Monday, May 23, 2011

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Presidents & Royal Visits


Buckingham Palace Ballroom seats 170 for a lavish State Dinner that will occur for the Obamas on Tuesday.
State Visits are timed to the second, including cocktail chatter and making the receiving line move along like a well-oiled people conveyor belt.  Going to Buckingham Palace (it is not ham, but more like hum in England) has other dangers.  During a state visit at the Royal Dinner, once the Duke of Edinburgh gets his plate, by jove, you better dig in and finish rather like a champion hot dog eater because when he is done everybody's course is swooped up and replaced with what's next, regardless if you are done or not.  Each speech by either Head of State is no more that 9 minutes long.  Heckling by Her Majesty's husband if one does not conclude on time, is not unheard of at the head table.

The Obamas will stay officially at Buckingham Palace in the Belgian Suite.  The same suite the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge used for their wedding night.

A State Visit to Britain is always initiated by the Queen.  Her Majesty usually gets a reciprocal state visit during a second presidential term in the USA. That means a white tie affair which is very formal. QEII has the world's best bling and she is not shy about wearing it at state affairs. (I'm still astounded that with all the ice head gear the royals have, Kate Middleton chose to wear a training tiara so to speak....) Laura Bush had an excellent table setting for that event, her husband however, made several notable public gaffes with the queen. Winking at Queen Elizabeth II  after calling her a couple of centuries old on one visit shall live in infamy among the protocol or those with home training skills.  Other people will scream about Michelle Obama hugging the queen on her first visit, yet they have struck up a warm friendship.  The Queen ensured Sasha & Malia Obama received a carriage ride through the gorgeous grounds for their first visit to Buckingham Palace.

The president and first lady usually stay at Winfield House while in England and will host a reception there during the state visit.  It won't be a "knees up" affair like the party the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge had after their big do at Westminster Abbey.  However, the newlyweds are expected to make an appearance on Tuesday to meet the Obamas, but Clarence House has yet to send out a formal message.


Every head of state gets a carriage ride after reviewing the troops.  The head of state reviews the troops with Prince Phillip then rides down the mall in a regal procession with liveried footman to Buckingham Palace with the Queen in a gilt carriage.  Lately the Queen has had more state events at one of her favorite palaces, Windsor Castle.  However, the Obamas are staying in Belgian Suite on the ground floor of the Palace.  Marine One will be nearby on the lawn.  So...not sure if that particular carriage ride is on. (This carriage is carrying the Queen and President Zuma of South Africa last year.)

One of my favorite anecdotes happened on this side of pond during President Gerald Ford's one term. He wanted to dance with a more lively number and the President's Band jumped in with ... The Lady is A Tramp...She laughed out loud.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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Obamas Do Sedate Mocha & Honey Makeover

Wallpaper is not new to the Oval Office or the White House.  The New York custom made light mocha-ish stripes are reminiscent of the bold gold ones in the sitting room of Blair House.  Abraham Lincoln's presidential portrait, no doubt, garners a better view from the Obama refurbished Oval as both presidents hale from Illinois.  In President Obama's private office outside the formal Oval hangs a large portrait of Justice Thurgood Marshall that traveled up Pennsylvania Avenue with him in 2009. President Bush is getting back the southwestern sunburst rug that First Lady Laura Bush picked out upon his ascension in 2001.  Every president has had a replica of the Resolute Desk put in their library if they used it while in office.  Each first lady puts the finishing touches on their husband's workspace.

The former George W. Bush rug with presidential seal.

This one took some time to evolve.  The Obamas turned down the $100,000 budget given to every new president for additional decorating.  However there was money leftover from the Inauguration.  Nancy Reagan with  & Hillary Clinton both moved fast to get their husband's imprimatur on the Oval as quickly as possible.  Michelle Obama had more of a quandary as the economy had hit the skids and any efforts to redecorate would have garnered unwanted attention.  The first lady worked with the White House Historical Association and her designer Michael Smith, while the Michigan sewn rug (The Scott Group) was donated.  Those folks know their rug as they also did the Clinton royal blue Oval Office rug. I am very much hoping the drapes get some badly needed attention as they are now 10 years old.

