Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Learning About Shutter Speed

This past weekend I went to a local park with a couple of friends. One friend brought her kids and they went round+round on the carousel. I took that as the perfect opportunity to play with the shutter speed setting on my camera.

Shutter speed refers to the length of time the shutter remains open when you snap a photo. It is measured in seconds or fractions of a second: a shutter speed of 1 (”one second”) would be considered a slow shutter speed, while a shutter speed of 1/1000 (“one one-thousandth of a second’) would be considered a fast shutter speed.

Short shutter speeds (meaning, the camera clicks really fast) are used to freeze fast-moving subjects (the photos come out clear) and long shutter speeds are used to capture motion (the photos come out blurry).

For the following pictures, I set my camera to Tv mode and I tested out several shutter speeds.

Since the carousel wasn't moving too fast to begin with, I didn't have to use a very short shutter speed at all to freeze the action.

A shutter speed of 1/60 did the job.

The picture became a bit blurry when I changed to a longer shutter speed.

At a shutter speed of 1/5, it became very blurred. Most of us don't like blurry pictures, but I actually think this one captured the moment the best!

With the knowledge of aperture and shutter speed under my belt, maybe I will work my way toward going full manual (M) one day. :)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Zha Jiang Mian (炸醬麵)

Zha Jiang Mian (literally translates to "fried sauce noodles") is a northern Chinese dish consisting of noodles topped with a mixture of ground pork stir-fried with fermented soybean paste. I have long wanted to try it ever since I saw the recipe on Sunday Nite Dinner. Anything with noodles and spicy meat sauce is the ultimate comfort food for me.

At first I wasn't sure what "bean sauce" is and where to find it, but wiki educated me that chili bean sauce (辣豆瓣酱), which I have it at home, can be used as a substitute.

The noodles turned out wonderful! Fulfilling, homey, and spicy!

I didn't have any cucumbers, carrots, or bean sprouts available for garnish, but I cooked a side of bok choy to get our veggies for the day. Mmmm....will make it again soon.

Zha Jiang Mian (Chinese Spaghetti):
(recipe adapted from Sunday Nite Dinner)

Marinade:
- 1 pound ground pork
- 2 tsp corn starch
- a splash of rice wine

- 1.5 tbsp bean sauce (I used chili bean sauce)
- 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1/2 tbsp chili garlic sauce (optional)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1.5 tbsp rice wine
- 2 tbsp chicken broth
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp ginger, minced
- 1 stalk green onions, minced
- noodles (any kind that you like)

Garnish:
- English cucumber, julienned (optional)
- carrots, julienned (optional)
- bean sprouts (optional)

1. Combine pork, corn starch, and rice wine in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the bean sauce, hoisin, chili garlic sauce, and soy sauce. Set aside.
3. Heat a large pan over high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat. Toss in garlic and ginger. Cook until fragrant, about 10-15 seconds.
4. Add pork, stir constantly to break apart meat. Cook until just a bit of pink remains and it begins to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add rice wine and stir for a few seconds.
5. Pour in sauce and mix thoroughly with pork. Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
6. Add green onions and toss to combine well. Serve pork over noodles and garnish with cucumber, carrots, and bean sprouts.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pargo and Pesto's Puppy Poppers

There are many great dog treat recipes out there, and when I came across the following recipe with just four basic ingredients, I couldn't wait to try.

I knew that my boys would love anything with peanut butter.

These little poppers were so simple to make. They can be cut out with cute cookie cutters, or cut up (like I did in the picture) into small pieces. The texture of the cookie is similar to chocolate chip cookies - therefore, easy to chew and perfect for training.

I was right! The puppies went gaga for them - they couldn't stop wagging their tails. I think with this new treat, I just might be able to teach them how to do cartwheels. :)

Pargo and Pesto's Puppy Poppers:
recipe from bullwrinkle.com

- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup peanut butter, chunky or smooth
- 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375F. In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In another bowl, mix peanut butter and milk, then add to dry ingredients and mix well. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes (or if using for training - cut out circles using a small round cookie cutter or cut small pieces using a pizza cutter).

