Laura Bush Unveils White House Christmas Decor

11/30/2006 at 03:20 PM EST

Laura Bush Unveils White House Christmas Decor
Laura Bush at the White House on Nov. 30.
Ron Edmonds/AP
What does it take to turn the White House into a winter wonderland? Try 4,638 red ornament balls, 17 Christmas trees, 269 wreaths and 1,089 feet of garland.

"This is a beautiful old house to decorate for Christmas," First Lady Laura Bush told the press corps on Thursday as she unveiled this year's "Deck the Halls and Welcome All"-themed dressing up of the executive mansion.

With pastry chef Roland Mesnier "back by popular" demand and responsible for an elaborate gingerbread White House, Mrs. Bush pointed out the finer points of his high-caloric creation – complete with miniature recreations of family pets Barney and Miss Beazley and 800 hand-piped icing snowflakes.

"Everything is edible," said Mrs. Bush, though cautioning, "not that I would suggest anybody break off a piece."

She next revealed the Blue Room – with the official 18.5-ft. Douglas fir, a gift from Francis and Margaret Botek of the Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, Pa. – before leading the tour into the East Room, where a buffet table featured faux firs and polished silver tureens waiting to welcome the first round of holiday guests Thursday evening.

Describing this year's buffet spreads, Mrs. Bush said they included a few less traditional items, such as Bush family favorites chicken fried steak and tamales. Other items on the menu include ham, lollipop lamb chops, stuffed turkey breast, sweet potato soufflé and asparagus.

In all, the President and Mrs. Bush will be greeting 10,000 guests during 24 parties spread over 20 days as they wrap up their sixth Christmas in the White House.

Mrs. Bush said that her family, as it has every year, put up its own tree in the private quarters and decorated it with ornaments they've assembled since twins Jenna and Barbara were babies. Among the personal decorations, she said, is her collection of nativity scenes, along with pieces from abroad during her world travels.

Mrs. Bush also said that she wanted to send all the troops and their families "our love and our respect," and she praised the many community efforts to show support for those serving in the war.

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