Showing posts with label East Wing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label East Wing. Show all posts

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, November 24, 2009

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State Dinner Tuesday with the Obamas II


This was a plate (mid bites) prepared by White House Chef Sam Kass for the governor's formal dinner in February 2009.  The presidential seal is on the dessert chocolate and notice not a smudge - each one is checked for perfection.  This was Mrs. Obama's first formal dinner at the White House and she chose the Wilson China.
Watch C-SPAN for coverage that is uninterrupted and filled with salient tips from experts on everything from military protocol to the floral arrangements.  A State Occasion, let a lone a dinner, is lavish and meant to welcome a head of state with the finest of American hospitality at America's most famous address.   First Ladies traditionally show off their arrangements and release details regarding floral wonders, china selection, silverware settings and other details during the day.  The room (which is actually a tent on the South Lawn) tent is already arranged and the menu selected.  It is written by hand for each setting by the White House calligrapher's office.  Each course is designed, pre-tasted by the first lady and a small group of insiders and every seat has a handwritten name above each plate.  Mrs. Obama's press secretary Katie Lleyveld will be overwhelmed today as most microscopic minutiae will be fodder for the press and interested folks like me ... and you!

This is a state formal dinner using the Ronald Reagan dinner service. by Mrs. Bush.  Note the coloration of the American Beauty Roses and the plates.  These are decided once the gown is selected for the evening.  Photo courtesy the White House.

The custom is to not have spouses seated next to each other.  Mrs. Obama will be at a different table than her husband.  President Obama will toast his guest from the podium with the gilded eagle.  In the past year, President Obama got a sample of his first snafu at a fancy official White House dinner when the eagle podium collapsed as he was giving a toast.  The Chief Usher and the Head Butler were probably close to heart attacks as they plan down to the nano-second absolutely everything and always ensure there are back-ups for the back-ups. There is even spare pantyhose and other necessities for any guest who faces a wardrobe malfunction - within reason.  The floral designers have special pieces for the table settings and all thirty-five bathrooms, especially those on the state floor.

Mrs. Obama greets an esteemed guest at her first international state hosting assignment for the G-20 in Pennsylvania at Rosemont Farm before the world's first ladies sent down to a formal dinner on the patio.  The tablecloths and the china were a direct reflection of the dress Michelle Obama wore that evening.  Photo courtesy of the White House.

An assortment of contractors has been vetted and hired for this state occasion.  The kitchen is tense with anticipation, yet calm and orderly under the direction of veteran Executive Chef, Cristeta Comerford.  It's tight as a tick in the cramped quarters and everything is done in an efficiency experts dream of a manufacturing assembly line.  The dessert by Bill Yosses, the WH Pastry Chef and his assistant will feature a theme and down to the most exquisite drops will be completely edible. (The Pastry team from March 2009 at the White House prepare each plate in the State Dining Room.  Photo courtesy of the White House)

Here is the original post outlining protocol for the state dinner back in October.
More to come after I do my physical therapy...

11/24/09 UPDATE 1: From the Photo Spray held by FLOTUS displaying tonight's table settings on the South Lawn.  The beautiful grounds and rolling green lawn seem to be a key part of the inspiration.  It also is quite reminiscent of the Green Room with its silk moire in the White House where the Obama family had their official family portrait taken by Annie Libowitz.



Here what we can tell from this photo - Its the William Jefferson Clinton China with the gilded flatware from Barbara Bush.  The cushions on the chairs match the tablecloth and the linen napkins.  That means a stunning backdrop for what FLOTUS or Michelle Obama has chosen to wear.  (Photo courtesy CBS.)  The brand spanking new White House Chief floral designer, Laura Dowling (last week's East Wing hire is how new), will have an amazing centerpiece which we do not have photos of yet.

Update 2:  Michelle Obama held a luncheon for young women while featuring the protocol and precision involved in a state dinner.  The luncheon was held in the State Dining Room.  That Room was later used to showcase the table in a green reminiscent also of the Indian state colors of India and incredible green gems.  It is off set with plum colored stemware and vibrant floral decor. (Photo courtesy of AP)

Mrs. Gusharan Kuar at the arrival ceremony with a stunning jade and silvery moss colored sari as Mrs. Obama brings saffron or a buffed up mandarin orange with an India inspired embossed ensemble at the State Arrival ceremony.  The ceremony had to be moved indoors to the East Room so the military pomp and circumstance was absent with November weather teardrops on the White House Lawn. 