Bake for 13-15 minutes on a baking sheet until lightly brown. Cool on a rack, then store in an airtight container.

Other pup-friendly recipe: Pargo's PB Carrot Cake

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ireland: The Day We Drove The Dingle Peninsula

Previously: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5

Day 6: Visited Dingle Peninsula and Killarney National Park. Stayed at Limerick.

Originally we planned to stay in Dingle for two nights, but because we were highly unimpressed with the town and since the Dingle Peninsula loop can easily be driven in a couple of hours, we decided to cut our stay short. Our B&B host was understanding and had no problems with us leaving early.

Our agenda for Day 6 was to drive the Dingle Peninsula loop (and Connor Pass) in the morning, head to Killarney National Park (for the second time), and then drive in the direction of Cliffs Of Moher. We didn't have a B&B reservation for that night, so the plan was to stop and look for a B&B whenever we get tired.

After breakfast, we packed up our belongings and checked out. First stop, Connor Pass! Connor Pass (not part of the loop) is one of the scenic highlights on Dingle Peninsula and the highest mountain pass in Ireland. This narrow mountain-road goes from the town of Dingle to the northern part of the peninsula.

We did not drive the entire stretch because it didn't make logical sense. Once we reached the lookout point, we drove the same way back.

At the lookout point, the panorama is simply overwhelming. It was cold and windy, though. Check out our crazy hair. :)

We got caught in a rain storm while on top of the mountain, but once the rain passed, the sun came out and it didn't rain again for the remainder of the day.

This is the view on the other side of the road - of the town of Dingle.

Once we left Connor Pass, it was time to start the Dingle Peninsula loop trip. The trip is about 30 miles long.

The weather on this distant tip of Ireland is often misty, foggy, and rainy. But again, hubs and I totally lucked out. It was another gorgeous day!

We drove along the coastline. The landscape is wild and beautiful!

Hubs decided to be adventurous and went down one of the cliffs. I have, like, about 10 pictures of him walking down and coming back up.

The road is often one-lane with lookout points and enough space to park a couple of cars. There wasn't a crowd so we never had any issues with not having a space to park. We pulled over whenever we wanted. Sometimes we walked a bit, but other times, we just took a few pictures and left.

The land eventually breaks into a scattering of dramatic rocky hills, long sandy beaches, and staggering cliff edges alternating around the coast.

Somewhere around the loop is Slea Head, the point in Europe closest to America. It offers smashing views of black-rock cliffs. I know we drove it, but I can't really pinpoint where the location is exactly. A lot of times, all the attractions just sort of run one after another, and it was hard to keep 'em all straight. This picture below looks like it may be it, though.

I can't decide whether or not I like water view better or green landscapes. Mmmm...I think both.

I like this picture. A lot. Even though you can't see much of hubs, the scenery and the vibe is amazing.

Along the way, we saw many farmhouses and sheep. They are 500,000 sheep on the Dingle Peninsula. Far more than the 10,000 residents living in Dingle (both town and the peninsula).

Rick Steve wrote in his book that the, "peninsula is an open-air museum. It's littered with monuments reminding visitors that the town has been the choice of Bronze Age settlers, Dark Age monks, English landlords, and Hollywood directors." Since we were a lot more interested in nature, we didn't visit any ruins while driving the loop.

If we go back to Ireland someday, I hope to visit them. Although we said that we didn't like the town of Dingle, we really like the Dingle Peninsula loop. There are a couple of B&Bs on the loop and hubs said that he could easily stay there and enjoy "pure ireland" for a couple of days.

Overall, along with Beara and Iveragh, I really enjoyed Dingle!

We decided to go back to Killarney National Park, even though we were just there two days ago. I mentioned that Day 4 was particularly stressful for us because of our little car incidents. So to be perfectly honest, it wasn't a happy day for us. When we got to Killarney National Park that day, we quickly went to the Torc Waterfall and the Mockross House and called it a day. We felt that we didn't see the park as much as we could and should have.

So on Day 6, we wanted to go back. And because we cut our stay at Dingle short, we were able to.

