|Winfrey and Mrs. Obama at the Medal of Freedom Dinner|
Washington, DC - First Lady Michelle Obama remained behind in Hawaii on Saturday when her husband and daughters flew home to the freezing nation's capital, to enjoy an extended vacation as part of President Barack Obama's gift to mark her upcoming 50th birthday on Jan. 17th. The White House announced the gift and offered no other details.
But Mrs. Obama has reportedly relocated from the beachfront rental compound where the First Family spent their vacation on Oahu, the state's most populated island, to the more secluded island of Maui, where she is reportedly staying with girlfriends at the 12-bedroom estate home of Oprah Winfrey, located on 17 acres in Kula.
Local media, TMZ.com and The Daily Caller reported the news, citing local sources:
"Sources with direct knowledge tell TheDC that the first lady is relaxing in Maui at Oprah’s estate with CBS’ Gayle King, Valerie Jarrett and Sharon Malone, who is Attorney General Eric Holder’s wife," The Daily Caller wrote.
Jarrett is one of the President's longest-serving Senior Advisors, and a close friend from the Obamas' Chicago days. Malone, an obstetrician, is one of Mrs. Obama's closest friends. King and Winfrey are best friends, for those not keeping track of the media mogul's pals.
Secret Service and a large cadre of Maui police were spotted on the roads outside Winfrey's compound, as well as SWAT teams, reported TMZ.com.
Taxpayers will be footing the bill for part of Mrs. Obama's birthday trip, Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Monday, but added that "the first family will appropriately fund personal expenses." Mrs. Obama is traveling aboard government aircraft, Carney said.
"As with all personal travel, the First Family will appropriately fund personal expenses," Carney said. "And in line with travel of past Presidents and First Ladies, the First Lady will travel via government aircraft."
He added that the plan for Mrs. Obama to remain in Hawaii when the President and their daughters returned to DC "was her decision."
"And if you have kids, you know that telling your spouse that they can go spend a week away from home is actually a big present," Carney said.
The White House did not specify where Mrs. Obama would spend her time in Hawaii, nor with whom she would relax when announcing her extended stay in the Aloha State. "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," was the entire official statement offered on Saturday.
The White House also did not specify a return date for Mrs. Obama, but has planned a dance-themed birthday bash for Friday, Jan. 18th. Titled "Snacks & Sips & Dancing & Dessert,” the party is scheduled to begin at 9:00 PM, a source told ObFo. Guests were instructed via a save-the-date email to eat head of the party, wear comfortable shows, and practice their dance moves.
The Obamas most recently welcomed Winfrey to the White House last November, when the President awarded her the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
Winfrey was the biggest celebrity to endorse then-Senator Obama in 2008 when he first ran for national office. Mrs. Obama appeared on the cover of Winfrey's O magazine in 2009, and the publication has also featured stories on the Let's Move! campaign.
|TMZ posted this aerial photo of Winfrey's estate|
"Every evening we sit on the front porch and watch the greatest light show on earth: the sun dipping below the horizon. Neighbors drop by. We sip drinks inspired by whatever is fresh and delicious -- mango, guava, pineapple, cucumber, basil. We chat, laugh and rate the sunsets according to their magnificence. When there's a full moon, we hike up the mountain and sometimes ride horses to the top to watch the moon rise over the ridge. I love being in my garden, cultivating the most delicious organic fruits and vegetables. Radishes as big as your head. The land gives and gives. It restores my soul," Winfrey wrote.
*Top photo by Getty; second via TMZ.com