How to Make a Christmas Card Tree by Jesse Bluma

How to Make a Christmas Card Tree

Place Christmas cards you receive on your Christmas tree in the dining room, living room, office, or other location.  Fold cards over the branches or hole punch, string, and loop through onto the branches.  More than one tree and trees of various sizes makes for an excellent scene.   For example, a tree of four feet tall on the dining room table and a full size tree in the living room is a cheerful look.  Artificial trees, rather than fir, spruce, or pine trees are a terrific option if you or loved ones have allergies.  

Shop for a quality artificial tree on sale after the holiday.  Before you purchase an artificial tree make sure to make room to store it.  Go through your belongings, toss, donate, or give away items you do not need nor use.  That is the one thing in, one thing out rule.


Placing cards on a tree is a memorable way to display them--as each arrives in the mail add it to your tree.  Collect your favorite cards over the years and easily store them in a container to reuse.  If you have more than one tree, one tree could be a collection of cards from family members, another tree those from friends, and another tree with your favorite cards of pictures you like such as landmarks, cars, animals, et cetera.

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Pillow Guide: Better Sleep Health by Jesse Bluma

Pillow Guide:  Better Sleep Health

I recently purchased a set of Serta Gel-Memory Foam Pillows.  It’s my first time sleeping on this type of pillow and so far I like the difference.  It’s easy to think we can walk into a store, grab a new pillow, throw it in our cart, and move on.  Good sleep is essential and there is more to pillow shopping than we first might think.  

Better, deeper sleep is often dependent upon having the right pillow in the right position.    If we get a good night’s sleep that means entering a state of reduced consciousness to rejuvenate our body systems, restore our wounds, encourage brain development, and process memories.  As we sleep we go through four or five REM (rapid eye movement) cycles.  Uncomfortable sleep can affect the amount and quality of sleep we get over night.  

Tossing, turning, and feeling tired after waking up may mean other factors are at play.  The Mayo Clinic recommends 1.  Sticking to a sleep schedule.  2.  Eating and drinking in a healthy manner.  Don’t over eat.  Don’t ingest nicotine, caffeine, or alcohol within hours before bedtime (Of course we can throw drugs into that as well).  3.  Create bedtime rituals of taking a warm shower and not watching television or using an electronic devices.  4.  Adjust the temperature and lighting to meet your needs.  The right bed and pillow also go a long way in making you comfortable.  5.  Limit naps during the day to 10 minutes so you do not disrupt your sleep cycle.  6.  Exercise is key to the promotion of good sleep, although do no work out close to bedtime as it will energize your body.  7.  Take care of your stress.  Living a good life, being organizes, and having healthy habits of mind are important.  Regular trouble sleeping means it is probably time to call your doctor to identify the cause and possible treatments.  

Let’s take a look at number 4.  Getting comfortable.  Some of the best sleep you can have is when your neck is in proper alignment and your pillow keeps it so during the night.  If you sleep on your stomach you may wish to use a soft pillow to allow your head to adjust to the right height.  If you sleep on your back look for a pillow with the right firmness to support your head, neck, and shoulders.  If you sleep on your side you may want to use a softer pillow for better cushioning or a more firm pillow if you feel better with your head and neck well supported.

Pillows:  Several options exist and it may be best to experiment with a couple of them to see what is best for you.  Remember to save the care instructions for your pillows and follow them for best results.  Also, washing your pillow at least once a year is important to cleanliness and allergies.  Read the instructions to see if you may toss your pillow in the washing machine or take it to a dry cleaners.  Many feather and down pillows need to be dry cleaned.  Polyester pillows can usually go into a washing machine on the gentle cycle.  Memory foam can be cleaned in several ways.  Read the directions.  This may include vacuuming, using a wash cloth and a small amount of dishwashing liquid and towel drying, and steam cleaning.  Most buckwheat pillows are not machine washable.  Remember too use pillow cases to protect your pillows from wear and tear.  Important too is to utilize allergy and dust mite covers.  It will be time to replace a pillow when it is no longer supportive and has lost its shape.  If you are folding your pillow in half for support that probably means it is time for a new one.    

