Archive for 2012

Jewett family Christmas cookies

Jewett family Christmas cookies
Posted by Jessica Jewett 3 Comments »

This blog was originally posted on December 12, 2010, but I decided to repost it with some added recipes at the end. Enjoy!

All of my childhood Christmases were filled with cookies from my grandmother. She brought up her family on a farm in postwar Missouri. That farm had been in her husband’s family since 1850 and every generation of Jewett children were raised in the same house – my mother being the last. As with all postwar wives, my grandmother spent her early marriage cooking, cleaning, raising children and working around the farm. In the 1950s, she got a new cookie press made by a company called Mirro. The press came with a booklet of recipes and two of those recipes in particular became a big hit in our family. Soon she was expected to bring out the cookie press every Christmas season and the tradition carried on for the next fifty years. She kept the same cookie press all those decades, even when it was held together with masking tape. One year we got her a new press made of plastic and it broke the first year. Things just aren’t made to last anymore.

Here are two recipes that have been part of the Jewett Christmas since the 1950s. Debates rage every year as to whether the wreaths or the trees are better but everybody seems to eat them by the fistful. They are so addictive that I advise people to just double or triple the recipes right away or you’ll be in the kitchen every week making more.


1/2 cup butter
1/2 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar well. Beat in vanilla. Gradually blend in flour. Fill cookie press. Form cookies on ungreased cookie sheets using star plate #2. Hold press in semi-horizontal position and form wreaths by moving press in a circular motion. Gently push ends of dough together to form wreaths. Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove at once to cooling racks. Yield: 2 dozen.



1 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
green food coloring
2 1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Cream the shortening and add sugar gradually. Add the egg and almond extract and beat the mixture very well. (Stir in green food coloring a drop at a time until the desired color.) Sift flour, baking powder and salt and gradually add to the first mixture. Stir until blended well. Fill a MIRRO Cookie press. Form cookies in desired shapes onto ungreased cookie sheets, decorate with candies and bake at 375 degrees F for 10-12 minutes.

November 24, 2012 UPDATE

When I was a little girl, my grandmother was heavily into baking and, like the cookies above, the other cookies she made were from recipes that were about a zillion years old. I’ve tried to find them but I fear they may have been lost to the flood this past summer. I remember her recipe book being filled with brittle old yellow pages with handwritten notes by my great grandparents and great great grandparents. Some were introduced to the family in the 60s or 70s, like the Hershey kiss cookies, but others, like the shortbread cookies or the Russian tea cookies, were from the nineteenth century. I can’t eat peanut butter, so the recipe is not accurate to what I ate, but I think my grandmother used either shortbread dough or sugar cookie dough.


48  Hershey kisses
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Additional granulated sugar

Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4 dozen cookies.


1 cup butter softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar for dough + 1/2 cup for rolling
1+1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 dash salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

In a bowl, beat together the butter and 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Mix together flour, salt, and baking powder. Add to bowl and mix until blended well. Add chopped nuts and mix well. Using hand, knead and roll the dough out into 2 balls. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Take balls out of refrigerator and flatten out and cut into approximately 20 equal sized pieces to get total of 40 cookies. Shape into marble-sized balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375C for 10 mins until firm but not browned. (The bottoms inevitably become little browned but that is okay.) Roll in powdered sugar when still warm. Let cool and roll in powdered sugar again.


3 cups flour
2 cups unsalted butter
1 cup caster/confectioners/icing sugar
¼ to ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla (optional, you can also use nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, rum or lemon rind)
2 tbsp. cool water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add sugar, salt and flour(s) in a bowl and mix well. Cut in butter until your mixture resembles crumbs. Cut the butter in using two knives across the flour mixture, until it resembles beans, or use your fingers to mix it in. When the flour, sugar and butter mixture is crumbly, like peas, add 1 to 2 tbsp. of water and knead it in–just enough to create a cakey, but not gummy, dough. If the dough is gummy or gluey, your cookies will be hard. Add the vanilla, or any combination of flavoring, including orange rind.

Your dough can be shaped into many varieties. Popular shapes include hearts, discs and classic rectangles. To shape into hearts or squares, use a cookie cutter in your desired shape. Lightly flour a cutting board and roll out dough that’s about ½ inch thick. Cut the dough into your desired shape. Place cookies on a lightly buttered cookie sheet and bake for about 12 minutes. Take the shortbread cookies out of the oven when they’re golden. For the classic rectangle shape, press dough into a shallow rectangular baking tin, and use a knife to gently divide the dough into small, even rectangles. Use a fork to poke holes all over. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the cookies cool before serving.

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Lincoln movie review

Lincoln movie review
Posted by Jessica Jewett No Comments »

This past Saturday night, I went with a few friends to see Lincoln. You know me. If a historical movie comes to Atlantic Station here in Atlanta, I’m there opening weekend. Lincoln is the father of historical movies this year, so of course I went. I bundled up in my new Michael Kors sweater-cape and ventured out into the cold where Atlantic Station is beautifully decorated with lights on every street for Christmas. As I made my way to the theater, I realized it was Remembrance Day in Gettysburg and the people had done the illumination ceremony at the Gettysburg National Cemetery earlier that evening. It was quite fitting and serendipitous to see the movie that night.

