Editor Recalls Aunt Lill's Potato Rolls

Graphic Design by Cindilu2, Photos by Scrpkym

A Treat for Piano Students

Editor Recalls Aunt Lill's Rolls

Some of my most memorable moments as a young girl were spent twirling around on a piano stool and learning to play the grand old upright whose tradition in our family dated back to my mother's childhood, as well as the previous generation of my grandmother and her six siblings, one of whom was my Great Aunt Lill.

Earlier this month Lisa Boykin Batts, lifestyles editor of the Wilson Daily Times, stirred a bowl full of remembrances for her readers and members of our family with a column about Aunt Lill's famous potato rolls.

In discussing recipes for leftover mashed potatoes, Ms. Batts told a personal story about Aunt Lill, who for 69 years taught piano to several generations of eastern North Carolina students. Some may recall my aunt from a July 2006 blog, parts of which are included here.

This is a portion of Ms. Batts' Feb. 7 column, A new way to use those leftover mashed potatoes:

When I was growing up, my sister's piano teacher, Mrs. George Tomlinson, often made potato rolls and shared them with us. We'd always be so happy when Susan walked out of Mrs. Tomlinson's house with her music books in one arm and a pan of rolls in the other. The rolls were so tender and delicious.

Mrs. Tomlinson's daughter, Josie, said her mother often made the rolls for friends or "someone who would be happy to have them."

Mrs. Tomlinson made the rolls by feel and memory, but Josie wanted the recipe in writing for a cookbook at First Christian Church; so she watched her mother make the rolls one day and wrote down the recipe. Josie said she tried to make the rolls once after her mother had a stroke. Her mother told her they weren't as good as they should be, so she didn't try them again.

Monday night Josie gave me a copy of her deceased mother's recipe. I adapted it to my bread machine and had very good results. I did have to add about another cup of water and had to convince my bread machine that it could handle six cups of flour (it almost didn't make it through the knead cycle), but it all came together nicely. The rolls were as tender as I remembered.


1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup potato water (I used tap water)
1/2 cup boiled and mashed potatoes (mine were leftovers)
1/4 cup butter or margarine (I used butter)
1 large egg
11/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
Melted butter for brushing

Add ingredients to bread machine pan in the order suggested by manufacturer. Select dough/ manual cycle. When cycle is complete, remove dough from machine to lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 12 equal portions; form into smooth balls. Arrange balls in greased 9-inch pan. (I had to use a second pan.) Cover. Let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes. Brush with melted butter. This recipe makes very large rolls. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until done. Remove from pan, and cool on wire rack. Adapted from www.breadworld.com.


1 yeast cake* (2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast or bread machine yeast)
1 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup hot mashed potatoes
1 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt

2 slightly beaten eggs
6 cups bread flour

Mix the first three ingredients. Mix and cool the the next four ingredients. When cool, add yeast mixture and 2 slightly beaten eggs. Mix in 6 cups bread flour. Mix and put in covered bowl in refrigerator. Form rolls 1-2 hours before baking in a 400-degree oven until brown. Makes 5-6 dozen.

NOTE: I added all ingredients to my bread machine in the order suggested by manufacturer. (I let the potatoes cool slightly. These were not leftovers so they did not have butter, salt and milk added. My machine had a hard time making dough with 6 cups of flour, and I ended up adding almost another cup of water. I made the dough into small rolls and let rise about 30-45 minutes, then baked as directed.

My Aunt Lill was indeed a remarkable lady and her students very fortunate.

PHOTO INTERMISSION: This clickable interlude features Clay Aiken in recent TV and concert appearances. Visual artists represented include Amazing_CA, photos by Butterflyshine, #1 and #2; MNmeesh, photos by Butterflyshine, #3; Amazing_CA, photo by NYFan626, #4; and Claysmelody, photo by Ztilb, #5.

Musical Heritage Remembered

Until the Chapman Clan moved into town, the children were educated at their home in Pitt County by a teacher their Papa hired. Not only did this woman instruct the siblings in the three "R's," but she also taught them piano. My Great Aunt Lill informed Papa she knew more than the teacher, so he promptly sent her to Atlantic Christian College (now Barton) to study.

The family eventually moved into Grifton where there were public schools, but lessons continued on our family's grand old upright, producing several outstanding musicians -- my grandmother, Aunt Lill, my mother, and her sister, Aunt Gladys.

