Obama Settling Into the White House

The new president is enjoying the amenities of his new abode.

Jan. 29, 2009— -- Before President Barack Obama moved into the White House, outgoing President George W. Bush gave his successor a heads-up: Presidents pay their own personal grocery bills, he warned Obama, and the first family's pantry stays fully stocked at all times. You'll be surprised by that first grocery bill, Bush told Obama.

The White House pantries and refrigerators are now packed with Obama's favorite snacks -- herbal iced tea, trail mix, Dentyne peppermint gum, salsa and guacamole -- as he and the first family settle into a routine.

As tough as the challenges are that he and his administration are facing, Obama is delighted to be, for the first time since being sworn in to the U.S. Senate in January 2005, living permanently in the same house as his wife Michelle and two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.

"He enjoys, to use a phrase, living above the company store," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs recently told reporters.

On the campaign trail, recalls senior adviser David Axelrod, "the number one complaint I would hear from President Obama was that he was spending too much time away from his children."

So, even with the weight of two wars and a frightening economic crisis, the president "seems happier than I've seen in a long time," Axelrod said.

His arrangement certainly isn't bad. On the 18-acre estate of the White House, the president has his own gym, tennis courts, indoor bowling alley and personal chef, not to mention a short 30-second commute to work.

The Chicago native is fully enjoying all the amenities while trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy in his routine, like having dinner with his family and exercising.

The president begins his day at 6:45 a.m. with a workout at his own private gym. With Jay-Z and Li'l Wayne pumping into his ears via his iPod, the president alternates his workouts between free weights and a treadmill.

The gym-rat-in-chief is known for his grueling fitness regimens, having worked out at fitness centers from the East Coast to the West Coast during his run for the presidency. He's known to combine cardio with strength training, lat pull-downs and back exercises.

"Most of my workouts have to come before my day starts," the avid basketball player told Men's Health magazine in October. "There's always a trade-off between sleep and working out. Usually, I get in about 45 minutes, six days a week. I'll lift [weights] one day, do cardio the next. I wish I was getting a 90-minute workout."

Obama's basketball prowess is well known, but as of now it is too cold to play at the outdoor court at 1600 Pennsylania Avenue.

The president has already started entertaining, too. On Wednesday night -- just about a week after his inauguration -- Obama held a cocktail party for Republican and Democratic lawmakers to celebrate the passing of the $825 billion stimulus plan. On Sunday, he will play host to another bipartisan group for a Super Bowl party.

In addition to their pending grocery bills, the Obamas also are likely to rack up a bigger restaurant tab than the Bushes. The Obama family already has been more visible around the city than its predecessors. The Bushes preferred quiet dinners at home and an early bedtime.

Finding their way around town may actually be easier than navigating the White House for the Obamas.

"At the end of the first night, he had to ask somebody where he was supposed to go next," Gibbs told reporters. "It's a pretty big house."

The private tour the Obamas got Saturday likely helped, but the president still wanders through the halls trying to figure out where his aides sit, a rather unconventional move for a president. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush would regularly summon aides to the Oval Office.

Obama recently shocked Gibbs when he walked into his office unexpectedly and caught the press secretary with his feet on the table.

"It was a little bit of a startling moment. My door is generally open in the press office for reporters to walk in and out, but I didn't expect to see the president of the United States walk in while I had my feet up," Gibbs recently told "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer.

"Wow, Gibbs," the president said, Gibbs recalled. "You just got here and your feet are up already."

The feet came down and Gibbs stood up. Obama is still getting used to the notion that people rise when he enters a room.

Another Obama aide, National Economic Council Director Larry Summers, also took a little heat, but it wasn't from the president. Rather, the first Hawaiian-born U.S. president keeps the temperature in the Oval Office high, which has led the economist to break out in occasional sweats during their daily economic briefing.

It may take some time for the Obamas to get used to the luxuries of the most prized residence in the country. And like any people living in a new home, the first couple is extra careful about the house.

"I told guests -- feel free to walk around, touch some stuff -- just don't break anything," Michelle Obama said Thursday after her husband signed his first bill into law -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. "That's what I try to tell my kids."