|Greeting a crowd on the tarmac before boarding Air Force One|
Washington, DC - First Lady Michelle Obama remained in Hawaii when President Barack Obama departed Oahu with their daughters on Saturday night, heading home to the chilly East Coast after the longest winter vacation of his two terms in office, the first since 2009 that was uninterrupted by pressing political business.
Mrs. Obama marks her milestone 50th birthday on January 17th, and President Obama gave his wife a special gift: Remaining in the Aloha State for some tropical fun with pals, the White House announced shortly before Air Force One took off at 9:00 PM.
"As part of her birthday gift from the President, the First Lady will remain in Hawaii to spend time with friends ahead of her upcoming 50th birthday," the White House said.
|A WH photo from Christmas Eve|
Daughters Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12, will ostensibly return to their studies at Sidwell Friends school in DC on Monday, Jan. 6th when the school re-opens after winter break.
Mrs. Obama did not accompany the President and their girls to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu for their departure on Saturday night. Instead, the First Family made their alohas over a casual dinner at Buzz's Original Steakhouse in the Lanikai neighborhood of Kailua, a moderately priced, family friendly joint with a luau theme (tiki torches, palm skirts on railings).
They spent about an hour-and-a-half at dinner after arriving at 6:23 PM. Located on a canal across from the public beach, Buzz's is close to the beachfront rental compound the Obamas have enjoyed since they arrived on Dec. 20th. The menu of island fusion comfort food stars Kiawe Broiled steak, burgers, and fish.
The President and First Family dined at Buzz's last year on the eve of their departure from Hawaii, too.
On Saturday they finished dinner at 8:08 PM, and the President and the girls, accompanied by aides, headed for the Base for the roughly eight-hour, overnight flight home. The White House did not say if the First Lady's mother, Mrs. Marian Robinson, and the family dogs, Bo and Sunny, who were also vacationing on island, climbed aboard Air Force One with the President.
Ahead of his departure, the President and Mrs. Obama on Saturday morning spent a little private time together, taking an early hike on the Na Pohaku O Hauwahine trail, located off the Kapaa Quarry Road. They hiked for just about 15 minutes before getting back into the motorcade at 8:37 AM and returning to their rental home.
After, the President spent a little more than three hours playing his ninth game of vacation golf, hitting the links at Marine Corps Base Hawaii for 18 holes on the Kaneohe Klipper course with Let's Move! Executive Director Sam Kass and aide Marvin Nicholson. It was Kass' sixth game of the vacation with his boss.
|The President offers well-wishers a "shaka" at Island Snow|
The President and Mrs. Obama's other edible excursions while on vacation were to the same three eateries they have repeatedly patronized since 2010, with one distinction: They had two three-hour dinners at Morimoto Waikiki instead of one, bookending the vacation with a visit at the beginning on Dec. 22 and a visit at the end on Jan. 3rd.
They also dined at Nobu Waikiki on Dec. 27, and at Alan Wong's on Dec. 30th. On New Year's Eve, the President ended 2013 with his annual afternoon visit to Island Snow for shave ice (cherry and lemon-lime) before ringing in 2014 privately at home. Without their father, the Obama girls had been making almost daily runs to the joint located in a strip mall close to the vacation home.
Mrs. Obama had her own dining adventures without the President, including on Jan. 2, when she visited Town Restaurant for lunch. Chef/owner Ed Kenney joined Mrs. Obama for a Let's Move! event at MA'O Organic Farms on Oahu in 2011, and also cooked the luncheon the First Lady hosted for spouses of APEC leaders during the same visit.
Bobby Titcomb, one of the President's oldest friends from his Honolulu school days, hosted a barbecue party for the First Family on Dec. 28.
|Greeting troops and families on Christmas Day|
The President and First Family celebrated Christmas privately with extended family and friends. In the afternoon, the Commander in Chief, joined by Mrs. Obama, visited with 580 troops and their families at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, where he regularly worked out at the gym. The President wished all "Mele Kalikimaka," Hawaiian for "Merry Christmas."
The President has had no other public or official events during his vacation, though he has been briefed daily by aides, and signed a budget deal and defense spending bill while on island.
Aides during the vacation also announced that they had signed the President up for a bronze-level insurance plan under his signature Affordable Care Act, in an effort to get Americans to enroll after months of problems with the glitch-laden Healthcare.gov website.
The President is scheduled to arrive at the White House on Sunday morning, and has no public events scheduled for the day.
*CLICK HERE for links to all vacation posts.
*Photos by pool except for photo of Mrs. Obama on Christmas Eve, by Pete Souza/White House