Friday, July 26, 2013

William B. Umstead State Park, NC

 William Umstead State Park Sign

Amongst the hustle and bustle of city life, it can be challenging to find a refuge or place that still has a wilderness atmosphere. William B. Umstead Park has been sojourned by many people, but it still possesses that wildness. It is tucked away amidst the growing cities of Raleigh, Cary, and Durham. The park encompasses 5,579 acres. The spaciousness provides a sanctuary for beavers, deer, and a multitude of bird species.

  Scenic view of bridge

Some of the scenic views look more like framed pictures than standing there in real life. Specifically this photo I captured had that whimsical feel.

View of Big Lake

There are three man-made lakes. Big Lake is made available for canoe rides. My family went back for a second time to experience the canoeing. We were able to rent a three seat canoe for $5. We took turns since there were four of us riding. The payment includes an hour of riding and it is $3 for each additional hour, but believe me when I say an hour is more than enough! Your arms will tell you when the time is up.

Lake for canoe rides

Scenic Walk

Trees along path


Twisted branch


Trees in bloom   


Flower blossom

Hope this entry has made you want to add William B. Umstead State Park to you list of state parks to visit.

Learn more about the park here:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Changing Africa one Moringa Tree at a Time


Harvesting Moringa Leaves

Moringa, commonly know as the the Miracle Tree has the ability to change lives. It truly can be a miracle in the lives of those living in poverty. I first took interest in this plant because of it’s high nutritional content and medicinal value, but soon discovered how it has the ability to meet an even greater need, poverty alleviation. Can you imagine the joy that comes when you wake up in the morning knowing that your life is making a difference? Please read on to discover how you can help my family accomplish this and it starts simply with a plant called Moringa.

Moringa trees

So what makes Moringa so special? How can it help to lift people out of poverty? Moringa leaves are packed with nutrition that can change the lives of malnourished children, pregnant mothers, the elderly, and HIV/AIDS.  I did some research and was astounded to find the following amounts of just how much nutritional value it has! The fresh leaves from the Oleifera variety have 7 times the vitamin C in oranges, 4 times the calcium of milk, and 3 times the potassium of bananas, 4 times the iron in spinach, as much protein as in eggs, and 4 times more Vitamin A than carrots. This is its nutritional value, but how exactly can it help someone in poverty? Meet Odette…


Odette is a teacher in Burundi [Photo above, third from the left], living in a typical Burundi home – clay or mud bricks for walls and a dirt floor. A teacher's pay in Burundi is barely enough for survival. Our family’s non-profit, SHAPE International has partnered with an organization in Burundi called SHINE to help Odette and other women like her. We provide these women with training and equipment to start their own businesses.

Last year SHAPE’s partner, SHINE, started harvesting the leaves and seeds to create jobs for people in local villages where the trees grow. SHINE now has an opportunity to sell the oil seeds to a company in neighboring Rwanda. The funds we are raising will purchase seed bags, scales to weigh the bags, transportation to Rwanda and wages for workers to harvest the seeds.

After the seeds are sold, the proceeds will be used to harvest more seeds and to plant new trees. This project will provide jobs for people in the poorest areas of Burundi. We need at least $500 to accomplish this and you can help.

To meet this need please donate at SHAPE’s Razoo account or become a fan and know that you are making a difference in the lives of people like Odette.

Please help spread the word about SHAPE International and become a fan of our Facebook page.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Durant Nature Park Raleigh, NC


My family’s most recent nature park exploration was Durant Nature Park. We went early morning to avoid the intense afternoon sun. We took a hike around the perimeter of one of the lakes. There are two lakes and fishing is allowed as well as canoeing during the warm months. The park is located in North Raleigh just north of I540.  The park is enjoyable for young children. They have a playground and offer summer camps for ages 6 – 12.


The Bird and Butterfly Garden is near the north parking lot trail head. I was able to capture some nice pictures in the garden. There were not many butterflies except a Tiger Swallowtail. As for the birds, “There are at least 160 bird species have been recorded in the park, including scarlet tanagers, summer tanagers, blue grosbeak, brown creeper, red-headed woodpecker, brown-headed nuthatch, various owls, yellow-billed cuckoo, belted kingfisher, hummingbirds, acadian flycatcher, blue-gray gnatcatcher, and wood thrush.” (Source for bird list


tiger swallowtail



32-IMG_0251 09-IMG_0182

Honey Suckle is on the left and the beloved Common Milkweed is on the right. I refer to it as such because it is the host plant of the Monarch butterfly. You can never have too much of this plant. It is a native North America. If you have extra space, please plant milkweed for the Monarchs. Tropical Milkweed is available for warmer climates.. It is a perennial in Florida and can be planted as an annual in cooler climates.

 blue bird

Bluebird hanging out in the trees.


Bridge along trail we went on.


Kids from summer camp canoeing.

Funny moment; I was taking pictures of a Blue bird and one of the kids from the summer camp said “Why are their photographers in the park?” The way he said it was quite comical.” I’ll take that as a compliment.