It turned out that we really didn't miss much at all. I mean, I am sure the park offers lots of great things, but for what we wanted to see, we saw it all on the first visit.

Regardless, hubs suggested walking the trail that goes around Mockross Lake. Goodness, I had a déjà vu. Although not nearly as strenuous as that hike at Glendalough, it took just as long, if not longer. We walked for hours and hours.

The scenery? Eh, I have seen better. I kept on telling hubs that we could've done this back home at Burke Lake. :)

We took pictures along the way.

The trail is mostly flat surface, but the long walk still wore me out. Here I am, catching my breath.

We finished the trail and went back to Torc Waterfall. Hubs actually climbed the steps near the waterfall this time - I stayed behind because I was just too exhausted. Luckily, he said I didn't miss much.

(I should also mention that before we drove into the park, we passed by the town of Killarney. A lot of visitors stay in Killarney because of its proximity to Ring Of Kerry and the national park. After passing through it, I can honestly recommend making nearby Kenmare as home base instead. It's much better - quieter, cozier, and prettier!)

After the park, we wanted to go to Adare, which I read is "Ireland's prettiest village". The plan was also to stay there for a night before driving to the Cliffs Of Moher the next day. I don't know why, but it was a traffic nightmare when we got close to Adare. We drove right into town, looking left and right for B&B signs. We didn't see any and made our way out of the town with every intention to go back to take a closer look. Unfortunately, the heavy traffic made it impossible so we just kept on driving.

Eventually, we ended up in Limerick. We saw a couple of B&Bs on the side of the road and knocked on one. They happened to have a room available,* but wanted 35 euros per person. Hubs negotiated it down to 30 eruos. Yay!

Once we got inside the room, we didn't leave again. We had bought some groceries from the market earlier that day and had a couple of sandwiches for dinner. I don't remember what else we did that night - my guess is that we went to sleep early. We were getting up extra early the next morning to see the Cliffs!

* While on the trip, we realized that we really didn't have to make advance B&B reservations back home. High season in Ireland doesn't start until July and when we went in May, there were hardly any tourists. Not having any reservations would definitely offer a lot more flexibility. But then again, it was also nice to not have to look for a place to stay every night.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Freezer Paper Stenciling!

I have been in a crafty mood lately!

My latest project is freezer paper stenciling! I tried it for the first time tonight and I will just say that it won't be my last. Freezer paper stenciling has been buzzing around for a long time (luckily I finally caught up). There are lots of tutorials out there. Some are particularly helpful and easy to read, you can find them here, here, and here.

At first I was just going to use a bird stencil I saw online for my first try, but hubs was less than thrilled at the idea. I am a terrible drawer so he volunteered to draw something for me, as long as I give him pictures for inspiration. The sea turtle I saw in Hawaii popped into mind. Using a photograph we took, hubs started drawing. He drew on a piece of regular paper first. Then he traced the design on the non-glossy side of freezer paper.

We don't have a lot of supplies in this household. So instead of the recommended cutting board and xacto knife, we used an old magazine and a razor blade. Hubs did a great job cutting out the design in detail. Keep in mind that the paper is the stencil- the negative space of your design. That means, where there is paper, there will be no paint (and vice versa). The links I provided above explain this more in detail.

After the stencil is done, the rest is easy. Iron the freezer paper onto your fabric (glossy side down), with a medium hot iron, no steam. I decided to iron the turtle design on the back of my ribbed tank top.

Then place wax paper, cardboard, or an old shirt in between the fabric to prevent bleeding.

Next, you PAINT! This is when we realized that anything ribbed isn't the most ideal fabric to paint on. Because of the nature of the ribbed fabric, the paint didn't apply on evenly and some paint "spilled over". This can be completely avoided when using fabric with a flat surface, like a regular t-shirt.

Let it set for at least 4 hours. Overnight is preferred. We were two excited kids who couldn't wait any longer so we peeled off after 2 hours. It worked out fine.

As you can see in the close-up, the turtle doesn't have the smoothest edges (this is what I meant when I said the paint "spilled over"), but I do love my new personalized tank top! I love it that it's unique and hubs created the stencil from scratch! It's one and only, I love it.

