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Archives for April 2015

North Carolina’s Nepalese Community Aids Earthquake Victims

I’m going to India soon. It’s my first trip back to the country of my birth in 20 years. This will be my husband and sons’ first time there. We’ll be visiting this vast country, rich in its colorful tapestry of history and culture. We had actually toyed with going to Nepal as well. Plans changed.

I exhale a sigh of relief while simultaneously inhaling a grand  breath of disbelief. In a matter of days I will be with my family in India, not far from the devastation that has rocked her neighbor Nepal.

North Carolina has a robust Indian and Nepalese community. We benefit from the myriad people who comprise this community in countless ways. Today this community stands tall and proud as it seeks to lifts its own.

Generous in spirit and so much more…


The Nepal Center of North Carolina is raising money online at ncnepal.orgor by mail at 108 Marengo Drive, Morrisville, NC 27560

The N.C. Baptist Men group is sending volunteers and is raising money at www.baptistsonmission.org/Projects/Type/Disaster-Relief.aspx or by mail at P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512

Duke University students are raising money online atwww.gofundme.com/swg6psg.

International Guitar Month — North Carolina Edition

I’m something of an audiophile and couldn’t let International Guitar Month slip by without creating a list of famous North Carolina musicians who have graced the airwaves. This is a list I certainly enjoyed creating and hope you enjoy it as much as I did creating it.

1. James Taylor — While Sweet Baby James wasn’t born in North Carolina, we heavily associate him due to the time he lived here and the one song that brings me to tears each time I hear it, “Carolina in my Mind.” In this video he explains that he wrote the tune due to homesickness and that is all we need to know. He’s a Carolina Boy. He was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

2. Ben Folds — Ben is a multi-talented Winston-Salem native who plays all of the instruments on the song I’m sharing next “Rockin’ the Suburbs.” The littles in your life will recognize this tune from the movie “Over the Hedge.” He was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2011.

3. Blind Boy Fuller — It would not be a list without adding Wadesboro, NC’s own Blind Boy Fuller. An American blues guitarist and vocals, he was one of the most popular of the recorded Piedmont blues artists. I particularly enjoy this track as it sounds like multiple guitar tracks were layered, but that technology did not exist until the 1950’s. He got his name after going blind in 1928 due to the long-term effects of untreated neonatal conjunctivitis.

4. Doc Watson — I grew up listening to bluegrass and it is the music of my soul. I am thankful to have watched Doc Watson perform more times than I can count. Born in Deep Gap, NC, and an eye infection caused him to loose his sight before his first birthday.

According to Watson on his three-CD biographical recording Legacy, he got the nickname “Doc” during a live radio broadcast when the announcer remarked that his given name Arthel was odd and he needed an easy nickname. A fan in the crowd shouted “Call him Doc!” presumably in reference to the literary character Sherlock Holmes’s sidekick Doctor Watson. The name stuck ever since.

I’m sharing Doc’s final performance on April 29, 2012, at Merlefest, accompanied by the Nashville Bluegrass Band. Doc was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

5. Edward “Little Buster” Forehand — Little Buster was born in Hereford, NC. He was an immensely talented blues guitarist and soul singer. Like Doc Watson and Blind Boy Fuller, he was sighted, but developed glaucoma at age of three. By the time his vision was completely gone, he was fluent on six instruments, including the guitar. His music is evocative of the 60’s sound and makes you want to snap your fingers and sway along.

6. Elizabeth Cotten — Born in Chapel Hill, Cotten was a self-taught left-handed guitarist. “Her approach involved using a right-handed guitar (usually in standard tuning), not re-strung for left-handed playing, essentially, holding a right-handed guitar upside down. This position required her to play the bass lines with her fingers and the melody with her thumb. Her signature alternating bass style has become known as ‘Cotten picking’.”  If you love finger picking on the guitar, you’re in for a treat.

7. Etta Baker — Another great Piedmont Blues guitarist was Etta Baker, born in Caldwell County, NC. She played both the 6-string and 12-string forms of the acoustic guitar, as well as the five-string banjo. Baker played the Piedmont Blues for ninety years, starting at the age of three. Her skill, like Elizabeth Cotten’s leaves me a little breathless.

