Bess Abell and Zucchini Soup

Bess Abell was Lyndon Johnson’s Social Secretary. The daughter of Earle Clements, a man who served Kentucky as both its governor and senator, she has lived her entire life around politics, and is currently the dean of the former social secretaries sorority. I love being around Bess. In addition to having some of the best social secretary stories of all time, she is a gifted raconteur, and always draws roars of laughter with her tales of Lyndon Johnson. Johnson was […]


Seating a Dinner

This post may not be wildly relevant to everyone, but it has a wider application: we all find ourselves introducing mutual friends from time to time, and often with a certain amount of anxiety. Will they like each other? Will they each make an effort to be friendly and find some commonality of interests? These are all things that a hostess needs to take into account when seating a dinner party. There is protocol in every dinner. It may not […]


September 11th

That searing day and the jittery months that followed are marked in time for each of us. We should strive to remember and honor the lives that were lost. It’s important, I think, to express our profound gratitude to those Americans who are fighting this vicious war. We are in uncharted territory – finding a way to protect ourselves while clinging tightly to the basic freedoms of the American ideal. It takes integrity, and vigilance, and an unshakeable commitment to the core values that […]


Fingerbowls, Placement, Escort Cards and other Arcana of Formal Dinners at the White House

Some people love to hear about the tiniest details of formal entertaining, and I’m happy to oblige.  At a seated dinner at the White House a guest may encounter social traditions that may be unfamiliar to them: 1.)    Escort Cards and Placement: A little envelope with the guest’s name will be presented to each person as they arrive.   Inside they will find their table assignment.  At this point, guests usually begin comparing notes on where they are seated, wondering if Table […]


The White House Cookbook & Giveaway!

I love old recipe books. When I was 17, I bought a 1905 version of “The White House Cookbook, a Comprehensive Cyclopedia of Information for the Home” in an antique shop.  It was so much more than a cookbook: it had a listing of the menus of the (Teddy) Roosevelt White House, proper etiquette, rules of dinner-giving, menus for the sick and – the best part – “health suggestions and facts worth knowing”.  This was from a time when a […]