. He refused to go upstairs and told my bridesmaid that he was only supposed to play on the beach. This all may have been a miscommunication through my WC. Regardless, his delay left the guests momentarily without music at the cocktail hour, even though he was on the pay clock with us.

    Overall, his performance was fabulous, and we would have paid the extra anyway had he requested it a month earlier. After the wedding, the guests I spoke with said he was good. His music added a Spanish flair (to tie in the Cabo venue) to our otherwise modern, non-Spanish themed wedding.

    Music: DJ Ricardo – B+
    We hired DJ Ricardo based on the reviews on this forum. He was good, but not fantastic. The good stuff first though. Rather than a “do not play” list, we gave him an “only play from this list” list. Ricardo was great about sticking to our list. He would not even play requests from guests before clearing it with us. In addition, Ricardo’s music library was great. Most of the music we selected was not mainstream, but he either had or was able to get all of the songs, except two. Ricardo was also very personal, friendly, and really seemed to enjoy what he was doing. He was also extremely responsive and answered all of my emails in a prompt fashion.

    Cons: Before the reception, we sent Ricardo a very detailed outline of the special songs that we wanted played for the key events during the wedding (i.e., first dance, entrance of bridal party, cake cutting). We expressly informed him that we had a choreographed dance which required that our first dance song start at the very beginning of the song. Instead, he started the song five seconds in when the lyrics started, which put us behind our choreography for our dance. We also picked a very specific song for the bridal party entrance and timed out the announcement of the wedding party, so that my husband and I would enter at a climax in the song. Ricardo played the wrong song (it was a different song by the same artist) and disregarded our instructions regarding pace. We also chose a special song for the cake cutting. Ricardo did not play the song until I walked up and reminded him about it. Then he cut off the song before it was over.

    Overall, we still thought DJ Ricardo did a good job. We were particularly happy with his great music library. His mixing of the songs was also pretty good.

    Fire dancers: Lunas De Fuego - A
    We hired our fire dancers through our WC. We got four dancers with a live drummer for 15 minutes. The performance was great. The only con was that our WC approached us during the wedding and asked if the dancers could go one early because one of the men (probably a drummer) was not feeling well. Ultimately, it worked out fine, but we didn’t like that the reception schedule was changed, particularly because we gave them an exact time to arrive for their performance.

    Transportation: Transvip- A
    We originally located this shuttle company through our resort. I started working directly with Transvip to put of our guests on different shuttles. As you could imagine, transporting over 100 people who arrived and departed on different flights over the course of several days was tricky. Fernando, the general manager, was professional, responsive, and handled everything well. He also collected payment directly from the passengers, which made my life easier. The only glitch I heard about was one shuttle not arriving, so some guests had to wait for a bit. Otherwise, there were no complaints. The shuttles were nice and air conditioned. The drivers greet you with an ice cold bottle of water to enjoy during the ride. Fernando even threw in a complimentary shuttle for the bride and groom. I was so satisfied with Transvip and Fernando’s customer service that I plan to use them again on my future visits to Cabo.

    So, that’s all, folks. (I know, it was a long one! Congrats for making it to the end.) =) This forum has been such a great resource to me, so I’m happy to pay it forward. Please feel free to contact me with any Qs. I’ll also try to post photos at some point, but if anyone would like to see a specific photo before then, please let me know.

    Good luck with your planning, ladies!!!

    #2 sperger

    sperger
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      Posted 13 July 2009 - 02:28 PM

      Great detailed review!

      #3 Erika J

      Erika J

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        Posted 13 July 2009 - 02:36 PM

        Great Review! Thanks!!

        #4 *Heather*

        *Heather*

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          Posted 13 July 2009 - 02:44 PM

          Great review...I'm using Oxten also and haven't found many reviews on them on here so I'm glad to hear you were satisfied with them. Thanks for posting this, and congrats! Can't wait to see pictures!

          #5 deefalvey

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            Posted 13 July 2009 - 03:03 PM

            WOW!! Great Review!!
            Bill and DeannaJuly 24, 2009

            #6 stelladiver

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              Posted 13 July 2009 - 03:18 PM

              Thanks, ladies. Truthfully, it's been four months since my wedding and I finally just found the time to get the review up. It may be another four until I get around to posting photos (we still haven't had time to through our proofs in any detail!), so please feel free to let me know if there's a specific photo you want to see (i.e., flowers, cake)!

              #7 JGAMMAGIRL77

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                Posted 13 July 2009 - 11:45 PM

                Thanks for the review!!!

                #8 BlakleyBrideToBe

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                  Posted 14 July 2009 - 11:57 AM

                  Thanks for the review. Can't wait to see the pictures!

                  #9 Ginalyn

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                    Posted 14 July 2009 - 09:04 PM

                    Very nice review. Congrats!!

                    #10 michellepicksbrent

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                      Posted 14 July 2009 - 09:13 PM

                      Fantastic review! Congratulations!




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