Monday, November 5, 2012

The White House

We interrupt this Food Revolution to bring you news of the most incredible full circle moment….

Getting the courage to start my blog began in a beautiful garden in Washington, DC and on October 19, 2012--almost three years later-- I was completely blown away to find myself in another beautiful DC garden, this time at the White House, all because of this blog. 

Almost three years ago, on a sunny day in late February 2010, I met my friend and colleague for lunch in the Enid A. Haupt garden behind the Smithsonian Castle. I've had many lunches in this garden with my friends at the Castle but who knew this one in particular would create such a ripple effect in my life. My lunch buddy on this day is a foodie, movie lover, fabulous amateur photographer and knew just what to say to give me a push to start my Food Revolution. I bounced the idea off of him but I was a bit afraid. His enthusiasm was contagious, and I had no idea about the journey it would take me on.  From writing a blog that I never expected would be read, to teaching cooking classes, to becoming one of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Heroes, and finally being invited to tour the White House Gardens.  Amazing.

I didn't set out to do any of these things and I never thought I would be influencing others to get back into their kitchens.  One of the biggest lessons I've learned is sometimes you need to sit back and see where life takes you.

Now, fast forward three years and I’m a social media guest at the White House's Fall Garden Tour. I had submitted an application for why I should be chosen to participate and I was so surprised to get picked. I had been watching the weather all week and they were calling for rain. Sure enough, while we were waiting outside to get through security, the skies opened up and the small group of us waiting to get in shared our umbrellas and huddled together to try and keep dry. I've been thinking back and now I think that maybe the rain was a blessing in disguise. Standing under those umbrellas, we bonded and got to know one another maybe a bit better and a bit faster than if the sun had been shining. After getting through security, we were led down the driveway into the White House and through a short hallway. The next thing I knew, I was on the South Lawn of the White House overlooking the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. Our tour guides were gracious hosts, especially Dale Haney, the Supervisor of the grounds. He has been working there since 1972 and he was a wealth of information. I learned so much and took some great pictures too! Here are some of the great fun facts and some photos from my tour….
The White House Grounds are the oldest maintained landscape in the US. 

These Magnolia trees were planted by Andrew Jackson.

The Jacqueline Kennedy Garden….

The White House Kitchen Garden. In addition to being beautiful and functional at the same time it also has its own compost and beehive! 

The Rose Garden was the best part!  It was where I most felt like I was seeing a place where history is made. Also from the Rose Garden, we were able to see into the Oval Office which on this dark, rainy morning had its lights on and you could see the bustle of activity inside. Democracy at work. Standing there I was in awe of the history that surrounded me.  

The next thing we knew, President Obama was walking down the outdoor hallway on his "commute" from the residence to the Oval Office. It was an unexpected treat to get to see him! 

Photo credit: Deborah Fenelon
Next we headed over to the Old Executive Office Building for our briefing. One of my favorite parts of the day was hearing the stories and passions of the people I was with that day. Many were gardeners, beekeepers, foodies, activists, and expert twitterers, but what we all had in common was that we were wildly excited to be there. We came from all parts of the U.S., some from as far away as Hawaii, California, Missouri, Massachusetts, Florida as well as a few of us locals. 
After we introduced ourselves, we were treated to more than an hour of briefing and Q&A from White House staff. Our speakers included White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, White House Photographer Sonya Hebert and Jon Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement. They were candid and fascinating to listen to and so generous with their time. I loved hearing Chef Yosses' take on Pastry in a healthy White House. He believes (and so do I) that if you use good whole ingredients (like honey from those garden beehives in place of some sugar) and control the portions there is always room for a little dessert. I love that! Photographer Sonya had some great tips on taking photos and watching for the emotion in the moment to capture on film. Jon Carson encouraged us to keep reaching out into our communities and told us more about his growing office and their role now that social media has come onto the scene.
The small group of us who had been invited on the Social Media tour didn't find out until the final minutes of our amazing morning that we had been chosen out of about 1,000 applicants. I think I can speak for most of us that we were shocked at the odds and despite rain and bad-hair days, we had just had the most incredible morning. 
And that's my full circle moment…garden to garden.


  1. I couldn't have said it better myself! Thanks for summarizing my feelings so well;) It truly was an amazing opportunity, and I still find myself looking at my pictures to be sure it really happened. It was so great to meet you and share this experience with you.
    I hope you keep blogging because you are a wonderful storyteller!

  2. Wow, how awesome! Strange coincidence, I was in Washington the very next day, Oct 20th, for a charity gala. We saw the huge lines of people waiting to get in for the White House garden tour. We took our pictures in front of the White House itself. I am envious that you got to be a part of that!

    1. luckiest1....You're kidding! Our worlds collide again! One of these days, I'm sure we'll get a chance to meet. Hope you had a great trip to my neck of the woods. Happy Holidays!