Upon graduation at age 20, Aunt Lill started instructing piano at ACC, eventually teaching several generations of students in her home studio in Wilson. Fortunately, the old Chapman upright became my mother's piano.

During my childhood in Wilmington, money was tight; and I only received about one year's worth of piano lessons. My sister was only interested in the flute, and my brother chose other instruments, too. Prior to the year of lessons, I had utilized my treble clef knowledge from clarinet studies in band and quizzed my mother enough to figure out the bass clef on my own. Hymnals and a stack of her old Etude magazines were my training ground; so when I actually took piano, I didn't fit the beginner mold. The teacher finally started me in the middle of Book 2.

From Day 1, I loved sightreading new music more than the repetitive practice required to polish pieces for lessons and recitals. Even after the instruction stopped, I kept reading through those Etude books of classics and anything I could get my hands on. A side benefit was that I was often relieved of evening dishwashing duties because I was "practicing." I have passed that little hint along to my own students.

Aunt Lill Shares Teaching Tips

Mr. Caro and I taught band and orchestra in Texas prior to our move to Nashville in 1973. The stork located us almost immediately following our arrival in Tennessee, and I turned to piano teaching as a means to supplement our income while raising our young daughter.

With neither keyboard lit nor pedagogy courses in my background, my sources were my experience, some piano teaching friends, and Aunt Lill, who shared many instructional techniques, methods, and tips. Like my aunt, I taught approximately 50 students a week -- some before school and some the minute they could get to my studio after the dismissal bell. Our house became a school bus stop for many.

Through the years, my students have won lots of awards and top ratings. Almost all presented 10-piece programs for an adjudicator each spring. In an agreement between the Nashville Area Music Teachers and Davidson County, several also received high school credit for their lessons.

Following a career as an orchestra director in Nashville and Greensboro, I now teach a few music lessons each week. I am grateful for my family's musical heritage and enjoy passing the joy on to others.

I must admit I have never prepared my aunt's potato rolls, but just reading her recipe strikes up the most sublime aroma within my sensory imagination. I hope someone gives Aunt Lill's rolls a whirl!

Piano Lesson Design by Sally

CLAY AIKEN NOTES: Since I have spent my word allotment down memory lane, I will just mention a couple of finds. For the latest news reports about Clay, The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, UNICEF, be sure to stay tuned to Clay's Daily Double.

In My Top Ten, a 2/25 Live Journal blog about favorite selections from the writer's vast iTunes collection, Laura wrote:

I'm not embarrassed to admit that at the top of my list is Clay Aiken's version of "Broken Wings." He doesn't even show off his vocal range in the song, but he understood the words of that song and turned an 80's AC staple into something wildly gorgeous, and of course, it speaks straight to my heart. Following that at a distant but telling second is Josh Groban's "You Are Loved." Telling, indeed. On many levels.

From another blog about The Web's Most Popular Keys:

I was doing some digging in Lycos Top 50 when I found this and decided to publish: "Clay Aiken -- We may have thought he'd be a flash in the pan, but Clay has been on the Lycos 50 for 190 weeks due to the ardent admiration of the Claymates. Their loyalty will persist through all of his hairstyles."

The blogger has that partially correct -- we came for the voice and stayed for the man. More and more, others are following suit.

Congratulations to American Idol alum Jennifer Hudson, who Sunday night was presented the Academy Award for "Best Supporting Actress" in the movie Dreamgirls!

Have a wonderful week, Clay Nation!


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Aiken Shines as Guest Host on 'Morning Show'

A REAL NATURAL -- Clay Aiken and hosts Juliet Huddy and Mike Jerrick of Fox's Morning Show had a grand ole time during the singer's co-hosting appearance on Thursday's episode. Screen cap by Platinum Clay.

It's a Clay Day!

Aiken Shines on 'Morning Show'

Thursday was Clay Day at The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, and the main guest and his legions of dedicated fans made quite an impression. For starters, Clay Aiken's supporters began gathering as early as 11 p.m. the night before the taping, and bleachers were brought in to handle the overflow of fans unable to be seated inside the studio.

Clay Aiken was warm, witty, and charming -- something we Claymates have known for a long time -- in his appearance on the Fox talk show. He exuded immediate rapport with his co-hosts, Mike and Juliet, who seem to posses the same snarky, fun-loving streak Clay does.

