Obama Family's First Year: Out on the Town and At Home with the First Couple

President Obama's every word and movement is covered meticulously by hundreds of journalists, but last weekend he was able to prevent any leaks about a special occasion -- a surprise birthday party for first lady Michelle Obama, who turned 46 on Jan. 17.

The president and first lady joined friends and family for a private dinner at a restaurant in Washington's Dupont Circle neighborhood.

Once word eventually got out that the first couple was dining at Restaurant Nora, a crowd of about 50 people gathered at a nearby corner, and when the Obamas exited the restaurant, they broke out into a singalong of "Happy Birthday."

The night was another example of the Obamas taking in their new city and socializing beyond the gates of the White House.

The couple frequently dined out in their hometown of Chicago and even had a regular Friday night date, until the rigors of the 2008 presidential campaign kicked in.

There was an expectation that that social presence would continue in Washington and the president himself said indicated they would be a part of the tapestry and fabric of their new city.

"[W]e are neighborhood people," the president said on his first night in office, at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball. "[I]f you think about it, the word neighborhood starts with the word neighbor because it indicates a sense that we as Americans are bound together. That what we have in common is more important than what drives us apart."

The workload of the presidency, and perhaps the logistical challenges of living at the White House and having a large security detail, seem to have limited the Obamas' appearances on the social scene. The first lady has admitted to enjoying just vegging out on the couch and watching some television in her limited free time.

But when they moved to Washington last January, in the weeks leading up to Inauguration Day, the Obamas seemed to be everywhere.

There was the president-elect having lunch with D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty at local landmark Ben's Chili Bowl, which used to bear a sign that said nobody ate for free there except Bill Cosby. (Now that has been amended to allow for free half-smokes for President Obama.)

Obama dropped by a cocktail party at a steakhouse to meet new members of Congress, dined with conservative pundits and columnists at George Will's home in suburban Maryland and played a pick-up basketball game at a Washington recreation center.

But then he took the oath of office and with those 37 words came pressing foreign and domestic policy challenges and a to-do list that he laid out during the two-year campaign.

Sure the Obamas have had a few dinners out, including a date for their anniversary in October.

But their most notable date night last year was not even in Washington. The president and first lady flew to New York City in May to have dinner and see a Broadway show, fulfilling a promise Obama had made to his wife during the campaign.

Obama, an ardent hoops fan, hit up an NBA basketball game and sat courtside and joined his family at a George Washington University basketball game when they took on Oregon State, coached by the first lady's brother, Craig.

There was the trip to suburban Virginia with daughters Malia and Sasha for frozen custard last summer.

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