PS. Do you notice that the favicon for {sugarlens} is a turtle? Remember these turtle note cards I made? They were all inspired by that sea turtle I saw on the Big Island of Hawaii. :)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

an old recorder

The other day, I found this old recorder while rummaging through one of my old boxes at my parents' place.

Oh, it brought back memories. Back in the fourth grade, living in Taiwan, I played this very recorder every day in the school band. I remember playing the national anthem during the school's daily morning assembly.

For sentimental reasons, I decided to take the recorder home with me. After a good hot soapy bath, I gave it a whirl. Gosh, I recall being so proficient at it, but now I can't seem play anything to save my life. Grrr.

But, I found out that although I have forgotten how to play, the recorder is still good for something.

As soon as I started blowing, the puppies came running and barking. I jokingly told the hubs that this is a great way to summon the boys from now on.

We can be like the von Trapp family. :)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Yesterday was a good day. So was day before that. And the day before that.

Happy Monday my fellow bloggers! How was your first weekend of summer?

Mine was good...and extra long because I took Friday off. I played with the puppies, read, blogged, and cooked. Those activities combined is my definition of a perfect day.

Saturday I went to ON bright and early for those tank tops. They fit nicely, although a bit long. Super comfy and I just know they will become part of my summer uniform. Later we met up with hub's side of family for some yummy (but salty) Vietnamese food at a local pho house. We chatted and caught up while slurping on noodles.

In the afternoon, I crammed in some craft time and hubs got the computer ready to give my dad. We spent the evening at my parents' house - got the computer up + running and ate pan-fried dumplings.

Sunday morning my mom + I went to CVS and scored 20 Soy Joy bars for FREE! I heart CVS. Afterwards we went next door to McD and got a cappuccino for her and an iced mocha for me. Who needs Starbucks?

Around lunch time, we joined hub's family for a cookout. We munched on chicken skewers, corn-on-the-cobs, and ribs. Some kite-flying, kickballing, and Wii-ing were involved. Good times.

We finished up the day by getting some much-needed R&R at home with the Pargo and Pesto.

Hmmmm...as I said, it was a good (extra long) weekend.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

more magnets, marbles this time

(last time I made these fabric covered magnets)

Ever since I saw these cute marble magnets on not martha, I wanted to make them. It took me a while to gather all the supplies as cheaply as possible, but yesterday I finally did and enjoyed some crafting fun.

This is a great handmade gift, IMO. You can make a set of flower magnets for the gardeners in your life. A set of dog magnets for dog lovers like moi. The possibilities are endless! Once done making them, there are many creative ways to package them - this one, in particular, is my favorite.

As for the pictures for the magnets, old magazines (like Hallmark or Simple Living) are great. I used a scrapbook paper (that I bought maybe 2 years ago) for my first try.

Super, super simple to make. I won't repeat the instructions, but you can find them here and here.

There are different methods to make these, some people prefer neat+tidy and use a round punch to cut out the pictures. I didn't have one so I used a good ol' pair of scissors. Some people use super glue, but I found decoupage, applied with a brush, sealed everything nicely (even strong enough to adhere the magnets). It's all about trial+error. Once you start doing a couple, you will find a rhythm of your own. The hardest part, I will say, is making sure there are no air bubbles between the picture and marble.

I made a set of 4, but it actually took a good 20 minutes. Mod Podge is, um, sticky and messy that I had to wash my hands several times during the process.

Here they are ready to embellish my fridge:

I still have a bag of clear marbles and few magnets left. I shall make more soon.

(but to be honest, I think I like the fabric covered ones a lot more)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ireland: The Day We Drove The Ring Of Kerry

Previously: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4

Day 5: Visited Iveragh Peninsula (Ring Of Kerry). Stayed at Dingle.

County Kerry is famous for its natural beauty, and the Ring of Kerry (ROK), a 120-mile scenic loop, is the most common tourist route for seeing it. Although our first B&B host advised us against visiting it - said it wasn't worth the drive and Beara Penisula, which we had seen the day before, surpasses ROK by a landslide - we still opted to see it because we simply didn't want to leave Ireland without seeing one of its biggest attractions.