8. Tal Farlow — Self-taught jazz guitarist Farlow was from Greensboro, NC. “Nicknamed the “Octopus”, for his extremely large hands spread over the fretboard as if they were tentacles, he is considered one of the all-time great jazz guitarists.” He learned how to play on a ukelele which influenced his playing throughout his career. I’ve only recently started listening to the work of Farlow, but find it a refreshing change from some of the other jazz artists I have on heavy rotation.

9. Warren Haynes — I’d be remiss not add Asheville’s Warren Haynes. As founding member of Gov’t Mule and long time guitarist of the Allman Brother, he’s also spent time playing with David Allan Coe, Dickey Betts, the surviving members of the Grateful Dead. I’m sharing my favorite Allman Brothers songs with Haynes performing, “Jessica.”

10. Chuck Brown — Born in Gastonia, NC, Chuck Brown was the “Godfather of Go-Go,” a funk music sub genre originating in the Washington, DC, area. If you want some amazing music that will get a crowd out on the dance floor, play Chuck Brown and dare them not to dance. Here’s Chuck performing at the 9:30 club in Washington, DC.

This is by no means a comprehensive look at North Carolina guitarists, but is a snippet of the great musical talent from the Old North State. Share your favorite North Carolina guitarists and musicians in the comments.

Jane’s Walk Returns to Raleigh

Jane's Walk -- Mitchell Silver -- HandmadeNC.com

I live near downtown Raleigh, as I have for 13 years. I love to see how the city has evolved and I am particularly enthralled with the history that peppers each street. We’re lucky to live in a place that’s walkable. There’s a friendly smile, neighborly wave, giggles of school children, and clip of runners as I make my way through my neighborhood on my daily dog walks. It’s pretty marvelous to live with such a palpable sense of place. I’m pleased to bring you the words of Lauren Pritchett today. Lauren is co-organizer of Jane’s Walk Raleigh.

Cities all over the world, including Raleigh, are gearing up to honor the late urban activist Jane Jacobs’ birthday through Jane’s Walk the weekend of May 2-3, 2015. Jane’s Walk offers a way for passionate citizens to lead free conversational walking tours about their home city. Anyone can plan and lead a tour – the only requirement is to have fun!

In 2014, Raleigh hosted its inaugural Jane’s Walk, which captivated nearly 500 people through different walking tours about history, architecture, urban development, and parks.

Jane's Walk, Raleigh 2014

Raleigh’s 1st Jane’s Walk

Raleigh’s first Jane’s Walk appropriately began where our capital city established its roots – on the Capitol grounds, with a tour called 200 years of Architecture & History in 400 square feet. Researcher Catherine Bishir and architect Frank Harmon discussed elements of our rich Southern history with eager Raleighites throughout the Capitol.

I was ecstatic to lead the History of Commerce Tour, which highlighted several commercial buildings in downtown Raleigh. Each landmark had a different story to tell, adding a significant layer to Raleigh’s dynamic history. Although I spent a lot of time researching each historical landmark, I learned even more from the people who joined my walk and shared their own experiences with the group.

Next, dozens of walkers followed former City Planner Mitchell Silver through the downtown Warehouse District on his Looking Back and Looking Forward tour.

On the second day of Raleigh’s 2014 Jane’s Walk, Matt Tomasulo of CityFabric and WalkYourCity (two wonderfully thriving handmade Raleigh businesses) led the way from the Boylan Heights neighborhood to the Dorothea Dix property to discuss potential for city parks and green space.

Each homegrown walk featured a unique component of North Carolina’s capital city and sparked conversation among strangers and neighbors alike.

Jane's Walk 2015

Jane’s Walk Raleigh 2015

I am thrilled that Jane’s Walk is returning to the Oak City this year because we already have an eclectic itinerary in the works. Back by popular demand, Catherine and Frank will be leading the Capitol grounds tour again on Saturday, May 2nd, 2015 at 12pm.

This year’s newest addition to the Jane’s Walk Raleigh repertoire is a tour of The Wedge Community Garden by Shamsa Visone on May 2nd at 11am. Shamsa and tour-goers will talk about how to grow a healthier and happier neighborhood through communal gardening.

