Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Holiday White House Adventure (PT. 3)

((The White House!))

On December 5, 2011, I was invited to attend a White House Holiday Tweet-up.

The night before we saw the White House all dressed up for Christmas from the outside.

This afternoon, we had the privilege to see the glittering lights and trees that we had only been able to glimpse through the windows the previous night up close and from a more personal angle!

We entered the White House the same way nearly all visitors enter the main residence: through the East Wing's visitor's entrance.

On our way to the East Wing's visitor's entrance, we spotted the gardening staff hard at work mulching the winter beds.

Finally, we made it to the steps leading into the East Wing, where the First Lady and her staff keep their offices.
Greenery greeted us as we entered.
And we caught sight of the first of 37 Christmas trees!

Under the direction of the White House florist, 136 volunteers from 36 states flocked to the White House and began decorating the day after Thanksgiving. In just five days the president's residence was transformed into a holiday show-stopper!

  • Volunteers created a wonderful Christmas display!
  • 37 Christmas trees.
  • Theme this year is Shine, Give, Share.
  • Unofficial theme: Find Bo.
  • Bo, the First Family's playful Portuguese water dog, is featured in every room.
Curious about the floor plan of the White House? Visit the White House Museum's website for a virtual tour.

 A cotton ball Bo sits at the East Wing's security desk to welcome visitors. He's wearing glasses so he can check your ID.

From the lobby, we entered the Garden Room, a room filled with windows that look out over the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden. 

In this room, we found the Gold Star Families Tree. This tree honors those who gave their lives in service to our National. Photos, medals, and messages from family members hang on the tree in remembrance of the fallen soldiers.

There was a table set up in the room where visitors could write messages to troops stationed overseas for the holidays. You, too, can write a message of thanks to a member of the military at Joining Forces.
From the East Garden Room, we looked out into the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden. The flowerbed have been cleared and mulched for the winter, but the topiary bushes and trees are still lovely.
Next, we wandered down the long, but brightly lit East Colonnade. Paper ornaments alternated with wreaths. Photos of events from past Christmases lined the north wall.
 At the end of the colonnade, we found more greenery over the arched opening!
The East Colonnade led us to the Visitor's Foyer for the main residence. Paper trees and traditional paper decorations on real trees filled the room with a playful, children's tone. Oh! And there's a paper Bo waiting to greet us!
Through this doorway (above), we entered the main residence of the White House. The East and West wings were both later additions to the main building.
The ground floor of the White House is traversed by the arching Center Hall. You really feel the weight of the building down here. And look, there's a staffer bringing coffees from the kitchens to a meeting.

The first room we poked our heads into was the Library where holiday greeting cards were on display. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent the first Christmas cards featuring the White House in 1933.

Look! There's Bo again! This time he's made out of trash bags.

 The Vermeil Room looked sort of sad and empty. But it did have a lovely portraits of some of the First Ladies.

The China Room has one of my favorite portraits in the entire house--the portrait of Mrs. Coolidge. Of course I love it because of the dog! And yes, this is the room where they store/display the different sets of China.

Although, there is also a display case of presidential china in the Center Hall.

Once we'd gotten our fill of the ground floor (by this time we'd long lost our tour guide), we headed up the stairs to the first floor.

The room we encountered on the first floor was the largest...the East Room. And there, at the base of a topiary Christmas tree, we spotted a tiny Bo!



At the center of the room is an elaborate manger scene that would take hours to see everything going on in it!

From the East Room, we headed to the Green Room, which was decorated with funky aluminum trees!

And another Bo!

 The Blue Room holds the official White House Christmas tree, a balsam fir from Neshkoro, Wisconsin. The tree is decorated with cards from military children and medals, badges, and patches from all of the military branches.

 The Red Room has my favorite...button Bo!

And more Christmas trees!

The State Dining Room holds what everyone was waiting to see...

Not the trees, although they were lovely.

Not Jim and me, although that's my Christmas card picture this year!


The show-stopper was the 400-pound white chocolate covered, architecturally accurate, gingerbread house complete with Bo, kitchen garden, and bee hive!
As we left the State Dining Room and headed into Cross Hall and Entrance Hall, I came across portraits of two great presidents. (Kennedy on my right and Reagan on my left. HAHA!)


 Cross Hall took us to the entrance at the North Portico where a high school chorus sang Christmas carols.

(The door behind them leads to the Chief Usher's office.)

 I love the phone on the windowsill. It reminds us that this is a house. A family lives here.

 Stairs led up to the bedrooms. We weren't allowed up there.

It's a beautiful house that's filled with history. It's smaller than you'd think. Most CEO's and movie stars would probably find it cramped. But I think it's just the right size for our country. Cozy. Homey. 
It's truly the People's House.

 I hated to leave!
 Hopefully, I'll be invited back soon!

Are you interested in volunteering to help decorate the White House next year? Fill out an application in March at the White House's website. I'll keep an eye out for you!

 I hope your holiday season is bright and shiny and filled with mystery!



Dorothy St. James writes the White House Gardener Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. Flowerbed of State is the first book in the series. Be sure to grab your copy while they're still available! Visit with Dorothy on the web or at Facebook. Or follow her on Twitter.

"Credible characters, a fast-paced plot, and a light look at political life in Washington, D.C., will delight cozy fans."
~ Publishers Weekly
"This spunky new romantic suspense series is an obvious pick for readers who enjoy Julie Hyzy's "White House Chef" series (Buffalo West Wing), but also think of gardening mystery series such as Rosemary Harris's (Slugfest)." ~ Library Journal
Order Flowerbed of State from your favorite bookseller. 
Look for The Scarlet Pepper in April 2012. Pre-order your copy today!

Tomorrow: Ghosts in the White House? What were those mysterious orbs that showed up in some of our pictures?

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