Below is a map of Iveragh Peninsula from Rick Steve's guide book. We started from Kenmare (lower right hand corner) and went clockwise, stopped at Derrynane House, gawked at the magnificent views at the tip, visited Skellig Ring, and drove the northern part of the peninsula rather quickly.

We did not drive the full loop. Right at Killorglin, we followed another road north to Dingle, where we stayed for the night.

The weather was perfect, probably the best we had during our entire stay in Ireland. Lots of fluffy clouds in the sky and not a drop of rain.

From Kenmare, we quickly reached our first stop - Derrynane House, which is the home of Daniel O' Connell, Ireland's most influential pre-independence politician. Since it is part of the heritage site, we visited the house (which included a drawing room, bedroom, dining room, etc) and watched a video about O'Connell's life.

While learning about the history was interesting, we really like the beach and the coastal land surrounding the house. We stayed for a while here - walked around, wrote our names in the sand, and took lots of pictures.

On the 3rd try, we finally got it right. :)

The key to ROK is to get an early start and avoid rush hour. This way, although popular with tourists, it still feels remarkably unspoiled and dramatically isolated.

After Derrynane House and just before Skillig Ring, we saw brilliant views such as this one. Le sigh.

The Skellig Ring, a little 20-mile ring road, is an extension of ROK. As oppose to ROK, The Skellig Ring is a lot calmer because its narrow roads cannot by accessed by tour buses, which makes it a paradise for people traveling on their own, like us. We hardly saw any tourists.

The roads are steep and narrow that driving there is a lot more challenging.

The views are stunning though - rugged coast, jagged rocks, green hills, silver waters of the Atlantic - a truly wild region.

The real reason why we went to Ireland was to see the countryside. And when we finally saw it, we got a little bit carried away with pictures.

I think this looks like something straight out of a storybook.

Little white dots everywhere. Everywhere.

We came to a little picnic-friendly beach and decided to walk around. As soon as we stepped out of the car, these two dogs followed us all the way down to the beach area. At first I thought they just wanted food, but later found out that they were actually protecting us! When we stood on the sand, they would go a couple inches further, lay down, and face toward us. When I tried to get pass by them and go closer to the ocean, they barked at me, as if they were saying that it is too dangerous. Smart and well-trained!

Hubs said that they definitely help their owner herd sheep.

From the mainland, we saw Skellig Michael and Little Skellig, which are two gigantic slate-and sandstone rocks a couple miles offshore. Skellig Michael is more than 700 feet tall and a mile around - you can get there by boats. Little Skellig is home to many wildlife and is protected by law from visitors setting foot onshore.

After we left Skellig Ring and joined the main ROK route (N70), we didn't stop for more than once or twice before leaving and starting our drive to Dingle.

All in all, I thought ROK was wonderful!

Once on the Dingle Pininsula, we stopped at Inch Beach, where the movie, Ryan's Daughter, was filmed. Inch Beach is not the typical beach back at home with boardwalk and cotton candy. Instead, it's rural and rich in habitats of plants and animals. It is a 4-mile sandy beach, shaped like a half-moon.

In addition to sand and ocean, we also saw farmland.

The drive from ROK to Dingle is also very scenic!

We arrived to our B&B in the town of Dingle and quickly settled in our room. Later after unpacking, we had tea and fruit cake in the sun room. On a random note, I got warm and toasty while sitting there. It really absorb all the sunlight! When we buy a house someday, I want to have a sun room too, just like this one, please.

We asked our host for recommendations to a good (and cheap) pub. He said all the pubs are along the street right across from the Dingle Harbor. So off we went to walk around town and find something to eat.

The town of Dingle only has a few streets and they are lined with brightly painted shops and pubs. One thing I noticed about Dingle is that it is very touristy, gift shops after gift shops. It even has a mascot Dolphin named Fungie. Hubs saw on TV that Dingle is the most tourist-friendly with its visitor center taking up one whole block. Dingle used to be very poor, but after made famous by Ryan's Daughter, it is now a boom town.