Update 3 - The piece that inspired the dinner - The Dress by Naeem Khan.

Guests run the gamut from Robin Roberts of ABC to Jeff Immelt of GE.  The tent seats 400 and the entertainment includes Kurt Elling and Jennifer Holiday.  In the above image they are in the Cross hall of the state floor where its customary to have your picture taken if the dinner was held inside the White House.  A guest chef helped with the vegetarian menu and the dessert pears were poached in the honey made by Mrs. Obamas bees. 

Sunday, October 11, 2009

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Michelle's First State Dinner for India


The George W. Bush China Service
India, a democratic superpower has over a billion citizens with its own arsenal of nuclear weapons and the shared disgrace with America of being one of the top three polluters on the planet will have the distinct honor of being the first nation to receive the full ceremonial honors from a state visit.  No doubt, difficult topics will be discussed by the heads of state.  Yet, it is Michelle Obama who is going to hold the spotlight as she chooses, flatware, table coverings, floral design, china patterns, glassware, the menu(s), entertainment and music, seating arrangements, invitations for teas, luncheons and the attendees for the historic first state dinner on November 24th while choosing a never before seen fully formal gown to be discussed for eternity.  Believe it or not, the gown actually helps settle the detailed choices of color used in the State Dining Room's or the East Room's table decor.  Either room may be used and the East Room would hold more elegant diners, but makes the after dinner entertainment space a new challenge.  If Michelle Obama is a last minute dress chooser - oh dear. (Photo of Obamas going up the Grand Staircase back to the residence after greeting Ambassadors to the US.)

Her staff has been on the case since May.  No rest for the weary as November looms large in the Obama White House cultural portfolio.  Michelle Obama received kudos for her first turn as an international hostess with the G20 heads of state and their spouses.  Her choice of a gift for the event was rare and a keepsake.  The huge state dinner is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving which makes it doubly rich for grand and gravy leftovers.  That Wednesday the president should pardon a turkey - lately the saved pre-poultry birds have dined on some incredible tranquilizers before meeting the president due to some of the wilder pardon photos.

This is what Michelle Obama gave as hostess to the G20 spouses.  It is an exclusive porcelain tea set mirroring the Lincoln china in the White House with US national flower (American Beauty Rose) at the bottom of the teacups made by a one hundred year old Illinois company.  The little vials of honey and the larger container is honey produced directly from Michelle Obamas world famous Kitchen Garden, Photo courtesy LA Times
Mrs. Obama must also make Blair House ready and work with the State Departments protocol experts on name pronunciation, food requirements, allergies and taboos, complete with full black tie etiquette.  A briefing book has already been compiled and the secret invite right now is for the under two dozen friends and staff that get to attend a tasting menu featuring choices for the meals.  Her residence staff is theming floral pieces for all of the bathrooms and a host of contract workers need to be ready to produce the pièce de résistance of an elaborate multi-course meal for at most 140 people.  It will be the hardest ticket to obtain in Washington DC since the inaugural.  All those people who have spent time sucking up to the first lady's friend and Social Secretary while writing puff pieces about her are about to find out if the investment was worth it.

In February 2009, the Obamas had a trial run at a high level black-tie event for the US governors.  Here they dance in the East Room to Earth Wind & Fire playing live.
The East Wing communication staff will arrange a day of photo spray for the press to see Mrs. Obama in front of a fully set table complete with hand crafted calligraphy table cards while explaining which China pattern she is choosing to use.  The menus for each setting will feature the salads, American vintage wines, entrées and desserts all in the same calligraphy style.  It is usually a keepsake from the White House along with the invitation requesting the honor of their presence.  That is definitely still a secret, but the Wilson China has made a debut.  Part of the decision is made on which full sets of China are available in the right colors for a state dinner - Ronald Reagan China in a bold red, the George W. Bush set - never yet used in a green with basketweave pattern, the Clinton China with the golden rims and 24-karat gold images of the White House dead center, with which full set of flatware is available.  The last first lady to purchase a full set of gilded formal flatware, late 19th century reproductions from Kirk Steiff of Baltimore, for elegant entertaining in the White House is Barbara Bush.  Her daughter-in-law also purchased large sterling silver serving pieces.


The stunning table arrangement here is the 2007 white tie setting for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.  White tie is usually reserved as a royal honor.  This was an excellent use of the William Jefferson Clinton china service by Laura Bush.  This table is set to handle five courses rather than the usual four for a state dinner.