The many sides of CA were evident in this appearance -- the singer, the entertainer, the humanitarian, the intelligent and well-informed "news junkie," the teacher, a great listener and thus an excellent interviewer, a man unafraid to laugh at himself. And that just scratches the surface.

Karaoke Fun to News Expert

From the rollicking excursion to a karaoke bar the previous night to intelligently discussing the news of the day, Clay and his hosts seemed to have a great time. It's for sure those of us watching at home did.

There was even a segment in which one of Clay's "most enthusiastic" fans -- Cookie from Pennsylvania -- displayed her "Claymobile," a specially-decorated Saturn with all kinds of CA paraphernalia. She not only met her idol but went head to head with him in a game show setting of trivia about the star. Clay let her win, and she walked away with a tropical vacation package for two. Members of the studio audience also were gifted with snazzy new cell phones.

Typical of many in the Clay Nation, Cookie and the fans in her area have helped raise thousands of dollars for The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, the charity founded in 2003 by Clay and Diane Bubel to promote inclusion for children with disabilities.

Once again Clay proved he can expertly run with industry talk show professionals; and, surely, network bigwigs are paying close attention. Meanwhile, the man is on a break, visiting with his brother Brett, who just returned from a second tour of duty in Iraq; planning a spring trip for UNICEF; and dropping hints about a summer tour in support of his album, A Thousand Different Ways.

PHOTO OVERVIEW -- These clickable Morning Show screen caps surrounding the animation in the middle provide a pictorial overview -- from the clever "hand-over-mouth" promo, Clay and Juliet's swing around the dance floor at a karaoke bar to pensive and amusing moments from the segment. Special thnx to Gerwhisp (1, 2, 3 4, 5) and Platinum Clay (6, 7) for the pictorial recap.

Afterwards, Mike and Juliet vlogged about It's Clay Day at their website. Videos can be streamed from the Morning Show site, and downloads of the episode are available at Clack Unlimited.

One request from my card-carrying, West Texas Claymate MIL -- when the "Clay Aiken Talk Show" becomes a reality, just be sure to include at least one segment showcasing that beautiful voice.

Clay Day everyday sounds like a winner to us!

SHOWING THE LOVE -- Clay Aiken bids adieu to Juliet of Fox's The
The Morning Show
following his appearance as guest co-host on
Thursday. --
AP Photo on Yahoo

Have a wonderful weekend, Clay Nation!


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Aiken Amazes World Jam 07

FRIENDS COLLABORATE -- The story behind this hauntingly beautiful poem and graphic design for "A Thousand Days" is in the second half of the blog. A special thank you to Kareng and Cindilu2 for sharing their creativity and their friendship. A clickable wallpaper is included below.

Just Five Minutes From My House

Aiken Amazes World Jam 07

Headlining my agenda Saturday night was the 9 p.m. telecast of the Carolina-Boston College basketball game; so while the Heels prepared for this all-important match-up, I put together a leisurely dinner and dropped by the Official Fan Club Chat Room to see what was happening in Clay Cyberspace.

Most of the time, OFC CHAT is filled with light banter about our favorite singer, what's happening in the lives of fans in the room, the weather, what's for dinner, etc. Not Saturday night -- those assembled were involved in a serious, in-depth discussion about autism. One of my best friends, also an OFC member, is Aspiegirl; and I promptly called to see if she would like to join the session.

As you may know, Aspiegirl has Aspergers, a high-functioning form of autism. Because "the system" continually slams doors on treatment and assistance for adults with autism, Aspie has undertaken intense research, actively written and made montages about autism and the lack of awareness/programs for adults, as well as educated many of the caseworkers and physicians whose assistance she has sought.

You can read about her experiences and link to montages she has created in her OFC blog, as well as the journal she recently started in the public sphere, Aspiegirl's Corner.

For a good hour, normally light chatter about Clay ceased to exist as many exchanged knowledge and experiences -- some first-hand -- regarding autism. Of all nights, Clay, whose humanitarian endeavors for inclusion of children with autism and other learning disabilities is well-documented, really would have enjoyed the give and take of his fan club's chat room.

For more information, see these sites: The Bubel/Aiken Foundation and Autism Town.