There is still time for anyone to sign up to become a walk leader! You are encouraged to share your love of local food, art, fashion, and just about anything else with other Raleigh citizens. Just visit the Jane’s Walk Raleigh website or contact Lauren Pritchett for help setting up a walk. One of the best parts about living in Raleigh is being surrounded by the enthusiasm of citizens who love their community.

Jane's Walk -- Raleigh 2015

As someone who’s completed three historic home renovations in Raleigh, I wholeheartedly agree! Cheers to Raleigh…Ra-Ra-Raleigh!Jane's Walk -- Raleigh 2015

StyleFinder Boutique Accentuates the Postive


Mary Michele Nidiffer is the stylish best friend every woman needs. She’s candid yet warm when doling out fashion advice and insights. Her stream of affirmations punctuate her conversations in a way what make you want to stand up taller and throw your head back in a show of sultry nonchalance.

“Stop comparing yourself to others.”

“Highlight your assets.”

“It’s not about perfection.”

Michele has been drawn to fashion her whole life so it’s no surprise she’s harnessing her talents to open StyleFinder Boutique, a shop for women of all sizes from XS to XXL. Unlike many boutiques, StyleFinder caters to women age 35 +, but my hunch is that fashion forward woman of all ages will flock there. There promises to be a mix of styles that complement an array of women. Michele has a keen sense of style and a personal grace that carries into how she works with her image consulting clients. Her whole focus is on what makes you feel good. “It’s not about the outfit, it’s about how you feel in the outfit.” she tells me.

StyleFinder Boutique Logo

Trained “stylistas” are available for image consulting and shopping help. Such personal service is key for women like me who are ready to transition my wardrobe to pieces that better suit my lifestyle and my um, changing body. Let’s face it, gravity takes its toll as a woman inches closer to 50, but that doesn’t mean we should succumb to Mrs. Roper caftans. Michele eschews the term “age appropriate” when it comes to clothing. Her philosophy centers around outfitting women in options that are style savvy. She focuses on lifestyle, body type, color, and scale to help determine which pieces work for a variety women. She’s a mom, a wife, a business woman…she gets it. There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all in fashion.

Cold Shoulder

StyleFinder Boutique will stock clothing, jewelry, scarves, and handbags. I’m most excited about the Angela + Roi line of bags that masterfully blends fashion and social good. Each color bag denotes a different charity that the sale supports. For instance, a portion of the proceeds of each red bag sold is donated to Keep a Child Alive, an organization dedicated to eradicating AIDS. The boutique maintains a community conscience and carries mostly made in the USA items, many made by mother/daughter teams of seamstresses. Michele’s own line is made right here in Raleigh by local moms. Hmmm…buying a kicky outfit for yourself seems like the perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day!



StyleFinder Boutique opens May 1 at 6801 Falls of Neuse Road (next Skin Sense Spa).


East Fork Pottery — A Lesson in Craftsmanship

This is the first piece in my series on East Fork Pottery which will extend throughout 2015 and the first in our new series on North Carolina pottery and the artists who create it.

I recently traveled north of Asheville to meet with the founder of East Fork Pottery, Alex Matisse. A google search led me to his website and I found myself winding up the mountain a few hours from my home in Charlotte, NC, on a bucolic, curvy two-lane road in Madison County. This idyllic scene was compounded by burgeoning spring buds and a rushing brook, all beckoning me to my final destination.

Tires crunched on the gravel as I slowly made my way up the short drive to the East Fork workshop, the massive kiln sitting in silent greeting. Awestruck does not begin to describe my feelings as I took in every inch of the property with it’s massive stacks of firewood ready to fire the kiln, chickens clucking, Zuma barking, and beautiful glazed stoneware staring at me from open doors.

The Kiln at East Fork Pottery www.handmadenc.com

As I pulled out my gear, I mentally prepared myself to meet Alex, CFO/Moral Compass/Potter John Vigeland, and apprentice Amanda Hollman-Cook. I am a pottery novice and was quite nervous, but that, I would learn, was a lesson in futility. In my short time at East Fork, I received an education that would have taken days sitting in a classroom.

