Melania Trump seeking volunteers to decorate, entertain at White House for Christmas

Though the holidays are months away, First lady Melania Trump is already preparing for the most wonderful time of the year.

On August 3, the White House issued a release announcing that FLOTUS and her husband President Donald Trump are again “opening up the People’s House to the public for traditional Christmas decorating.”


The Trump family is getting ready to celebrate its first Christmas in the White House, but how exactly is first lady Melania Trump putting her own touch on this year's decor?

While creative-types can apply to help transform 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into a winter wonderland through September 3, musicians are welcome to submit applications to entertain until September 17. Through the month of December, selected “high school bands, choirs, and Christmas-themed entertainers” will have the opportunity to jam out at Holiday Open Houses.

Chosen volunteers will be notified by October 1, the release states.

FLOTUS’ Press Secretary and Communications Director Stephanie Grishman further confirmed to USA Today that the recruitment of volunteers for the yuletide festivities is not new.

Last year, over 25,000 visitors were expected to tour the White House through the holiday season. Decorations took 150 volunteers over 1,600 hours to put together, including the 71 wreaths, 53 Christmas trees and more than 18,000 lights. The furnishings, themed “Time-Honored Traditions” were revealed in late November, and the first lady selected "every detail of the décor,” Fox News reported at the time.

Author Andy Och reacts on 'Fox & Friends.'


Highlights included a bevy of twinkling Christmas trees, a live ballet performance from "The Nutcracker" and a 300-pound gingerbread replica of the White House.

Arizona town building tiny homes for teachers who can’t afford to live closer

A school district in Arizona is building a tiny home community for cash-strapped teachers who can’t afford local housing.

The small town of Vail, located about 25 miles southeast of Tucson, has an average home price of $258,000 and no apartments within the 425-square-mile school district, CityLab reports.

This leaves many of the local school teachers, whose salaries range from about $38,000 to $46,000, commuting from Tucson in order to live somewhere they can afford rent.


“The lowest rent you can find for a house in Vail is $1,200,” Sydney Scharer tells CityLab. Scharer teaches fifth grade at Senita Valley Elementary School and makes $38,000 a year.

The only way to afford rent was for her and her fiancé to live in a 600-sqaure-foot apartment about a 30 minute drive from work for $850 per month. “It was the closest thing we could get to Vail and still keep our rent reasonable,” she said.

But now, thanks to a new housing community, Scharer, and soon others, will be able to live in a neighborhood of two dozen 300- to 400-square-foot homes on district land.

Tens of thousands of teachers from Arizona marched on the capitol Thursday demanding massive funding increases.

The tiny home community is being built on five acres near what’s set to become the town city center. Scharer and her fiancé just moved into the site’s first tiny home, a one-bedroom, 400-square-foot property she’s renting until her own customized tiny home is complete. On a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, her monthly payments will be about $700 a month.

The homes will be available both for purchase and rent, with the project being supported mostly by local investors. The district is spending $200,000 on infrastructure, and teachers and staff will pay $125 a month to cover the cost of renting the land, which will include utilities and internet, CityLab reports.

John Carruth, the school district’s associate superintendent, told CityLab he acknowledges that the issue is not only limited to housing options, but teachers’ salaries. Arizona ranked last in the country for elementary teacher salaries, and 49thfor high school, AZ Central reports.

“The best model is to compensate teachers so that they can afford a home like anyone else can,” Joe Thomas, president of Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, told City Lab. “I don’t think it’s any more complex than that.”

“I think it’s a creative approach, but I don’t know if it values the work and the contribution that educators make in the community. Maybe if we can just move away from tiny school budgets,” he said.


Carruth said the district already contributes 89 percent of its budget to employee salaries and that a 10 percent bump wouldn’t be enough to solve the affordable housing issue. “The majority of our teaching stuff is under 35. They’re dealing with this. We’re trying to solve something we can control,” he said.

Chip Gaines releases lead paint safety video following EPA violations, $40G fine

Chip Gaines certainly knows how to shine in front of the camera, although the former HGTV star’s latest broadcast involves a more serious matter than shiplap or demo day: the dangers of lead paint.

On July 26, the home-renovation mogul from Waco, Tex., posted a video to Instagram of himself in a hazmat suit, which teased a clip on the Magnolia blogabout the potential hazards of lead-paint removal. The clip also comes well over a month after Gaines and his wife Joanna were fined by the Environmental Protection Agency for violating lead-paint protocol.

“Listen, let me give you some advice. If you’re ever considering renovating a pre-1978 home, hire someone to do it for you, because federal rules require them to be certified and trained to do it safely, to make sure the renovation activates don’t spread lead dust,” the 43-year-old says.


“There are additional state and local rules renovators have to follow to in some parts of the country to properly handle lead in renovations. If you hire someone to renovate your pre-1978 home, make sure you check to see that they’re lead-safe certified.”

“You don’t have to be lead-safe certified if you do it yourself. The rules do not apply to DIYers," he adds in the five-and-a-half minute clip. "However, it’s a very good idea for you to understand the rules to protect yourself and your family."

Back in June, Gaines and his wife Joanna were smacked with a $40,000 fine from the Environmental Protection Agency after the stars’ company, Magnolia Homes, was accused of violating proper protocol regarding lead-based paint at 33 properties,Fox News reported at the time.

In addition, the parents of five agreed to spend an additional $160,000 to abate lead-based paint hazards in homes and child-occupied facilities in their hometown of Waco.

The EPA said it reviewed video footage of renovations of older homes in multiple seasons of “Fixer Upper” and found it “did not depict the lead-safe work practices” required by the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP). The agency said Magnolia “took immediate steps to ensure compliance with” regulations in the future, as soon as it was notified.

In compliance with the EPA settlement, Gaines addressed the hazards of lead paint on “Fixer Upper,” has discussed lead-based paint safety on his social media account, and released the aforementioned video regarding the dangers of the substance.

The EPA said Magnolia was cooperative in its investigation and volunteered information.


Lead can affect the body’s organs, and children are particularly susceptible to the dangerous effects,according to the EPA.

‘Game of Thrones’ castle selling in Northern Ireland for less than the cost of a New York apartment

“Game of Thrones” fans no longer have to fantasize about being part of the popular fictional world thanks to a prime piece of real estate that’s now up for sale.

Northern Ireland’s Gosford Castle, which served as a backdrop in Season 3 of the HBO series, is on the market starting at £500,000 (about $656,452). For comparison, in 2015, the median price of an apartment in Manhattan was$916,000.


Exterior shots of the mid-1800s historical property served as Riverrun, the ancestral castle of House Tully. It’s considered to be the largest castle in the country, Mashable reports.

Exterior shots of the castle were used for “Game of Thrones,” to depict House Tully.(HBO)

According to the listing, Gosford Castle was built by the 2nd Earl of Gosford, Archibald Acheson, and was designed in the Norman Revival style by London architect Thomas Hopper. It was occupied by the Earls of Gosfard until 1921, when it was used during the Second World War to accommodate troops and hold a prisoner of war camp on the property.


The castle was most recently purchased by a developer who began turning it into multiple luxury apartment units. The portion that’s currently for sale has been “partially developed” with the goal of converting it into six individual units of around 3,500 square feet, some including a rooftop garden.