Exhilarating. Educational. Enchanting. Enriching. These are just a few words describing my experience-of-a-lifetime as a mom lifestyle blogger invited to The White House for the holidays, as a guest representing both my blog and SocialMoms.
It all happened lighting fast. Last Thursday evening, I received the official White House invitation to attend the White House Holiday Social in Washington, DC. After scrambling for a last-minute plane ticket from Los Angeles, I was in the air on my way to the Capitol Sunday night and was still in a daze when I walked up to the main gate at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, America’s most famous address, bright and early Monday morning.
Since September 11th, The White House has unfortunately been closed to public tours and now the only way to get inside is to be invited by someone with connections. I’d never been to The White House before, so I was thrilled to receive word that from thousands of potential attendees, I was one of 17 bloggers hand-picked by the Obama Administration to participate in a day-long special event. Included in our select group were 16 women and 1 man. Among us were several other mom and lifestyle bloggers like me, as well as social media enthusiasts – even school teachers — active on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and/or Instagram, and of course social communities like Social Moms.
Holidays at the White House Tour
We were on the go from the moment we arrived until the end of the day. The first activity to acclimate us to our high security surroundings was a tour of the White House holiday decorations guided by Kasie Coccaro, White House social media staffer who organized this memorable event. Walking from room to room, it was an amazing feeling as an American citizen to stand in places where so many Presidents have also stood and where countless historical events and photos have been taken. What a privilege to witness first-hand all the locations I’d only known about previously from media.
Decorated in their finest were The White House Library, East Room, Green Room, The Blue Room which is known as the heart of the White House, Red Room, the State Dining Room where many Presidential social functions are held, and other rooms. Each room was different and there were many Christmas trees throughout to see – all so equally beautiful, encompassing the Gather Around theme chosen by First Lady Michelle Obama for the 2013 national holiday season celebration.
President’s Executive Pastry Chef Gives Away a Few Expert Secrets
In the afternoon, we were invited into the Presidential theater where President Obama, family and friends often take in movies without even having to leave the White House building. First we were treated to a meet-and-greet with William “Bill” Yosses who has been the executive pastry chef since 2007, baking for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. A former baker from world-famous Tavern on the Green in New York, Chef Bill shared some novel insider’s tips on baking – like using Vodka instead of water when making pie pastry to make it the flakiest possible. He also shared the backstory of how this year’s White House Gingerbread House was designed and made.
Remembering & Supporting Military Families
Next up was a heart-warming presentation by Rory M. Brosius, deputy director of Joining Forces, which is an initiative of the Office of the First Lady. It’s important that we welcome our military home after they’ve served our country and this organization is all about helping find jobs and providing support for military members and their families to help them integrate back into American society.
Behind-the-Scene Stories about White House Holiday Décor from the Designer
Finally, came an engaging talk by Laura Dowling, Chief Floral Designer for The White House. Here we learned all about what goes into each annual theme, the planning and how the extraordinary holiday décor is actually executed, involving hundreds of hours of time spent by volunteers who help decorate The People’s House. The day was capped with a hands-on arts and crafts workshop, led by Laura, who helped us recreate the same Bo Ho Ho Boutonnière and Corsage that we had seen earlier on the collars of the playful First Dogs Bo and Sunny sculptures in the East Garden Room.
What a pleasure it is to share this unique holiday experience with my fellow Social Mom community members. If you’d like to hear more about this and see more pictures don’t miss the White House Holidays series on MommyBlogExpert.com which starts with this post.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reliving this adventure with me and that it brightens your own holiday season! Thanks again to Megan Calhoun at Social Moms for making this dream trip a reality.
Photo Credits: Janis Brett Elspas, MommyBlogExpert.com