1.  Fill:  These pillows are stuffed with feathers, down (insulation under the feathers of an animal), and sometimes a mix of each.  Fill pillows tend to conform to the head and neck, may feel like a cloud, hold heat, and are sometimes considered to be the best in luxury.  Feather and down pillows may be more expensive, although with proper care and fluffing, may last for several years.  Individuals with allergies tend to avoid these pillows; however, some fill pillows are processed to be “hypoallergenic”.  You may or may not wish to risk the purchase if you have allergies.  Some feather and down pillows may be cleaned in a washing machine, others need to be dry cleaned.   

2.  Polyester:  These pillows are filled with polyester or clusters of polyester.  Sometimes these are sold as the most affordable, soft, and hypoallergenic.  Although these pillows tend not to conform well to the head and neck.  

3.  Memory Foam and Gel-memory Foam:  These pillows form to the head and neck, provide good extra support for the head and neck, and tend to be more firm than feather, down, and polyester.  Memory foam or a combination Gel-memory foam will contour to the head and neck, or body if you purchase a body pillow.  These pillows are manufactured in many sizes and shapes, designed to encourage better comfort for those with pain and discomfort.  The foam material will hold heat, those with a combination of materials will allow for more air flow.  Memory foam and gel-memory foam pillows have a long life with proper care.  These pillows may last you years.  

4.  Buckwheat hull:  These pillows gained popularity in Japan and have become well liked across the globe.  Buckwheat is related to rhubarb and is a fruit seed.  The hull of the seed is used in the filling of these pillows.  The buckwheat hulls conform to the head, neck, and body with even distribution.  These pillows provide firm support, are make of a natural product, and have great durability.  Those are the pros.  One con--some people may not like the sound buckwheat makes with movement.  

5.  Water:  These pillows are manufactured with a pouch that is then filled with water.  Many people claim it reduces their neck pain.  Similar to a water bed, water pillows provide adjustability, moulding support, and softness.  Additionally, as you fill the pillow with water you are able to adjust it to the firmness or your liking.    

Let’s talk money.  Pillows come in a wide range of prices.  You could spend $10 or $10,000 on pillows.  Your health and wellness is a top priority.  Before spending a good chunk of money every day for someone else to make your lunch, make your own lunch and buy a good quality pillow.  No matter if you are in the top 1% of wage earners or bottom 1% look for sales, use a coupon, and shop around.  When you find the right pillow at the right price buy two or three or four for your entire bed.

Gourmet treats by Jesse Bluma at Pointe Viven

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The Origins of Common Core: How Business Leaders, Policy Makers, and Educational Corporations Developed a Graven Idol by Jesse Bluma

The Origins of Common Core:  How Business Leaders, Policy Makers, and Educational Corporations Developed a Graven Idol

A report titled, “Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts,” found that both employers and colleges are demanding more of high school graduates than in the past.  According to Achieve, Inc., the major problem currently facing the American school system is that high school graduates were not provided with the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed.  The report continues that the diploma itself lost its value because graduates could not compete successfully beyond high school, and that the solution to this problem is a common set of rigorous standards.  (Source:

The Why Lie:  The Common Core standards promote logic.  So let’s use it.  Read the last sentence of the paragraph above again.  According to Achieve Inc. (which stood to gain prominence, prestige, and further their own careers) the problem in American schools is that the curriculum was not rigorous and that solution is to make it more rigorous.  Guess what followed this report.  Pearson and other educational companies jumped on board offering curriculum, seminars, and textbooks based upon the principles of Common Core.  This is one more example of how profits are made from educational fads (see Project Self-Esteem, Whole Language, Multiculturalism, Professional Learning Communities, Data Teams, Clickers, A.V.I.D., Group Work, Devices, Merit Pay, President Obama’s Race to the Top, and ever changing district, state, and national standards), misconceptions, and “crisis”.  All of these educational movements, tools, and philosophies sound good.  After careful analysis, implementation, and billions of dollars spent, each was exposed as a false-messiah.  That does not mean none of these educational reforms has merit.  Project Self-Esteem encouraged students to think about emotions affecting actions, PLCs encourage teachers to work together to enhance learning, and group work gives students an opportunity to learn leadership and communication skills.  As each of these had benefits, each failed to take American students to number one in the world.  The origins of Common Core is based upon the belief that schools across the country lack rigorous standards, thus more rigor will improve the skills and knowledge of students.