For dinner, we paid an outrageous price for some fish and chips. Rick Steve is right - the only cheap meal in Dingle is picnic.

Overall, we didn't like the town of Dingle as much as the other towns. It was fine, though, because we really just wanted to see more countryside.

And on Day 6, we did just that. Coming up next: we saw the most western part of Ireland and changed our itinerary at the last minute!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

National Parks For Free!

Have you heard about this?

National Park Service is offering three fee-free weekends this summer - starting this Father's Day Weekend!

Available at selected parks, see full details here.

A friend of mine sent me the link after she read on my blog that I was looking for new places to take pictures. Thank you Sophia!

Since I am having a summer staycation, I can't wait to use this to its full potential. I already know I want to go to Prince William Forest Park...and some other ones.

Okay, who'd like to come with me!?

--
On a totally unrelated note, I saw Richard Dreyfuss at lunch today! He sat across the booth from me. Too bad I had no idea who he was at that time and my co-workers had to clue me in. And of course I looked him up afterwards. Silly me - I have seen his movies! Jaws, Mr. Holland's Opus, W., and a lot more. He was with a lady that we all didn't recognize, probably his agent?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

$2 ON Tank Tops

{link 1 and 2}

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Seaweed Wrapped Chicken and Pork Patties

I was looking for something different to make when I came across these two recipes - Soy and Pepper's Nori Wrapped Chicken Cakes and Rasa Malaysia's Minced Chicken and Pork Rolls.

These two recipes together reminded me very much of what my dad used to make - meat mixture rolled up in seaweed and deep-fried to perfection. Yum, I remember eating the rolls with chili sauce. But, I also remember the work that my dad had to put in to make those delicious rolls. All that chopping, mixing, rolling, and frying took a long time!

To concoct my own version and tone down on the amount of work, I took the best of the two recipes, added my own interpretation, and created a new dish for dinner.

Instead of deep-frying, I pan-fried. Instead of wrapping in bean curd, I wrapped with a band of seaweed. Instead of just using one kind of meat, I mixed it up a little. I added some shittake mushrooms...just because everything tastes better with them! It was super easy, no fuss at all.

They turned out wonderful! Juicy, savory, and the seaweed really added an extra layer of flavor. Definitely very similar to what my dad made, but minus all the work!

This is a recipe that you can add/delete/substitute to your taste. Next time I may try minced shrimps, chopped water chestnut, or mashed tofu (!).

Seaweed Wrapped Chicken and Pork Patties:
(plenty for 2 hungry people, plus leftover for another day)

- 3/4 lb ground chicken
- 1/4 lb ground pork
- 2-3 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1 stalk green onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp corn starch
- salt/white pepper to taste
- seaweed, cut into wide strips

1. Combine all ingredients (except seaweed) in a large bowl. Leave to marinate for 15-30 minutes.
2. Heat pan with about 2 tbsp of oil on medium heat. Shape the meat mixture into small patties, wrap a strip of seaweed around it and place in the pan to pan-fry.
3. Pan-fry the patties for about 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Do not crowd the patties and fry in batches, if necessary.
4. Serve with a side of vegetable and enjoy it with rice!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ireland: A Day Of Incredible Views

Previously: Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3

Day 4*: Visited Beara Peninsula and Killarney National Park. Stayed at Kenmare.

By staying at Kenmare, we were well-positioned to take day trips to the Beara Peninsula, Iveragh Peninsula (Ring of Kerry), and Killarney National Park. On Day 4, we tackled two of them: the scenic and rugged Beara Peninsula and the ever-popular Killarney National Park.

The B&B we stayed at in Kenmare was by far hubs favorite. Why? The breakfast! Just look at our typical breakfast plate. They really piled on the food.

Over breakfast on Day 4, we talked with a friendly old couple about our plans for the day. Upon hearing that we were driving the Beara Peninsula, they immediately told us not to miss Lake Cloonee. They were just there the day before and hiked to a waterfall.

We duly noted and agreed that we would go there too.

Lake Cloonee happened to be our first stop on the loop (R571), coming from Kenmare. We actually missed the sign first, but turned around and went down this narrow path. Along the way, we got close and personal with farm animals - I had hubs stop every other minute to take pictures.