The fact that nineteen months in and the Bushes needed their rug back for their upcoming library opening changed the circumstances to a need rather than a want.  The President would have been staring at some gorgeous unadorned hardwood quarter sawn oak floors if they had not had the decorating done while the family had their ten day vacation.  It is customary to borrow the predecessors rug until theirs is ready - and it takes time.

The rug however; has politically meaningful American quotes rather than the usual stars. Laura Bush redid the Cabinet room during her husband's second term and the bold russet red carpet has gold stars now.  Two toned vertical stripes of tan & beige wallpaper accentuate the height of the 29 foot room with what looks to be a border of oxblood the presidential seal embedded on the ceiling.  The chocolate leather parson chairs have not been a solid color in ages.  

Upcoming interior upgrades are happening for the Yellow Oval Room on the second floor of the residence and the large Center Hall and West Sitting Hall.  

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

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Sophmore Season

The State Dinner for President Calderón of Mexico got off to a slippery start for White House veteran and current State Department Chief of Protocol, Capricia Marshall. Both of the Obamas admonished the press NOT to print the picture of her falling in a lovely pink gown on the White House steps. That fall is nothing compared to Desiree Rogers freshman and final State Dinner featuring the security gaffe seen round the world. This is Take Two in the Obama Administration on many fronts. But there is one dessert that is making a first appearance: Goat Cheese Ice Cream. One thing that remains a trend for the Obamas is a guest Executive Chef that specializes with a particular type of cuisine. In this case a hometown fave of the president's and first lady, Chef Rick Bayless. He last tweeted about his sauces and mole earlier this morning before rushing off to the siren call of his pots and pans at the White House.

Another signature hallmark that is appearing from the first lady for her state dinners are bold color palettes for the table settings. This state dinner is half the scale of the November Dinner for Prime Minister Singh of India. Two hundred guests for dinner in the East Room with the historic paintings of George & Martha Washington overseeing the festivities from their gilt frames and then a fabulous switch to the outdoor entertainment tent/building which will see a glamorous Beyoncé. This dinner has a better weather forecast than the November diplomatic soirée that took place on one of DC's most rainy fall days. Prickly pear is making an appearance in the floral arrangements along with fuschia and delicate roses.

Photo courtesy of Getty
Another signature hallmark that is appearing from the first lady for her state dinners are bold color palettes for the table settings. A mix of rectangular and circular tables allow the room to squeeze in a couple hundred perfumed and tuxedoed guests. The gold rimmed table settings look like the Clinton china which will be filled with Wagyu beef in black mole sauce with grilled beans. This will be Juliana Smoot's first time out on managing a State dinner as the new Social Secretary with a much lower profile. This also a first for the Francophile, new White House Chief Florist, Laura Dowling who breached protocol by announcing her new high profile job on facebook before the first lady released a statement.
President Calderon, his wife Margarita Zavala with President & Michelle Obama in the North Portico of the White House.
First Lady Pat Nixon was the most active with dinners beating out all others since the first state dinner held on behalf of the King of the Solomon Islands which included the now state of Hawaii back in the days of Ulysses S Grant. The guest list includes a two-time appearance by Gayle King - accompanying avid tweeter and Newark's mayor, Corey Booker. Mayor Villaraigosa of Los Angeles was present as was the resplendent Eva Longoria Parker sans hubby. Another 100 people get in for the after dinner entertainment on the South Lawn.

More to come...
Confirmations: saw up close it IS the Clinton China.
This was the first State Dinner where the Obamas as First Couple descended the Grand Staircase for a State Dinner in public view. The Staircase was designed specifically by President Truman for formal entrances of the American Head of State