According to the United States census from 1980 to 2007 there was a 140% increase in the number of people speaking a language other than English at home.  The largest increase was in Spanish speakers (about 79% of the increase).  (Source:  In California there are approximately 1.4 million English Language Learners in public schools (85% of which speak Spanish).  (Source:  Yes, American students can do better in school.  Do American students lag behind other nations?  Yes.  Although when broken down by ethnicity on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, Asian students in America do as well as Asians in Asian countries, and Caucasian students do as well as other students in Europe.  Those of Hispanic and African origins do as well as students in Austria, Sweden, Norway, and the Ukraine.  (Source:

Ignoring, denying, and hiding these statistics is not helpful.  The founders of Common Core did not and do not address this issue in their initiative.  A real improvement in learning will happen when we as communities, states, and as a country recognize and act upon the fact that we are a nation of immigrants.  The immediate needs of food, housing, and medical care are obstacles that non-immigrant students don’t have to face.  What Common Core also ignores is the long understood process of acquiring language.  Before a student can do well on a state test, meet the standards of Common Core, earn a high school diploma, get into college, graduate college, or get a job, they must acquire the English language.  Students ages 8 to 11 are the fastest achievers, taking between two to five years.  Students ages 5 to 7  take three to 8 years, and those ages 12 to 15 have the most difficulty acquiring a new language.  These students take six to eight years.  Students in general need seven years to acquire enough English to reach national norms on standardized tests for reading, social studies, and science.  A major factor on acquiring English is a student’s schooling in their country of origin.  The better their previous education, the better a student does in their new country.  Professor and linguistics expert Stephen Krashen notes the importance of comprehensive input.  Students acquire English best when it is focused on relevant, interesting topics.  (Source:  Schooling and Language Minority Students: A Theoretical Framework, Legal Books Distributing; 2nd edition).

The status of student achievement in America has been, is, and will be in a perpetual state of “underachievement” if we grade ourselves according to the current standardized tests and Common Core standards.  That’s not to say test scores in America are only where they are because the country is much more heterogeneous and diverse than Finland and South Korea.  Americans have adopted different social norms over the past few decades.  The list is long and varied from child to child and school to school.  Among the challenges may be pop culture, media, drugs, divorce, violence, socio-economics, cell phone distractions, large class sizes--work load, ever changing standards, unsupportive principals and vice-principals, some union leaders, helicopter parents--neglectful parents--parent behavior, and student behavior.  Additionally, parental aspirations for their children has a larger impact on student learning than feedback from teachers, study skills, homework, testing, and teacher education.  Other important factors in school:  instructional quality has an impact of 1.00, testing 0.30, teacher education 0.11.  Student characteristics:  prior cognitive ability 1.04 and disposition to learn 0.6.  Home influences:  parental aspirations for children’s educational achievement .80, home factors .67, home environment (socio-psychological) .57, parent involvement .46, transiency/mobility -0.34 (that is a negative).  Social influences:  peer .38 and television -.12 (that is a negative)  (Source:  Professor John Hattie).  Thus, educational achievement in America is complex, layered, and much more intricate than Common Core addresses.

The foundations for Common Core trace back to the 1992 presidential election.  Then president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), Marc Tucker, wrote to then First Lady Hillary Clinton.  Tucker envisioned a national, comprehensive system.  He stated, “It needs to be a system driven by client needs (not agency regulations or the needs of the organization providing the services), guided by clear standards that define the stages of the system for the people who progress through it, and regulated on the basis of outcomes that providers produce for their clients, not inputs into the system.”  As the Bill Clinton presidency progressed, education laws were passed such as Goals2000, the School-to-Work Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  These laws gave more power to federal officials over education in the U.S. through standardization of the curriculum, testing, and data collection.

Hillary Clinton supported and promoted Common Core—an education initiative developed in 2009.  Common Core was implemented during the Barack Obama administration and supported by Clinton and others.  She maintained her support for the standards throughout the Obama presidency.  During the first debate of the 2016 presidential election, then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called Common Core “the most important non-family enterprise”.

Hillary Clinton was either unaware of the public’s dislike for Common Core or was attempting to politically advance the standards and testing methods in-spite of the fact.  However, the lack of support for Common Core was not lost on the Democrat National Committee.  Wikileaks, an international organization that publishes private and significant information, released an email from Eric Walker, Deputy Communications Director at the DNC.  In the email Walker stated,

“A) Common Core is a political third rail that we should not be touching at all. Get rid of it.