Tar Heels Take the Court

At the nine-o'clock tip-off in Boston, I excused myself from the conversation to cheer for the Tar Heels, but dropped back by during time-outs. The main topic took a sudden detour when a newcomer asked if we knew that Clay had made an appearance in North Carolina that night.

Knowing the singer's connections with the Carolina Hurricanes, I suggested that perhaps he had sung at a Canes game in Raleigh -- proving once and for all how little I know about the sport. That night the Canes were actually playing in Montreal, LOL!

Returning to the nail-biting of the close Carolina-BC contest, I disregarded CHAT until another time-out. By then, talented Clay Nation sleuths had the lowdown on the singer's surprise appearance. Just five minutes from my house, Clay had dropped by the World Jam 2007 Concert at the Greensboro Coliseum to sing a duet with his friend and mentor, Steven Curtis Chapman.

Clay Aiken, Steven Curtis Chapman at World Jam

Internet fans first learned about this exciting event when Cats4Clay's son dialed his mother from World Jam to tell her she would never guess who was there, too. Clay and SCC rocked out on "The Great Adventure," a song many fans know from an early CA demo session. Once the initial alert was posted, Claymates tracked down several photos and a video from the performance within a few hours.

The sound quality is not the greatest, but you can view the performance recorded by a fan and uploaded to YouTube by Katiaiken below:

The Great Adventure

SundayNYC's YouTube montage features a 19-year-old Clay singing the early demo of The Great Adventure.

Christopher Knight, an independent filmmaker and freelance website designer in the Piedmont, blogged about Saturday night's surprise in The Knight Shift:

Surprise performer Clay Aiken wows crowd at Winter Jam

Well, Chapman rocked the crowd, as he's apt to do. And about 2/3rds of the way through his set he did something that had been joked about once or twice already by the performers, but I don't think anybody took them seriously. But, it happened: Clay Aiken walked onstage and started singing! Yes, the Clay Aiken! How they kept that one under wraps - and in Greensboro of all places - I've no idea. Anyway the crowd was already having a great time but bringing Aiken out just intensified the electricity of the place.

Clay and SCC in bear hug following the duet.

What a night -- an informative chat session, Clay singing in my backyard, plus the Heels won, 77-72!

PHOTO INTERMISSION: This clickable interlude features graphics and photos by eight visual artists, including Cindilu2, photo by Karen Eh, 1; ABeautifulMind, photos by Karen Eh, 2; Claystruck, photos by Scrpkym, 3; Amazing_CA, photos by MixnJude, 4; and Ambassador of Love, 5.

A Unique Collaboration by Two Friends

The exquisite venture by two close friends atop this blog occurred by way of the special Valentine's Day Contest at the OFC. As required, the words remain true to the lyrics of A Thousand Days and can be read down, as in "him" on the left, "her" on the right, or back and forth line for line. The synergy, nuances, and interplay between the words and the visuals are truly unique.

Though Kareng, a.k.a. Claydictedmom at the Clayboard, did not enter her poem, her best friend, Cindilu2, was immediately intrigued with the idea and created the lovely graphic. The clickable version enlarges the design to a readable 1024 pixels and makes a beautiful desktop wallpaper.

"She wrote it, and I loved it and wanted to honor it in some way; so I made the wallpaper to showcase it," Cindilu2 explained in an email. Both give their favorite singer credit for inspiring the poem, the graphic, and their novel collaboration.

Close friendships like an American poet and a Canadian artist are the norm in Clay Cyberspace. A huge thank you to both for sharing their artistry and to Clay for inspiring this imaginative creation and the countless, treasured connections these two friends represent.

Congratulations to Claymaniac113078, who won the poetry contest and a phone call from Clay on Valentine's Night!

Musical Friends Mark Birthday

Today marks the birthday of two very special people in my life. Friends and pianists, these ladies were keyboardists for the Cambiata Chamber Players, an ensemble we formed a couple of decades ago just for the pleasure of making music together -- flute, oboe, and piano.

As it turned out, we wound up playing all over Nashville for park concerts, weddings, receptions, fashion shows, retirement homes, and several functions at the Governor's Mansion. In the five years that we performed together, we had two different pianists. Ironically, they share the same birthday.

Still a Nashvillian, Judy performs and teaches elementary through college-aged piano students while Diane now makes music in the Chicago area.