I had high expectations for Lincoln and I was not disappointed. Some might attend the movie expecting to see a biography of Abe, but I found the movie to be more of a biography of the 13th amendment with Abe as supporting cast. The film covers the last four months of his life in which he was trying to push the 13th amendment through the House of Representatives, much to the dismay, fear, anger, and opposition of nearly everyone around him. The 13th amendment, for those who may not know, outlawed slavery in America altogether. There was an article in The New York Times criticizing the way Spielberg portrayed the black characters in the movie, however, and I’m inclined to agree that it was lacking in that area. The movie opens with Abe talking to black soldiers about the unfair treatment in the army and how they’re pushing him to change it, but the rest of the black characters seem to sit passively by and wait for the white men to decide to free them. Historically, we know there was nothing passive about the black struggle for freedom. Yet, a movie about passing the 13th amendment shows black characters as nothing more than in service for white characters and happily or passively so. So in that manner, Spielberg fell short of the mark. To quote directly from the article:

The nation’s capital was transformed by the migration of fugitive slaves from the South during the war, but you’d never know it from this film. By 1865 — Mr. Spielberg’s film takes place from January to April — these fugitives had transformed Washington’s streets, markets and neighborhoods. Had the filmmakers cared to portray African-Americans as meaningful actors in the drama of emancipation, they might have shown Lincoln interacting with black passers-by in the District of Columbia.

Black oral tradition held that Lincoln visited at least one of the capital’s government-run “contraband camps,” where many of the fugitives lived, and was moved by the singing and prayer he witnessed there. One of the president’s assistants, William O. Stoddard, remembered Lincoln stopping to shake hands with a black woman he encountered on the street near the White House.

In fact, the capital was also home to an organized and highly politicized community of free African-Americans, in which the White House servants Elizabeth Keckley and William Slade were leaders. Keckley, who published a memoir in 1868, organized other black women to raise money and donations of clothing and food for the fugitives who’d sought refuge in Washington. Slade was a leader in the Social, Civil and Statistical Association, a black organization that tried to advance arguments for freedom and civil rights by collecting data on black economic and social successes.

This is not to say I disapprove of Lincoln altogether. Not in the slightest. I disapproved of the way black people were portrayed in it.

If we overlook some of the historical liberties Spielberg took in the name of storytelling (as a storyteller, I understand why it’s necessary sometimes), the way Daniel Day-Lewis portrayed Abe was truly an astonishing thing to watch. He is infamous for total Method acting and it paid off for him in this movie. He was Abe. I’ve seen quite a few Daniel Day-Lewis movies but only in this movie could I watch him in character and not recognize “Daniel” at all. Not by appearance, not by mannerisms, and not by voice. The voice, by the way, has been panned by some critics as weak and shrill, but clearly said critics never actually read descriptions of Abe’s voice from his contemporaries. Daniel’s interpretation of those descriptions was, in my opinion, as true to what was the real thing as we could get without a recording of the real voice to copy. The way he walked and carried himself in the simple brown suit made me physically feel the weight of the country on his shoulders. I imagine it must be extremely difficult for any actor to feel what his character felt but Daniel manages it with skill.

This Abe actually presented a bit of his humor and fondness for storytelling to the audience, which are aspects of his personality that usually go ignored. He was also depicted dealing with a less than stable wife, fighting with her, trying to appease her, etc., and those were things that swept under the rug in his time. Abe’s human side and, at times, inability to deal with the stress in his own family let alone the stress in the country brought him down from the ivory tower a little more.

The supporting cast was equally matched with Daniel Day-Lewis and sometimes even stole the show. Tommy Lee Jones, in particular, brought charm to Thaddeus Stevens, who was ordinarily viewed as a rather prickly, nearly villainous fellow in Reconstruction legislature. Jones managed to give his witty sarcasm an effortless air and you end up liking him by the end of the movie. Sally Field had possibly the most difficult role in the film as Mary Todd Lincoln. As soon as I heard Field was cast, I knew they intended to bring out some of Mary’s crazy since Field has an uncanny ability to switch instability on and off in her performances, and I was right. I was pleased to see that the instability in Mary did not make her look like a caricature though. It was done carefully, leaving you to wonder if she was really just caught up in grief or truly suffering from mental illness. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as her son, Robert Todd Lincoln, did quite well considering I had only previously seen him in Third Rock From The Sun. I have nothing bad to say about the supporting cast, which is a feat in itself, because the movie could have easily been Daniel Day-Lewis dragging everybody through the film by the scruffs of their necks.