B) Most people want local control of education so having Cruz and Trump saying it on a DNC video is counterproductive. Would get rid of any references to that.

C) We wanted Christie in there bc he’s a trump surrogate / could be trump VP / most anti-teacher guy out there. He’s yelled at pretty much everyone, there HAS to be video of him yelling at teachers and looking like a bully

D) Need Cruz saying dept of ed should be abolished. If you can’t find it – use this from AFP summit: “The department of Education – which should be abolished”

The Three Big Takeaways

What is Common Core?

Governors and other education elites gathered together and formed the Common Core State Standards Initiative (  The Common Core Standards are a blueprint.  Each state has the freedom to choose their own curricula, those are the details of how to reach the Common Core Standards.   The main directive is for students across America to have a set of consistent standards, to create an educational thread of commonality, and ensure students in each state have the same certain set of knowledge and skills.

What Common Core does:

Common Core is more reinventing the wheel than a messiah in the classroom.  Much of Common Core is already contained in the California State Standards, standards of other states, and the foundation of a lot of long held teaching practices.  California is uniquely poised as it has some of the most rigorous standards for students across the country.  For example, the Common Core embeds the “Habits of Mind”.  This includes communication, collaboration, creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem solving.  This means that instruction is to engage students in responding to the audience, task, and purpose when writing.  Comprehension and critiquing.  Building strong content knowledge.  Using technology strategically.  Valuing evidence.  Understanding perspective and cultures.  Lastly, demonstrating independence by allowing for time to struggle and encouragement of reasoning. (Source:  “Common Core Instructional Strategies to Develop Students ‘Habits of Mind’ K-12”, Orange County Department of Education).  These Habits of Mind are already contained in the state’s educational framework, standards, and best practices for teachers.

Do no be fooled into thinking test scores will go up just because of Common Core.  As long as we continue our decades of denial that California, and other states, serve mainly new immigrants, we are in part wasting a lot of time, money, and energy.  It takes years for new immigrants to acquire the language.  Common Core does not address this issue.  Its predisposition is that the majority of students are natives to American English.

As we continue to place misguided demands on children that don't know the language we will keep getting the same result.  When we finally admit California and other states permanently and perpetually serve new immigrants from around the world, we will then develop standards and assessments that reflect the true learning and growth of students.  As long as we fail to encourage and demonstrate to parents how to best serve their children, we will get the same results as well.

Few, if any K-12 educators were part of the development of Common Core .  The Common Core standards are not designed according to the biological growth and development of children.  Corporations behind Common Core are making and stand to make a lot of money.  As Common Core rolls out school districts will not be able to afford computers for every student to take the new Common Core online test.  Although Common Core contains some real nuggets of good educational practices,  it does not contain enough for students in America to be number one in the world.

President Barak Obama has hired a non-educator as the top educator in the country. Together, they promulgate policies that undermine professionalism in education, lionize high stakes testing and make the future of public education vulnerable. Now we have Common Core State Standards (CCSS) which are accelerating money out of the classroom to consultants and testing companies and undermining professionalism in education.  (Source:

What Common Core does not do:

-Focus on individual needs of students.
-Identify individual areas of academic, skill, and social weaknesses and strengths.
-Acknowledge who has been, is, and will be the student body of America.
-Save tax payer funds, time, and energy.
-Graduate more students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.
-Provide an alternate path for students, other than college.  Our educational system has not for a long time, does not, and will not under Common Core provide students with the education and skills necessary to become artisans, craftsmen, tradesmen, or work in factories.)

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Christmas Tree Brownies by Jesse Bluma

Christmas Tree Brownies

It was Christmas and my birthday, although
it was not December.  As a young child my
mother asked me what kind of cake I would
like for my birthday.  If my memory is correct,
I immediately explained that I wanted a
Christmas in July cake complete with Santa,
his sleigh, reindeer, and the North Pole.  
She was unsure of whether the request could
 be fulfilled, yet found a way to make it herself
 or ordered it from the bakery down the

On the day of my birthday the cake was placed
on the picnic table on the back patio.  My eyes 
filled with excitement.  The party had not started
yet, so my cousin and I played in the backyard
until it was time.  As all little kids find it
painful to wait, I maneuvered under the picnic
table and slyly swiped a dollop of frosting 
(or two or three or four) from the edges of
the cake.   