After a while, the path opened up and we saw this glistening lake. We were literally the only ones there! It was very picturesque and I felt tiny and insignificant standing in the vast valley. We walked around for a bit and took pictures. It was cloudy so the pictures came out dark, but what a great atmosphere! We saw the waterfall from afar, but decided not to go, as we had a long day ahead of us.

The tour books don't really talk about Beara Peninsula - it is definitely the least famous among Iveragh and Dingle. But when we heard that it is actually the most popular with the locals, we grew most interested in Beara. It certainly has a more local vibe. First of all, we didn't see a single tour bus. Secondly, we didn't pass more than a handful of cars the entire time we were there. Everywhere we looked, we were awarded with unspoiled and magnificent landscape.

It is safe to say that Beara Peninsula has not been discovered by mainstream tourism and retains a true Irish rural charm. I give it two thumbs up!

We didn't drive the entire loop, though. Instead, we cut across and drove the Healy Pass (R574), which is actually the most well-known scenic drive as far as Beara Peninsula is concerned.

We, once again, got lucky with weather. Although the sun didn't come out, the rain didn't either. We were able to see clear mountain tops and green farmland.

The Healy Pass is spectacular! I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Hubs on top of the world. :)

Glanmore Lake, taken from the summit of the Healy Pass.

The road is windy and we even shared it with herds of sheep, walking on the side of the road. They were so close that I could probably reach out of the window and touch their fur. What a fun adventure.

After taking in all the greenness, we started our drive to Killarney National Park. On the way, we passed by the town of Kenmare and decided to stretch our legs.

Kenmare is a really pretty, quaint town! It boosts stylish little restaurants and good shopping. I had lots of fun taking pictures, but I think this picture that hubs took more or less captured everything about the town. Small, charming, and busy with tourists!

We continued our drive and, once we entered the national park, we saw the scenic Ladies View almost immediately. From the lookout point, there is a marvelous view of the Killarney Valley and Upper Lake. This particular view received its name from the view much admired by Queen Victoria's ladies in waiting, when they visited here in the 1800s.

We later parked our car at a parking lot and walked to Torc Waterfall.

To get to the waterfall, we walked through a forest of tall oak trees. Oh my, this walk made me realize why Ireland is referred to as the Emerald Isle - everything is covered in different shades of green....everything! It's definitely one of my favorite places.

The waterfall itself is tiny, but nice.

Near the waterfall is Mockross House and Gardens.

I found the gardens absolutely stunning - beautiful, calm, and peaceful. There are paths, streams, and all sorts of flowers in bloom. Although the Mockross House is part of the heritage site, we didn't visit the inside. You can only visit the house through a guided tour and we didn't feel like waiting around for it.

We walked back to the car, ate a picnic lunch next to the Mockross Lake, and hurried back to the car when it started to rain.

We returned to our B&B in late afternoon. After chatting a bit with our host, we had tea and cookies. The picture below is totally posed - we used the self-timer and took a picture of us reading the tour books in the lounge area. :) One of my habits when traveling is that at the end of each day, I like to refer to the books and make sure I hit everything.

That night we walked to the town of Kenmare since we had nothing else planned. We visited gift shops and took more pictures. Very unlike hubs, but he left his adapter at the first B&B so we bought a new one.

We came back, showered, and spent the rest of the night watching New in Town.

*Oh boy, Day 4 was a bit stressful for us. Ireland is known for its small, narrow country roads. When we retrieved our car in Dublin, we opted out of getting additional insurance. This meant, if we were to put any scratches or dings on the car, we would automatically be charged 1500 euros. You can see where I am going with this piece of information. Yes, it happened. Hubs hit a rock and scratched up one of the hubcaps. The day went even further down the hill when we found out there is a ding on the passenger door.

After our anger faded (it took a looooong while), we eventually accepted the fact that we would be out of 1500 euros. Long story short, when we returned the car a few days later, imagine our delight when the agent didn't give us a hard time at all. Ah, we worried for nothing, but were well aware that we escaped by a margin. Whew.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!