I noticed this quote in a birthday blog today and am including it in their honor:

Because time itself is like a spiral, something special happens on your birthday each year. The same energy that God invested in you at birth is present once again. -- Menachem Mendel Schneerson (The Rebbe)

Happy Birthday to two very special friends!

Claymate calendars have been marked for weeks as a certain singer from North Carolina is set to co-host Fox's Morning Show with Mike and Juliet this Thursday.

See you then. Meanwhile, have a great week, Clay Nation!


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Kimmel Show Starts in My Sleep!

VALENTINE TRADITION -- The annual Feb. 14 reunion continued as Clay Aiken appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live this week.

Jimmy, Clay Begin Without Me!

Late Night Snooze Interferes

Because Jimmy Kimmel Live is delayed a full hour in the Piedmont, I try to make sure I am ahead in the sleep department so I can be wide awake at 1:05 a.m. Normally, that's not a problem; but I was snoozing away during the opening 20 minutes Valentine's Night and almost missed Clay Aiken's traditional and much-anticipated appearance on the show.

Actually, I awoke around 1:20 a.m. with ESPN's Sports Center spouting basketball scores at me. Slowly recalling why my TV was even on in the first place, I immediately switched channels and landed right in the middle of Clay's segment.

The first thing I noticed, of course, was that Jimmy was wearing a CA tee shirt and Clay an airbrushed shirt bearing JK's face. With a little patience, I knew all would be revealed in later CLACK downloads. By morning, I was caught up and enjoying the important parts of the show ...

In addition to being a multi-platinum recording artist, the author of a New York Times bestseller, and tireless UNICEF ambassador, our first guest has been my Valentine for two out of the last three years running. Please welcome Clay Aiken!

Clay Enters Bearing Gifts

Following that intro and the ensuing pandemonium from the Claymate-packed audience, our singer entered bearing gifts -- a giant heart of red balloons, the Clay face shirt, and special "Aiken 4 Kimmel" M&Ms. Jimmy immediately whipped off his jacket and put on his new shirt. The two friends chatted about Clay's break, the upcoming UNICEF trip, his "enthusiastic" fans" ("Do you realize you command a larger army than Fidel Castro?"), some recent dental work ("I heard that you got a visit from the tooth fairy yesterday and had some work done on your teeth"), and what not.

Jimmy's reminder that Clay had promised to compose a very special Valentine's Day song resulted in comical, baffled expressions from our singer. A pianist started playing offstage, and Clay eventually relented, "Well, I can make one up."

He mischievously viewed the bowl of candy beside him, started picking up pastel-colored hearts, improvising a song with the Valentines and tossing them over his shoulder as he finished each phrase. That he just happened to find a handy microphone nearby didn't detract from the impromptu flavor of the skit and song:

Love me ... true love,
Fax me ... got love,
You're so sweet ... yours forever,
You're so sweet ...
(speaking) I've got Stage 2 diabetes; that's not going to work!
(singing again) Angel ... dear one. (chuckles)
You're a tiger ... you're mine, Jimmy!!!

Posh's Valentine from Clay

According to Poshpenny, who sat on the front row, Clay picked up the bowl of candy and passed out sweets to audience members during a commercial break. Throughout the show, he interacted with fans and other Valentine Night guests, actress Gabrielle Union and singer Madeleine Peyroux.

The Jimmy Kimmel Live site is featuring videos of the opening gift-giving, as well as the improvised song. Clay's Valentine lyrics were easily #1 in AOL TV's Top 5 video clips for the day. This is a Sendpace download of Clay's portion Wednesday night: JKL Valentine Show 2007.

What a day for the Clay Nation -- the steady stream of reports to message boards as fans progressed from an afternoon waiting in line to the evening taping and, finally, the airing of the show. Loads of fun, even for this gal who almost missed the main event!

Thnx to my alert, my Claymate MIL in Odessa, TX, enjoyed the show immensely and laughed when I told her my situation. I have learned my lesson, however, and will be setting an alarm clock for the next Clay-Jimmy reunion. It just so happens this Valentine shindig is set for replay on March 7, and I plan to be wide awake.