Alex Matisse at work at East Fork. www.handmadenc.com

Amanda greeted me, taking me into the workshop where Alex was adding the finishing touches to a large piece. It was magical. I remember playing with clay in the creek below my Grandparents house, and my 70’s era ashtrays wept at the skill and talent on display in front of me. With laser focus and sure hands, Alex completed work on the large piece gently turning on the wheel, craftsman and raw material were one. A blob of clay transformed while I stood transfixed, awestruck by a master who has honed his skill to perfection. After work on the piece was completed, Alex and Amanda moved it to dry and I am pretty sure I held my breath from start to finish.

Completed vase drying at East Fork. www.handmadenc.com

As Alex, John and Amanda move about the workshop, they answered my questions and allowed me to snap photos of their work. As I watched the extruder take blocks of clay and  transform it into ropey clay logs to be carefully manipulated and shaped into another large piece (about 4+ feet tall), all while wishing I had a degree of patience these artisans possess.

Ropes of clay coming out of the extruder at East Fork www.handmadenc.com

Ropes of clay coming out of the extruder

Alex Matisse prepping clay for throwing. www.handmadenc.com

Preparing clay for the wheel

Pottery creation is equal parts brutality and finesse

Having the scope of imagination to be a potter is one thing. Creating an item from a lump of clay while in constant motion is another. The wheel is rotating the soft clay while it is pressed, squeezed, and pulled gently upwards and outwards into a hollow shape. I watched as Alex centered the clay, smacking, squeezing and working it until it was ready for him to create the opening in order to start the throwing process of pulling and shaping the walls to an even thickness. All of this was done while also trimming the excess to create a foot (bottom.) Pottery creation is equal parts brutality and finesse.

Alex Matisse starting to throw a new post at East Fork. www.handmadenc.com

John was experimenting that day. Like Alex, he is a quiet man with soft eyes and laser focus. His style is much different from Alex’s, softer, yet it is definitely “his.” When you see the work of an artist, and then meet the artist, you can glean so much by just shaking their hand and saying hello. Their art is who they are and they pour their soul into it and it is that soul living and breathing in each piece.

I left Alex to his work and followed Amanda to explore the kiln. (The photos don’t do it justice.) Imagine a large brick oven that would bake a 34ft long pizza. I’m 5’5″ tall and had more than enough headspace left over as I stood inside this massive structure. Soon it will be fired for the 17th time, using all of the wood you see in the photos here, and much more that is out of sight.

Inside the kiln at East Fork. www.handmadenc.com

While we were at the kiln Amanda explained the process of how it is heated in increments as they work six hour shifts, until it is necessary for everyone to work continuously. Smaller pieces sit on wads on the shelves inside the kiln, as well as on wads on the floor, while the fire is constantly stoked over the course of many days where it will reach 2500 degrees. This is a labor intensive, demanding process, requiring time and patience.

At at certain point in the process, salt is blasted into the kiln and the pots develop the beautiful glazed sheen. This creates a unique, natural process driven surface on each piece sought after by potters and collectors. I personally prefer what I now know is the “orange peel” pattern created by salt glazing.

orange peel textures at East Fork. www.handmadenc.com

After we explored the kiln, Amanda answered my questions about the types of wood used (pine) and how long was each symmetrical piece (4 ft). We then strolled down the hill to check out Amanda’s work sitting on display at one of the storage buildings. She is coming in to her own right as a working potter, interning and learning the business side of the craft. Her enthusiasm is contagious and it is that enthusiasm that has led me to order several books about the craft and chemistry of pottery.

Completed tea pots at East Fork. www.handmadenc.com

Completed bowls at East Fork. www.handmadenc.com

I found myself headed down the mountain, filled with unanswered questions and even more intellectual curiosity. I’ve even checked out a pottery class at my local community college and am considering taking one in the fall. That will have to wait until after I head up the mountain again for an extended series of interviews with the East Fork Pottery crew.

To be continued…..


Visitors to Asheville will have a new store opening by East Fork soon in the River Arts District. Sign up for updates by clicking here.