Formal arrival ceremony

The newly re-elected fourteenth Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Manmohan Singh and his lovely wife, Gursharan Kaur will receive the full ceremonial honors of arriving at the South Lawn.  After a troop review and opening remarks, the couples will go through the Diplomatic Reception Room and usually share some time together before the spouses go one direction and the heads of state another.  After a luncheon, the next arrival will be on the North side of the White House in view of the world's press as they are formally greeted by the president and first lady in formal attire on the red carpet.  They will go upstairs and have a moment to share in the Yellow Oval Room in the private residence.  Just before dinner, Ruffles and Flourishes will announce the president and first lady as they descend the Grand Staircase with their honored guests to stand and welcome each invited guest in the Entrance hall as the President's Own plays and photographers film. There are vast differences in height so the images will need some thinking through by the professionals.  (Gursharan Kaur with Michelle Obama from April in London during the Obamas first meeting of the G20.)

Prime Minister Singh, President Barack Obama, Mrs. Gusharan Kaur and Mrs. Michelle Obama at the arrival for the working and spouse dinner.

Michelle gives welcoming remarks at the dinner party held on a patio at Rosemont Farms for the G20 spouses.  Photo courtesy the White House

Can't wait for November 24th.  All of the public ceremony is usually covered in full by the wonderful station I love, C-SPAN.

UPDATE:  The latest Obama State Dinner post is here... State Dinner Tuesday with the Obamas

Sunday, June 14, 2009

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Jazz Class at the White House

Michelle Obama - OK, her East Wing staff with a newbie Chief of Staff, is setting the stage for June 15th concert and class taught by members of premier talent in the Jazz genre, the Marsalis Family. It will be quite the scene at the East Gate tomorrow as students, bringing their instruments, line up to enter the People's House to learn the intricacies of jazz from some of the younger and elder statesman of bebop, horn-blowing, improv and post-humous Pulitzer Prize-winning Artiste, Coltrane. (There is even a church of Coltrane - no joke.) First Lady Michelle Obama will have one part of her heart envying her husband's destination on Monday, but not his activity - he will be in Chicago as she directs traffic in her day dedicated to a White House Jazz University or Lecture Series. President Obama and First lady Michelle Obama already had a successful White House Poetry Jam last month that was taped for HBO.
While the East Room in the building designed by James Hoban is meant for large functions or concerts, it still is not enough room for what the First Lady has in mind. The other end of the elegant Cross Hall on the West Side, the grand State Dining Room, will become a working classroom. In tribute to the body of work that encompassed Ragtime to Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk, and a presidential nod to the Newport Jazz Festival, President Jimmy Carter hosted the first significant White House Jazz concert in a major event on the South Lawn on June 18, 1978. That was an Event with Eubie Blank among other jazz royalty.

President Lydon Johnson first featured Jazz vocalist Pearl Bailey and the incomparable Sarah Vaughn. Scat rang out from the First Lady of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, in the jazzy aficionado Ford White House. Dizzie Gillepsie and Chick Corea added to Reagan White house entertainment repertoire. In 2004, a program titled A Salute to the NEA Jazz Masters showcasing the Billy Taylor Trio among others plus six students was held in the East Room courtesy of president and Mrs. Bush. Jackie Kennedy, as first lady, was known for her eclectic mix of guests and the cultural performances first introduced Jazz to the White House at a children's event with the performance by the Paul Winter Jazz sextet. (Photo by Vance Jacobs of President Bush at jazz event in East Room.)

Ellis Marsalis, courtesy Times-Picayune & Wynton Marsalis courtesy LA Times
The White House concert and classroom style instruction headlined by the Marsalis Family of New Orleans is the first leg of a three part series on music in the White house featuring Jazz. Another trumpeter, Sean Jones and saxophonist Todd Williams with vocalist Eli Yamin sport ties to Wynton Marsalis at the Lincoln Center. Professional music educator Stephen Massey will also be on hand as well as Cuban-American clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera. Country and Classical music will also do a star turn, tune and tap later this year to complete the three part series. Father, Ellis Marsalis, will tickle the ivories as his four sons, Jason, Branford, Delfeayo, and Wynton will bring percussion, a saxophone, trombone and trumpet to 150 students in the East Room of the White House.
Lincoln Center Art Director Wynton Marsalis last performed at the White House during a dramatic period in the Clinton presidency in 1998 for a Millenium Lecture as part of a series of concerts. But Monday night will be topped off, not at the White House, but at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with members of the Marsalis Family and Harry Connick, Jr., in full smooth jazzy style. Wonder who get the tickets for the presidential box... (Obamas at Alvin Ailey Dance performance at Kennedy Center in February 2009)