PHOTO INTERMISSION: This screen cap interlude, courtesy of Claymatized.com and Gerwhisp, begins in Clay's dressing room overflowing with flowers, balloons, and gifts from fans and proceeds through some of the show's highlights. Many more screen caps can be viewed at the Claymatized site.

'Today' Celebrates J-Mac's Basketball Fete

It's been exactly one year since Jason McElwain, a New York teenager with autism, emerged as an overnight sensation when he came off the bench, caught fire, and scored 20 points in the final four minutes of his high school basketball team's last regular season game.

On Thursday's Today Show, Jason and his family discussed the amazing year since those magical four minutes. "My life has changed from being just an ordinary kid with autism to someone who is a hero," he told Matt Lauer. "I hope my story is inspiring others to set goals and achieve their dreams."

Jason After His Amazing Game -- RNews TV Photo

Jason -- "J-Mac" to his friends -- never made the Greece Athena High School varsity squad, but he faithfully served as team manager. His coach decided a little playing time on Senior Night would be a fitting reward for his commitment to the program. After missing the first attempt by six feet, Jason sank six three-pointers and a jump shot. As the seconds ticked off the game clock, teammates and friends stormed the court, hoisted Jason on their shoulders and asked him to pose for pictures and sign autographs.

That was just the beginning. Captured on videotape, the teen's achievement hit the airwaves and Internet sites, making him a national sensation. A week later ESPN Sports Center placed the unlikely feat at #1 in the show's Top 10 Plays of the Week. I happened to see the segment and included the story in my 2/23/06 blog.

In succeeding months, Jason has spoken about his experience throughout the country, appearing at the ESPY Awards, the NCAA Final Four and the NBA Finals. Besides meeting Oprah Winfrey, Peyton Manning and President Bush, he and his family have talked with Magic Johnson about making a movie of his story. Following the Today show, he was hitting the road for engagements in Southern Tier, Canada, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.

Celebrity Baker in Athena -- Photo by Carlos Ortiz

Customers Still Request Autograph

In Athena, Jason works in the bakery at Wegmans where he is frequently asked to autograph grocery lists. He plays nightly pickup games at the YMCA, though he has never repeated his famous scoring feat.

Thousands of people have written letters telling him how much hope he has given their children. The theme of his speeches is usually about dreams coming true. "When you have a disability, people can make you feel different, like you can't do things," he said. "But I got an opportunity during that basketball game to show that I could do things like other people. I got to feel like everyone else."

This month the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a report estimating that one in 150 children born in this country are autistic, much more prevalent than previously thought.

For more information, see stories at MSNBC and in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Congratulations on the anniversary, J-Mac! Have a great weekend, Clay Nation!


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Valentine Week Events Highlighted

VALENTINE GREETING -- Cindilu2 designed this elegant card for Clay Aiken's traditional Valentine appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. The songs from Clay's CD, "A Thousand Different Ways," are the quintessential musical match for St. Valentine's Day.

Happy Valentine's Week!

Special Moments Highlighted

February 14 traditions continue throughout the world this week, but none closer to the hearts of the Clay Nation than Wednesday night when a certain North Carolina singer will appear on the Jimmy Kimmel Live Show. In the host's words, "Valentine's Day is Clay Aiken Day."

The last time Clay and Jimmy celebrated Valentine's together was 2005, and the CA fandom literally took charge of the stage decor, sending flowers, stuffed animals, balloons in the shape of hearts, and enough pizza for the crew and half the audience.

In the three weeks since Clay's appearance was announced, fans have been busily securing tickets, transportation, and accommodations for being there, as well as collecting money and planning a variety of special gifts for the 2007 occasion. One board I frequent has a countdown ticking off days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the event.

At the heart of all this is the amazing chemistry and friendship that has developed between these two men. Feb. 14, 2007, is bound to be another Aiken-Kimmel reunion to remember. Meanwhile, you have to admit that JK knows how to throw a party for the Clay Nation!

Elm City Celebrates 92nd Birthday

Last week, Aunt Gladys, my mother's baby sister, celebrated an important milestone, the 92nd anniversary of her birth. In her immediate family, Aunt Gladys is more often addressed as "EC" or "Elm City," a name long ago established when her granddaughter could pronounce the eastern NC town in which she lived easier than the customary grandmotherly tag.