Lincoln is not a biography of the sixteenth president. It’s a larger discussion about what it took to pass the 13th amendment, including Abe and his cabinet fighting each other and making back room deals for votes. I think some people not so educated about it will be surprised to see Abe’s handlers engaging in back room deals to get what they wanted with his approval. His hypocrisy in keeping Robert out of the war while sending thousands of other sons to die is shown in blinding light through Robert’s perspective. One of the most intense and moving scenes of the movie involved no dialogue whatsoever as Robert witnesses hundreds of amputated limbs being thrown into a pit. He fights his parents for the entire movie to join the army. Finally, he accuses his father of being afraid of his mother and impulsively Abe slaps him. These scenes are so important in showing the humanity and sometimes bad decisions this family made, that they were entirely fallible and not at all godlike. It is the stripping away of immortality that makes the story even more extraordinary. Lincoln is quite relevant today given our current deeply divided political climate and blind hatred of our alleged dictator, socialist president. The difference is we have the benefit of hindsight and the ability not to repeat the old mistakes if we have the courage to stand by our convictions.

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The fracturing of the soul

The fracturing of the soul
Posted by Jessica Jewett 3 Comments »

There is one type of spirit phenomena that isn’t so readily discussed. The fracturing of the soul is a phenomena that some mediums have experienced in their dealings with spirits of people who were either severely mentally ill at the time of death, or in rarer cases, endured some kind of severe trauma at the time of death. Sometimes mental illness can cause a soul fracture long before death and the fractured piece will remain in that moment. The mental illness or trauma creates its own energy from that moment of the person’s life that splinters off from the rest of the soul that goes on to the afterlife and is then recycled into the reincarnation process. So while a person may go on to reincarnate, sometimes darker parts of themselves can linger behind.

I’m not too certain how well-known this is in general terms but I know of several mediums, including myself, who have witnessed such things. In truth, I think it’s possible that most people have a few splintered pieces of themselves still out there, reminders of previous lives and the things that went wrong in them. I am an example of a fractured soul, in fact. Once upon a time, my name was Amy and my life ended very suddenly at the bottom of a twisting stairwell. You can read about my time as Amy here to understand why and how the fracture happened, but the point is, apparitions of Amy are still seen in Oxfordshire, England, from what I have been told. Obviously I cannot be in two places simultaneously, so therefore, I suspect part of myself that simply couldn’t believe or accept the way that life went splintered off and got stuck there. I know a few other people who have encountered somewhat muddled or messed up versions of who they were in past lives as well, just like seeing any other ghost. One case leaps to mind of Jeffrey Keene (get his book here), who saw an apparition of himself as John B. Gordon before he knew he was that man.

Another “famous” fractured soul is Lizzy Borden. We all know her story. A life that took such a direction would be ripe for the fracturing of the soul. Several years ago, I visited the Borden house but did not go inside because it was rather cramped for a wheelchair. However, I noticed a peculiar feeling about the “Lizzie” entity there that I hadn’t felt before. It was not an aware, intelligent sensation, but there was indication that frightening or malicious prankster interaction with the living guests and employees of the bed and breakfast. I felt confusion, foreboding, fear, and many other things that I typically associate with angry, intelligent entities; however, that entity did not feel complete or totally aware. It was something I couldn’t articulate with language, so I went away from that place somewhat relieved that I did not go in for a tour. Years later, I watched an episode of The Dead Files in which Amy Allen, another medium, described all of the things I felt at the Borden house, including things I did not mention to others, such as the perverse sexual practices that took place in the house. She described a piece of an entity in the house stuck in the moment of something terrible in her mental condition but it wasn’t the whole entity. It was just the mentally damaged part of Lizzy. She called it a fractured spirit or soul (her exact words escape me at the moment) and everything suddenly made sense.

I have trouble articulating exactly what a fractured soul is in terms of apparition categories. We all know the big categories are intelligent spirits and residual energies, but fractured souls don’t seem to fit in either category because they have behavioral characteristics of both types. In visual terms, they often look distorted or behave in unnatural ways, sometimes meant to frighten the living or sometimes because it’s just what they’ve become in that splintered state. Amy Allen described one as crawling around the walls. That sounds insane to outsiders, I’m certain, and it would have sounded insane to me if I hadn’t seen it myself as well. Several years ago, I went to South Carolina for New Year’s Eve and my friend took me to see Columbia during my time there. We went to the old lunatic asylum on Bull Street, which was opened in 1828, but I wouldn’t even get out of the car. I had no idea there was such a think as a fractured soul at that time, so it frightened me to see distorted faces in a few windows, as well as a body hanging upside down and then crawling out of a window like some cheap horror movie. Truthfully, I thought I was either going insane or my friend was playing a sick joke on me. Nobody else saw what I did though. I was either insane or I saw some kind of phenomena that I couldn’t explain. Years later, with the benefit of hindsight, I know now that those things I saw were not the complete people, not their complete souls, but fractured pieces of their mental illnesses left behind.

I don’t find this rule to be true in every case of severe trauma or mental illness though. For example, John Wilkes Booth is a soul entirely in tact, at least from his time as “Booth”, but he lived with enormous mental illness. Obviously. Look what he did with his life. So what rules define which souls get splintered and which do not? I don’t know. I’m just barely beginning to understand this phenomena in the most broad terms.

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