(Maureen heavily contributed to this even while still being on the mend.)
UPDATE:
Live from the White House website at 12:30 PM today will be many first rate Jazz artists offering three break out sessions in the State Dining Room with large groups in the East Room.  The White House's timing is excellent as the Jazz Lecture Series comes after President Obama finishes his address to the AMA on healthcare.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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White House Quacks, Barks & Stings


WH View from Putting Green on South Lawn near Oval Office (Photo Courtesy Architectural Digest)
New First Families are the regular order of the day when presidents switch in and out. The multi-faceted talented White House staff takes that in stride. It is the more unusual outdoorsy happenings from the pets and critters, great and small, that give the Executive Mansion a bit of swerve and verve. During the chills of winter, the first lady signed off on a first-ever bee hive for making White House Honey. A horticulture plan must be in place for the right types of flowers to groom next to the hive. Bees are pretty active in the spring and summer collecting pollen from all the flowering plants. It just so happens a White House carpenter extraordinaire and bee master reside in the body of Charley Brandts who takes great pictures of the hive on the WH grounds when not wearing his superhero bee keeping cape.

Michelle Obama said some eyebrows definitely raised when presenting the garden design (chefs, bee keepers, head horticulturist, Chief Usher, National Park Service) plans to a skeptical Malia & Sasha who have a vested interest in their new backyard. The grounds team appropriated prime space for their swing set. Deep in the southern 9 acres is Momma Obama's garden, with the hive closer to the tennis court and the children's garden and that big grand fountain surrounded by blooms. Prior summer flowers for the fountain included geraniums, marigold lilies (lots of marigolds in the Obama Victory Garden) and petunias. Add the inquisitive nature of Sherlock Holmes to one rambunctious puppy and things can get a bit tense. Bo's walks are matters of national security. Seriously. When in DC, the president walks Bo. Not sure what Secret Service protocol is for a bee protest.

Bo passes the West Wing on a walk with White House Horticulturist Dale Haney. He has a great deal of experience with First Family pets too.)
Bo is closer than most Americans will ever be to the "football" - the codes for the nuclear weapons. The White House doctor will make sure no allergy sufferers are without the appropriate antidotes. Interesting, because in about 6 weeks, the Obamas will host a major annual gathering of congressional spouses, children and friends on the South Lawn, close to the Fourth of July, before he and Michelle make another international tour, including Ghana. At this time, it is not clear whether either or both of the First Daughters will accompany their parents on such a major trip. The East Wing is already gearing up for the inevitable press crush probably making the First Family appreciate the secret life of bees more.

(Charlie Brandts removing North swarm of bees after installing the domesticated bees on South Lawn)
A few suicidal bees roaming on pollen patrol could send things out of hand, if not paying attention during the season. That already happened in the near the West Gate, with the same beekeeper going out in full regalia to collect the Queen Bee and the swarms and rescue the media from enduring bee stings while doing their live shots on the North side of the White House. The "Renegade" bees (ha ha code name puns) moved in without an election to enjoy an annual springy "Renaissance" garden as the shy "Radiance" of the brilliant sunshine pours on the youngest "Rosebud" determined to use the outdoor pool to teach her new Portuguese Water Dog how to swim.(Photo with hive to the left Courtesy of City Bees, a blog with several posts detailing the insider story of the Obama's sanctioned bees.)

It is known that squirrels frequent the South Lawn. In the middle of this natural park, a Ducky Mom created her own tour of the West Wing shepherding her ducklings past an assistant press secretary's window inspecting the White House grounds. Michele Obama did not arrange for ducks a la orange in the ramped up local food initiative. (Outside West Wing of the White House Photo courtesy New York Daily News)

Sorry for the longer than planned posting absence, but an emergency illness arose stinging me in more ways than one.

Friday, May 15, 2009

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Rediscovering The White House in the Obama Era


School kids visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
As a kid the obligatory school visit to Washington DC was to tour everything big: US Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, and the big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue with not one plaid lawn chair out front. To enter the White House first through the East Lobby entrance - white - and into a wood paneled foyer. Lots of velvet ropes, informed tour guides with great anecdotes and then exit out the front door. Gift shop somewhere else. Nobody expects younger students to remember much, except certain rooms were named after colors as the tour guide explains historical bits about torcheres, presidential candelabras and first lady portraits.

