Melania Trump is celebrating American patriotism at the White House this Christmas, incorporating red and blue into the traditional holiday green, adding a timeline of American design, innovation and architecture and studding a Christmas tree with her family's annual ornament, the American flag.
The traditional gingerbread White House shares its stage with American landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and Golden Gate Bridge.
"It is with great joy that our family welcomes you to the White House this holiday season as we celebrate the Spirit of America," President Donald Trump, the first lady and their son, Barron, say in the signed introduction to a souvenir book visitors will receive as a holiday keepsake. "We hope you enjoy our tribute to the traditions, customs and history that make our nation great."
The White House previewed the decorations for journalists on Monday before Trump and the first lady departed for London. Journalists were also admitted to the grounds of the Naval Observatory, the official residence for Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, to see the Christmas decorations there.
The East Colonnade of the White House is lined with double rows of see-through panels etched with more than 60 examples of American design, innovation and architecture, ranging from the Woolworth Building in New York City to the Space Needle in Seattle.
A tree dedicated to Gold Star families that lost an immediate relative during military service stands at the beginning of the hallway while a tree decorated with the Trump family ornament — an American flag this year — glistens at the end of the colonnade.
East Room decorations are inspired by the U.S. flag and feature gilded eagle Christmas tree toppers, mirrored stars and red and blue ribbons. In the State Dining Room, at the opposite end of the hallway, the decor continues to showcase American design.
The gingerbread White House, built from 200 pounds (90 kilograms) of gingerbread and slathered in 25 pounds (11 kilograms) of royal icing and 35 pounds (16 kilograms) of chocolate, showcases the South Portico, including a staircase made using angel hair, fettucine and spaghetti.
The popular display also features models of some of the nation's most famous landmarks, including Mount Rushmore, St. Louis' Gateway Arch, the Alamo, the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty, along with the Golden Gate Bridge and the Space Needle.
The Blue Room is again commanded by a towering tree, a 18 ½-foot Douglas fir from a Pennsylvania farm, decorated with flowers representing every state and territory. The Red Room is decorated with games, including trees made of White House playing cards bearing the president and first lady's signatures. It's meant to highlight her "Be Best" youth initiative and serve as a reminder of the kindness, respect and teamwork needed to play together.
Mrs. Trump continued her tradition of hanging wreaths on the mansion's exterior windows, 106 in all.
Late Sunday, she teased her Twitter followers with a minute-long video sneak peek of some of the decorations as she walked through the State Floor of the White House to put finishing touches on the displays.
More than 225 volunteers flew in from around the country to help decorate the White House during Thanksgiving weekend.
Decorations in the public areas of the White House include 58 Christmas trees, more than 2,500 strands of light, more than 800 feet (244 meters) of garland and more than 15,000 bows.
At the Naval Observatory, more than 40 volunteers decorated Pence's residence using 2,100 feet (640 meters) of garland and white lights, more than 160 red velvet bows and seven trees from a farm in Belvidere, New Jersey, to create a Victorian-themed Christmas.
Mrs. Pence said the theme "showcases the rich history of the residence and highlights the beauty of the special landmark that we are blessed to call home."
Eleven white stockings with red cuffs hang from the fireplace mantle in the dining room: one each for Pence and his wife, their three children, their daughter-in-law, two soon-to-be sons-in-law and pets Harley (a dog), Hazel (a cat) and Marlon Bundo (a rabbit).
The Pences also have a 70-pound (32 kilogram) gingerbread replica of their government-provided home on display.
Mrs. Pence, a watercolor artist, designed the family Christmas card showing the entrance to the house decorated with garland and a red bow, and a wreath on the white front door.
The Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on Monday conferred the title of "role model of the times" on Zhu Youyong, a famous plant pathologist.
Zhu, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and honorary president of Yunnan Agricultural University, has devoted himself to poverty alleviation in southwest China's Yunnan Province.
Voluntarily working in a poverty-stricken region inhabited by ethnic minority groups, Zhu led villagers in developing local specialty industry and trained over 1,000 people as pioneers in raising income with farming technology.
Zhu has made a number of well-recognized achievements in agricultural technology development and has been committed to promoting the application of research findings in the field.
Zhu's dedication has earned him many awards, including the second prize in national sci-tech progress awards, outstanding Party member and model teacher of the country.
Ree Drummond — known for her Food Network cooking show, ``The Pioneer Woman'' — won't follow diet trends to sell cookbooks.
"I have found that I have to be authentic to me, otherwise it won't work. My interest will fizzle. I stay most passionate when it's something that's really going on in my life," she told The Associated Press.