Upcoming events at East Fork Pottery:

The spring Kiln Opening is

May 16th 10am – 5pm

May 17th Noon -5pm

Directions to East Fork Pottery: 

#CLTBeer — Staying Local with Great Beer

Great beer under Carolina blue skies is right up our alley over here at Handmade NC, and we want to talk more about great North Carolina beer. In 2009, the beer scene in Charlotte was limited to big brands with little imagination. That changed when John Marrino opened Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in 2009, leading what was to become a booming business across the Charlotte region. North Carolina now has more craft breweries than any other state in the South.

Ilina and I both enjoy a good beer and love that craft beer is a seasonal affair. We go from saisons in the spring to summery IPAs, Oktoberfests in the fall, and round our palette out with stouts and porters in winter. When I’m looking for a new beer to try, I personally head over to my favorite Charlotte purveyor, Brawley’s Beverage on Park Road.

Just how many breweries does Charlotte have? To be quite honest, I’ve lost count. But Charlotte’s Got A Lot has a list of all the breweries in the Charlotte metro area, as well as breweries that will be opening soon. Each one of the breweries are unique, all bringing their own style to the Charlotte beer scene.

Charlotte's Got A Lot!

To celebrate North Carolina’s Brewconomy and the Charlotte craft beer scene, we are going to give away a fun package from Charlotte’s Got A Lot, the official travel and tourism resource of the Charlotte metro area. Entrants must be 21 and over to enter and live in North Carolina.

#CLTBeer Giveaway on HandmadeNC

What’s in the Box?

Lenny Boy Brewing Co. Kombucha

Birdsong Brewing Co. Growler

Smoked Amber Triple C Beer Soap

Lenny Boy Brewing Co. tap handle

Beer of the Carolinas book by Daniel Hartiss

Sycamore Brewing T-shirt (size Large)

Do you want to learn more about the Charlotte Craft Beer Scene? Click here to go to the landing page over at Charlotte’s Got A Lot. There you’ll find out more information about Charlotte breweries, beer and bottle shops, festivals, and beer tours.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Duke’s Dr. Sallie Permar Researching AIDS Vaccine, Devotes Her Life to Maternal and Children’s Health


Duke has more than a championship basketball team. Even more amazing than Coach K is Dr. P.

The photo of Dr. Sallie Permar snapped by Bill Giduz of Davidson College perfectly captures her confidence, affability, and good nature. But don’t be fooled. Behind that smile is a bad ass.

Dr. Permar is an MD, PhD and a pedigreed pediatrician with degrees from Davidson, Johns Hopkins, and Harvard Medical School. What warms the heart of this public school advocate is that Sallie is also a product of Wake County Public Schools. She graduated from Broughton High School, just up the hill from my house.

Dr. Permar’s titles at Duke are impressive, if not a tish intimidating.

Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Assistant Professor in Immunology

Assistant Professor in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

I hope 60 Minutes producers are standing by to schedule an interview with Sallie. She’s one of the few lucky ones whose work is changing the world. Sallie is a decorated doctor and researcher working on vaccines for AIDS and CMV, Cytomegalovirus, at Duke. I’m warning you to not Google Dr. Sallie Permar, lest you feel highly unaccomplished. Or maybe that’s just me…

Sallie’s contributions have been recognized by the White House, among others. Just last year she was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers.

Here’s the thing…Sallie Permar is jovial, funny, candid, and ever so approachable. She takes her work, but not herself, seriously. There’s no ego to bust through, and Sallie isn’t out to impress anyone with her accomplishments (I think I’ve already established that there are many.). She clearly loves what she does and is committed to maternal health and disease eradication.

Part of my advocacy work is with the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life program. I work to provide vaccines to children in developing countries, where a child dies of a vaccine preventable disease every 20 seconds. Let that sink in… I was fortunate to travel to Uganda with Shot@Life, where many mothers spoke of the horror of AIDS. Sallie’s work in Zambia and other parts of the African continent is leading to promising breakthroughs. There were mothers in Uganda who told me their wish for their family was that their children did not die of AIDS. That conversation has stuck with me, like a pin in my heart. Imagine how heartening it is to have met Dr. Sallie Permar, the woman who might be the key to making these mothers’ wishes come true.



Brewconomy Film on Tap to Showcase NC’s Beer Economy

Beer tourism is a thing. People flock to North Carolina for its beer. We are lucky to have a zillion breweries within arm’s reach. Hyperbole aside, there are breweries every which way you turn. And here’s the thing, quality abounds. This is not basement brewed swill I’m talking about.