Cousin Charles, EC's son, emailed our family a trio of pictures and the birthday gal's celebratory menu of favorite foods -- soft shell crabs, sweet potatoes, double chocolate chunk ice cream with chocolate sauce and chocolate cookies. Her chosen beverage was not the champagne of her 90th birthday, but a top shelf premium beer.

EC now lives with her son and daughter-in-law on Hatteras Island. Among her daily activities are the jumble and crossword puzzle, solitaire on the laptop, and assembling 1,000-piece puzzles. I'm sure she will be putting to good use the new cell phone she received for her birthday.

EC shows off her birthday cell phone.

Sister Entertains at Mama Mac's Party

Elm City reminds me so much of my own mother, who passed away in July 2005. She and Mama Mac were raised in a musical family and given piano lessons by their mother. Their adult lives revolved around their families and careers as educators. Mama Mac taught vocal music and 5th grade, and Elm City was an elementary/special ed teacher who, upon retirement, continued working with the adult literacy program in her area for many years.

One of the last times the two sisters were together was my mother's 90th birthday. Besides her immediate family, Mama Mac enjoyed the company of her sister, cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends that day. Aunt Gladys can play just about anything by ear, and I had asked if she would like to provide background music for the party.

At the time, EC resided in an assisted living facility in Reidsville near her son's family, about 20 miles north of Greensboro. Carolina Place should have put her on the payroll because she played the piano for numerous functions, as well as conducted a weekly sing-along for the residents. Because of her lifelong love for card games, EC also organized a weekly rook group.

When EC and cousin Josie entered the party room for my mother's 90th shindig, my best friend Terri was quite impressed with the spry, little 88-year-old woman walking without a cane. Later, when I asked EC if she would like to start the music, Terri vows Aunt Gladys literally skipped to the piano.

She came prepared, too. Besides her playlist, she seamlessly worked in requests from Mama Mac's guests; and later when we had the sing-along, EC provided the large-print word sheets she used with her regular gig at Carolina Place.

Happy 92nd, EC!

PHOTO INTERMISSION: This clickable interlude features some of the many Valentine graphics Clay's talented fans have created. Included are Amazing_CA, photos by Karen Eh, 1 and 2; ABeautifulMind, graphic of Tyra Banks Show cap, 3; Ambassador of Love, photo by Fivegoldens, 4; and MNmeesh, 5.

Michael Jordan Creates Memories

Michael Jordan's remarkable moves on the basketball court will long be remembered by fans of the game, especially those with allegiance to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the Chicago Bulls, teams for which he played. Saturday this extraordinary man provided yet another unforgettable maneuver that has made banner headlines throughout the media, Internet sports sites, and the hearts of "Carolina blue" fans everywhere.

At the halftime of last weekend's Carolina-Wake Forest game, the Heels paid tribute to the 1957 and 1982 national championship teams. For the first time in history, hardly anyone left their seats at intermission. As the legendary honorees took the floor together, cameras and cell phones popped, capturing the momentous occasion.

The 1957 players were emotional as videos of their season rolled on the jumbo screens overhead. They played in an era with no Internet, fledgling television, and the barest of radio. Now, 50 years later, they were being greeted with a roar from over 20,000 people who still appreciated their accomplishments.

Then came the 1982 introductions with Sam Perkins, James Worthy, Michael Jordan, and Coach Dean Smith at the end of the line. As the coach emeritus of Tar Heel Land was introduced, the greatest basketball player of all time threw his arm around Smith and planted a kiss on the top of his head.

MJ creates yet another Tar Heel memory.

What a special "awwwwww" moment for those of us watching on TV. For those in the Dean Dome, the house named for this regal, quiet-spoken man, the impromptu "move" must have been spine-tingling.

Vintage Cards Provide Unique Valentines

During the Golden Age of postcards (1907-1915), some of the world's most beautiful Valentine's Day postcards were created. You can see in these vintage Valentine's Day postcards the influence of Victorian design and sentiments, which have stood the test of time.

Many antique Valentine's Day cards have travel as a theme, but there are also plenty of flowers, hearts, and cupids to go around. For an interesting step back in time and cards you can send this season, see Vintage Valentine Cards.

At Clayversity, Clayscience shared several of her grandmother's cards from the era. I hope you enjoy these three clickables:

Have a wonderful Valentine's Week or as we're saying on the message boards:

Happy Clay Aiken Week!


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