In January 2009, it all changed as everyone is eager to know what is inside the House we mostly see from the facade and what or who do you need to know to get an invite into the hippest joint in America. The White House is the same color but taking on a 21st century luster as people want to get to know the house and the priceless artifacts placed throughout the building. Michelle Obama is exercising great control over one of the world's best living museums filled with ornate art and documents central to this nation's promise. Before abandoning the White House as it was about to be seized during supper, it was Dolley Madison in 1814 that took the famed Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington down to save it before the British ate her planned meal for 40 guests, then fricasseed it to the walls. Right: the Obamas things being delivered from a secured storage facility January 21, 2009
Sasha waves as she goes to the White House in the Inaugural Parade. 1/21/09
All five Obamas are in demand for social events with a waiting list. Mrs. Obama lady flipped her sleek wig early in the administration when she had her senior East Wing staff make it crystal clear in the frostiest tones that commercializing Sasha and Malia was absolutely guaranteed to put the company and by extension, its customers, in the deepest Antarctica freeze. The dolls went the way of the DoDo bird. Nobody who wanted to make a good impression on Mama or Papa Obama would be caught in open daylight with that particular stuffed contraband. Now, same company, Ty Inc., has taken the newest Obama's likeness and made it the hottest selling Beanie Baby "Bo" in two sizes, exactly one month after Bo came to live at 1600. Here are some renamed dolls that look suspiciously like the First Daughters. Bo books were fired up and ready to go as soon as the news leaked. (Photo courtesy USA Today)

President & a certain dog play on the South Lawn May 12, 2009 courtesy P. Souza
The flipside of the Obama phenomenon is the amount of vast sincere high interest there is in everything that happens at the White House starring the Obamas as the latest residents in the over 200 year old house. The White House itself is now an object of admiration and interest that knows no geographical or any other boundaries. Something wonderful happens to the house when it is full of young children. Malia and Sasha sleep in the East & West Bedrooms on the second floor of the residence that overlook the North Lawn and Lafayette Park, the very same as Caroline & John Kennedy Jr., which will be part of the future history books. The Obama girls have found the secret staircases, touched the desk where Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, done cartwheels down the Center Hall and bowled with a president and first lady in a grand house where there swing set/castle sits outside the most powerful office in the land. (Photo above left - Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's family in White House Dining Room 2009)

The White House at Christmas is a magical place that will mark their first holiday as the First family as a special one. It is also when a tremendous amount of invites, parties and events take place as the White House is set to its best advantage. The Obamas will find too few days with too many guests vying to land the world's most coveted invitations.
The Obama Family & Mrs. Robinson enjoy the spoken word Poetry event May 12, 2009.
Everyone wants to see the Obamas enjoying the house and to reassure themselves there is an abundance of happiness inside. The first outdoor pool party should be coming shortly before they join their dad in the flying White House - Air Force One as its wheels up for the summer. Luci Johnson collected dolls from around the world and the Obama girls have a chance for some international collections as well.
White House sign No Tours Beyond This Point, Just as well its the West Colonnade into Palm Room.
For compelling in-depth historical narratives of the White House, EWR compiled a list of great books & DVDs.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

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Gardens of the White House

Today and tomorrow the White House is holding a garden party of sorts with a first come, first served Spring Tour from 10 am to 4pm. Beautiful timing as the colorful blooms are experiencing a peak blossoming period with cherry trees filling in handsomely. Very picturesque were the Obamas, with one member of the family on a leash, as they took a very public frolic across the rolling South Lawn on Tuesday. The day before, that same White House Lawn hosted the Easter Monday Egg Roll with almost 30,000 pairs of feet, big and small, running and rolling across it all day with scads of green picket fences marking paths. (Top L Photo from Lafayette Park showing North Portico, Top R - Rose garden, Photo Malia Obama out for first public dog walk/run)

As the tour goes through the boxwood hedges of the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, dedicated as a floral tribute on April 22, 1965 by our first Environmental Activist First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, in honor of all of Mrs.Kennedy's award winning work in preserving the history and artifacts of the White House, the precision and and the layering of the gardenwill be awesome. It is quite the spot for First Lady tea parties. Mrs. Hillary Clinton turned it into a statuary art project surrounded by hollyhocks.