The beer industry in our state is blossoming. It’s not just about getting hopped up on cans of cold beer at a backyard shindig. Beer is contributing to North Carolina’s economy in profound ways. The documentary film Brewconomy, to be released later this year, tells the story of craft brew and its impact on our state.



“Through the voices of brewers, community leaders, government officials, scientists, farmers, business owners and others, Brewconomy tells the story of craft brewing’s affect on agriculture, community, and economy. These effects include providing jobs, increasing tax revenue, strengthening community ties, encouraging agricultural innovation and production, and generally improving the overall state economy.”

Filmmaker Camden Watts Roessler is a friend of mine and guest posted about this film venture on Dirt & Noise when the idea was in Kickstarter incubation. It’s been an incredible journey to watch unfold as Camden and her team took this rice grain sized idea and turned it into a film. Camden is a driven, creative spirit who sees a story where some might see none. From the first time I ever met her I knew she’s the kind of whip smart gal I’d like to enjoy a beer with.

Head to your favorite bottle shop to pick up a mix of North Carolina beers. Sit back and watch Brewconomy with an extra dose of satisfaction that you are helping our state’s economy. Let’s support both independent craft breweries and independent film makers! Share this trailer and help the film make its way to your community. Brewconomy will run first in the Triangle and make its way across the state with our help.

So tell me, what are you drinking these days?

I’ll start. I’m a fan of Trophy Brewing. It doesn’t hurt that I can walk there.

Camden tells me she’s enjoying Raleigh Brewing, Trophy, Crank Arm, Fullsteam. Her partner Shane Johnston is indulging in Raleigh Brewing, Nickelpoint, Fullsteam, and Crank Arm. You should know that Shane’s Ignite talk about craft beer’s impact on North Carolina’s economy sparked this film. I was at that talk and I think about it every time I buy an NC brew. Cheers to all the great things brewing in North Carolina!

Fill Your Easter Basket With NC Treats

The Easter Bunny is a procrastinator. You’d think all that sugar fuels him to hop around like…well, the Energizer Bunny. Alas, he lacks organizational skills. If your Easter Bunny needs a boost this season, hop on over to fill your basket with state fare.

If there’s one state that can boast the motherlode of locally made Easter basket gems, it’s North Carolina. We have curated some ideas to make your bunny’s job easier. Shopping locally bolster’s our state’s economy, of course, but filling your basketwith  local fare truly makes for a unique gift that makes a difference.

Fill your Easter Basket with NC Treats

Piedmont Candy Company is one of the last vestiges of a family owned candy company with production in the United States. It’s based in Lexington, NC, home of more than barbecue. Try the Puffs in the citrus and fruit flavors.

Piedmont Candy Peppermint Puffs #HandmadeNC


Chapel Hill Toffee, Videri Chocolate Factory, and The Secret Chocolatier will satiate your chocolate cravings way better than a waxy, hollow chocolate bunny.

Videri Chocolate Factory #HandmadeNC The Secret Chocolatier #HandmadeNC

Chapel Hill Toffee #HandmadeNC

Crude Bitters & Sodas has a wonderful selection of unique bitters and shrubs. I cast my vote for the Pineapple Ginger schrub. Serve it up with some Topo vodka for the grown ups. I mean really, Easter baskets aren’t just for kids, right?

Crude Bitters Pineapple Ginger Shrub -- #HandmadeNC

Big Spoon Roasters’ Peanut Cocoa Butter isn’t a body butter but it is a balm for the soul. Eat it off the spoon. Founder Mark Overbay’s favorite snack is a big ol’ spoon of peanut butter straight from the jar. Mine too.

Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Cocoa Butter #HandmadeNC

Tonya’s Cookies are the best kind of homemade treat…they are made in someone else’s home! Tonya comes from good kitchen stock; Chapel Hill’s famous Mama Dip’s is her grandmother’s restaurant. The ever so tasty White Chocolate Pecan Crisp is my favorite.

Tonya's Cookies White Chocolate Pecan Crisp #HandmadeNC

Counter Culture Coffee will be a hit among the adults who woke up for a sunrise church service. Try the #46.