The Christmas tree brownies above
remind me of that birthday.

The folklore of the Christmas tree 
dates back to the halcyon days of 
the Renaissance in Germany.  These 
chocolate brownies continue the 
celebration.  Made with quality cocoa 
and decorated with soft candy bulbs, 
a gummy tree topper, and green 
frosting created with a natural colorant 
derived from edible plants.  This brownie 
recipe does not contain nuts.  A great
way to celebrate the holiday all year.
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Ornament Brownies by Jesse Bluma

Ornament Brownies

These chocolate brownies are made with quality cocoa and classically decorated with sprinkles, mints, and licorice laces.  This brownie recipe does not contain nuts.  An impressive confection to serve at Christmas parties, events, and anytime you feel the spirit of the holiday.

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Mayan Brownies

Mayan Brownies
Pointe Viven - Jesse Bluma. All rights reserved.

The Maya were the first real lovers of
chocolate.  Cocao was a prized
flavor throughout their culture.  These
brownies are modeled after the great
temples in Mesoamerica, from the
Yucatan Peninsula between the Gulf
of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.  A
perfect confection of deep, rich cocoa,
light and airy texture, all topped with
organic peanut butter frosting.

Calvin Klein Event: Lucky, GQ, and Brett Fahlgren

Calvin Klein Event:  Lucky & GQ Magazines

Calvin Klein partnered with Lucky and GQ magazines for the store opening event at South Coast Plaza.  The event linked the “who’s who” to ensure back end marketing. The invite only event garnered about 150 guests including representatives from Lucky, GQ, Riviera magazine, proprietors, fashion stylists, photographers, and designers.  It was a fun event and it reminded me of the time I met Calvin Klein.  Guests were among the first to browse the store, were served Champagne, and hors d'oeuvres before the fashion show.

Photoed above:  Lucky and GQ representatives

These two were great fun.

Brett Fahlgren (right):  Has a "resume that includes tenures at Prada and Calvin Klein, helps guide men's fashion choices through comprehensive style tips and one-on-one personal shopping consultations. Brett's connections with top menswear designers and fashion editors make him a go-to resource among celebrities and professional athletes. In addition to his role as GQ's Executive Merchandising Stylist, Brett has also hosted and produced GQ's Milan Fashion Report, interviewing top menswear designers including Miuccia Prada, Dolce and Gabbana and Giorgio Armani. Brett currently resides in New York City."

Some of the models

Store front

Me featured in Riviera magazine.

Gourmet treats by Jesse Bluma at PointeViven
using organic ingredients and inspiration
from California, Central, and South America.

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¡Alerta!: Looking at these Christmastime Photos May Cause Jealousy

Looking at these Christmastime Photos
May Cause Jealousy

Yesterday, my uncle living in Alaska posted awesome photos from his neck of the woods.  Snow, ice, and frigid temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  As I went for a run today after work I was inspired to take photos of my own.  Here is a few from my neighborhood in California.  

See Catalina Island in the background?

Surf pack

Golf course

Beach goers and surfers

More of the golf course

I could hear the winter waves crashing into shore

The sun setting

A great shot

Lifeguard towers

My uncle's Alaska
("Alaska" originates from the Aleut language of the Eskimo--meaning "mainland".)

Winter in full force

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Photo Credit:  Tony Bluma

Adeste Fideles | O Come, All Ye Faithful: Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.:  Adeste Fideles | O Come, All Ye Faithful

Actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. from 77 Sunset Strip, The FBI, Wait Until Dark, Airport 1975, and Who is Black Dahila? sang this Christmas song from a 1959 album for Warner Bros.  "Born to famous parents; his father was a violin virtuoso and his mother was an opera star.
Served in World War II and earned a Purple Heart.

Abandoned acting in the 1950s to serve as a music researcher at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia."  Efrem Zimbalist cultivated a long and varied career with many roles, also guest starring with his daughter Stephanie Zimbalist on Remington Steele.

"Adeste Fideles" most likely was written during the 13th century (1200s A.D.) by John Francis Wade.  

Order your favorite version of "Adeste Fideles" or Efrem Zimbalist item through Amazon.

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