Little known is Jackie Kennedy's other excavation project at the White House. The beautiful Rose Garden as the outdoor green Oval Office we all know today shows her and the president's landscape design work. Caroline used to ride by on her pony Macaroni as the bulldozers ripped the area out to compose the garden. So in a manner, on the White House's East Wing, The Jacqueline Kennedy Garden is an elegant balance to the majesty of the Rose Garden outside the West Wing. The white cast iron Rococo Revival bench shown often in photographs of the garden has held residence in the spot since a decade before President & Mary Todd Lincoln took up residence.

Mrs. Obama's new circa 2009 Victory Garden will not be a feature on the tour. It can be glimpsed on the tour, but probably a little better opportunity is the wrought iron fence as its closer towards the fountain. I would love to get in the dirt in that garden and discover the secrets of the White House compost pile. But hidden before Michelle's new Garden is the child friendly and charming Children's Garden. Malia & Sasha, maybe Bo, will get to do the honors soon of placing their prints next to the other children and grandchildren of presidents for posterity. The Children's Garden is the invention of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. It sits between the Tennis Court and the basketball half court.

(Photo courtesy of White House Museum/Erinzone)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

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Michelle's Tab on the Entourage of Style

FLOTUS Michelle & FLOF Carla Bruni in the Rohan Palais in Strasbourg, France
A First Lady of the United States earns the same amount as a candy striper at a hospital - nothing. Not a hair out of place Upkeep and eyebrow Maintenance is quite expensive, borne straight from the presidential family's coffers. Just like each of their private meals; clothing, hair, make up and the rest of the daily living needs are purchased by the White House staff for the first family. The White House makes little bills that itemize all the stuff consumed in the private dining room of the residence or what was fixed for their guests as well as laundry services. It was well into the nineteenth century before laws were passed making the state occasions an expense of state. Presidents, Jefferson and Monroe had it rough. They lost their financial founding father shirts trying to entertain in Head of State style set by George W, the First President.

One of the funniest stories is of a son of President Ford's told a whopper about where he was going as his parents left for an official engagement. Instead, he brought the fellas over to the White House where pizzas with divine everything appeared with all manner of beverages. Next morning, Dad sees son and asked how was his evening out. Son: It was great. President: I know, I have the bill for it right here. Busted.

The White House does not hoard the bills, but ensures they are distributed in a timely manner. There are clear lines of legalese written in the Presidential Gifts Act, among others. That's why it was very carefully done how Bo Obama became the newest resident of the White House. All of his puppy paraphernalia is a direct expense. Clothing given to the first lady is very carefully accounted for as well. Just ask former First lady Nancy Reagan how much she still smarts over the questioning of how her gowns were purchased. Mrs. Obama has publicly stated she is picking up the purchase prices while telling her husband to stay out of her closet.

Clothing is one aspect that needs a full style framework. As a volunteer, Mrs. Obama does get professional staff for the management of the East Wing. Even with a full on cosmetics/beauty salon in the White House residence anybody doing the honors is paid by the family. Knowing that, it was the first time a First Lady picked up the airfare for both her man with the magical comb, Johnny Wright and a lady cosmetics guru, Ingrid grimes-Miles from Chicago station WGN to accompany her for a smashing European debut. They were part of her traveling entourage and just as important as the protocol official who gave her briefings aboard Air Force One. One little item Mrs. O is going to learn NOT to do while looking so fabulous is cross her legs. It hikes up her skirts, but more importantly both feet on the floor with knees and ankles together is old school classic. All in good time. She's got a terrific elegance with her hands. (Photo Grimes-Miles, traveling Make-up Aid)

Hair issues, especially for us ladies of color, rank at the top of being well dressed and making a statement. Her former Chicago stylist, Rhanni, had coiffed Michelle Obama since she was eighteen years old. Her new hair stylist just broke the thirty years on earth barrier not to long ago. Her hair will garner the same level of scrutiny that Hillary Clinton's did every time she changed the style, let alone when she finally had a three hanky burial for her headband. On the makeup or aesthetic side of things, Michelle had been accused of an angry countenance because of the sharp triangles of her plucked brows. On the campaign trail, there were days when Michelle gladly forwent makeup. During the summer of 2008, an Ebony stylist and her current hairstylist softened her appearance by rounding the edges. These things are expensive for a lady who is the Mom in Chief with a modern lifestyle. But goodness, First Lady upkeep is expensive.