For instance, Drummond tried the Keto diet this year, but didn't stick with it. Still, she does offer Keto-like recipes in her latest cookbook, "The Pioneer Woman Cooks: The New Frontier," to reflect public interest in the diet.
"It was a little too hardcore for me to sustain, but that's what was behind the handful of lower-carb recipes in the cookbook. Just on those days or weeks when you want to kind of make slightly smarter choices, those are the recipes that reflect that," she said.
"But I call them lower carb because I'm not making any Keto gods happy."
Drummond's cooking is all about making your stomach happy. She's generally known for hearty fare, along with rich desserts. Surprisingly, though, bread is not her strong suit.
"I can kind of muddle through ... But I just don't have the artistry to make a really great loaf of bread. So that's going to be my lifetime goal," she said.
Her cookbook includes step-by-step visual guides with her recipes.
"It's the style that I used when I first started food blogging back in 2007. I just decided to take pictures of the steps as I cooked," Drummond said. "I had no idea if anybody would be interested, but I posted them and the people who read it at the time said, 'Hey, do another one.' And so that became my style."
Her brand continues to grow each year. She started as a stay-at-home married mom to four children on her ranch in Pawhusaka, Oklahoma, blogging about motherhood and simple recipes. Now she has a hit show, a collection of cookbooks and children's books, and a houseware line at Walmart. She was even featured on the cover of People magazine.
"I blogged on a whim, but I blogged about things that made me tick. Like, my kids. I wrote funny stories about raising them in the country,'' she said. "It's kind of crazy what has happened since then. But it's helped me enjoy the ride because, you know, just make all the plans you want and then pop popcorn and sit back and watch. You never know what will happen."
A tiny wooden relic believed to have been part of Jesus' manger has returned to its permanent home in the biblical city of Bethlehem 1,400 years after it was sent to Rome as a gift to the pope.
Sheathed in an ornate case, cheerful crowds greeted the relic Saturday with much fanfare before it entered the Franciscan Church of St. Catherine next to the Church of the Nativity, the West Bank holy site where tradition says Jesus was born.
The return of the relic by the Vatican coincides with Advent, a four-week period leading up to Christmas.
The Palestinians welcomed the relic as a spirit-lifting occasion as Bethlehem braced for Christmas, where pilgrims from around the world flock to the city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The mad scramble between Thanksgiving and Christmas just got six days shorter.
Black Friday once again kicks off the start of the holiday shopping season. But with six fewer days than last year, it will be the shortest season since 2013 because Thanksgiving fell on the fourth Thursday in November — the latest possible date it could be. That means customers will have less time to shop and retailers will have less time to woo them.
Adobe Analytics predicts a loss of $1 billion in online revenue from a shortened season. Still, it expects online sales will reach $143.7 billion, up 14.1% from last year's holiday season
The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, baked the shorter season into its forecast, but it says the real drivers will be the job market. It forecasts that holiday sales will rise between 3.8% and 4.2%, an increase from the disappointing 2.1% growth seen in the November and December 2018 period that came well short of the group's prediction.
Last year's holiday sales were hurt by turmoil over the White House trade policy with China and a delay in data collection by nearly a month because of a government shutdown. This year's holiday forecast is above the average holiday sales growth of 3.7% over the previous five years.
NRF expects online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, to increase between 11% and 14%, for the holiday period.
Black Friday is expected to once again be the largest shopping day of the season, followed by the last Saturday before Christmas, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, which tracks spending across all types of payments including cash and check. Thanksgiving Day isn't even on the top 10 holiday shopping days, according to MasterCard.
The 2019 holiday season will be a good measure of the U.S. economy's health. Many retail CEOs describe their customers has financially healthy, citing moderate wage growth and an unemployment rate hovering near a 50-year low.
"The overall picture is positive," said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy. "People are spending out of positive cash flow as opposed to borrowing."
Economic growth has moderated since earlier this year, with growth at just 1.9% in the July-September quarter, down from 3.1% in the first three months of the year. Analysts blame at least part of that on the U.S.-China trade war, which has forced many companies to delay plans to invest and expand.
That's left consumers as the main drivers. So far, Americans have kept up their spending, allaying fears of a recession.
With more holiday deals happening earlier to compensate for the late start, many have already started to shop. More than half of consumers have already started their holiday shopping and nearly a quarter of purchases have already been made, according to the annual survey released by the NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics. The survey of 7,917 adult consumers was conducted Oct. 31 through Nov. 6.
"This is further evidence that the holiday season has grown far beyond the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas," said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of NRF, in a statement.