A Whole Lot of Lessons

They say you learn something new every day. If this is a tall order for you, and you think you go some days never learning anything, I would like to step in and give you some advice.

I am in an elementary school, serving as a student teacher to my wonderful cooperating teacher and loving students, five days a week. You would be right to assume that we spend all of our time during the school day teaching the students in our classroom something new. That is technically our job. Anybody would know that. However, what some people don’t know is that my students, my student’s parents, my cooperating teacher, the other teachers in the building, the principal, the assistant principal, the librarian, the program assistants, and the custodians have been teaching me something new every day as well.

Their teachings might be intentional and straightforward, like when my lovely cooperating teacher shows me how to use the document camera to model an activity for the class, or when a helpful staff member tells me the correct sequence of buttons to hit on the copier to make 24 homework packets.

Their teachings might be unintentional, like when a student falls asleep on their desk in the middle of an engaging lesson. This teaches you to be aware of the fact that not all students come from the same background. It teaches you to be cognizant of whether or not that sleepy student’s biggest worry in life is the lesson you are trying to teach or if it is trying to find a way to get some sleep at night in a chaotic home. When your cooperating teacher chooses to spend her lunch hour rushing to Walmart so a student can have gym shoes today instead of sitting out again, you learn that the best teachers have the biggest hearts. You learn that a teacher has two equally important jobs. The first is to love her students, and her second is to teach those students a lifelong love of learning.

So, if you find a full 24 hours have come and gone, and there is no new knowledge in your brain, I challenge you to think again. I bet at some point in your day, someone’s actions, words or gestures have taught a lesson. They aren’t all going to be as explicit and intentional as learning how to work the copier. More often than not, those daily lessons are taught abstractly through someone’s reaction to an event, or through the kindness you witness from one person to another. You really do learn something new everyday. I am lucky enough to have chosen a career path where I will learn a lot of “somethings” new everyday.

Memory Lane

As I sat on my couch watching a rerun of fixer upper on HGTV, it dawned on me that I had a book to return at the library. I hopped on my bike, began pedaling down the street, and this is where my sappy, sentimental train of thought began (lucky for you – I’m going to tell you all about it). 

For those of you who don’t know me very well, I love the library. I love books. I love reading. So having a reason to visit was the highlight of my evening. Because I was thinking about libraries, it made me think of my grandma and grandpa who live in Mount Vernon, Washington. They live in (what I would consider to be) one of the most beautiful parts of America. A quaint town where everyone knows everyone. From Grandma and Grandpa’s front yard you can see the bay, you can see the herds of cattle who bring a slightly unpleasant yet strangely comforting scent to their backyard, and from the kitchen window, the tip of Mount Baker is visible on a cloudy day. The list of wonderful things about this place could continue forever, but the one I was thinking about tonight was grandma’s library, which is literally covered in different kinds of clocks. It’s the kind of place I could sit in forever. On the clock wall, there is a hand painted quote from Groucho Marx that reads:
“time flies like the wind, fruit flies like bananas” 
How true is that. Time really does fly like the wind. Here I am, riding my bike to the Warrenville Public Library. the same place I used to ride my bike to every day in the summer when I was little and spend hours sitting in chairs reading books and magazines. I was pedaling down the same streets, past the same houses, and over the same sidewalk bumps that I always have, except the only difference now is that I am 20 years old, entering my senior year of college, and about to be a student teacher all in a few days. That thought made me nostalgic for the old me, but also made me excited for the new me. 
On the way back home, still thinking about how quickly time has flown in this little town, I decided to take a detour home and really look around. That detour took me pretty far and before I knew it, I was rolling down Albright Street for the first time in what felt like forever. I rode all the way down to the end of the road, until I got to that little yellow house on the right, the one where one of my best childhood friends used to live.  
It looked the same way it always has, and I felt so relieved. The second I saw that front window, I couldn’t help but remember how many times we we had accidentally locked ourselves out and had to crawl in that way. I remember the metal spiral staircase that lead to her mom’s lofted bedroom, I remember the shed in the backyard and all the bonfires and s’mores we used to eat. I remembered it all, and it made me miss her. She moved away when she left for college, and we lost contact.
It’s so strange to me how so many memories can be made, and how easily they can be forgotten about, and yet again, how easily they can be retrieved if they are sparked by the right match.
The best part of this is that this whole train of thought occurred in my brain while riding my bike. Who woulda thunk it?

monday’s little moments

The rainy, chilly weather has never been something I feel warm and fuzzy about. In fact, it tends to put me in a sleepy, hazy, and often-grumpy mood. Well, in case you were wondering, it has been rainy and chilly here in Central Illinois recently.

In fact, last Monday (aka the gloomiest day of the week), I was feeling particularly gloomy and hazy. I had hit the snooze button 3 times too many, I couldn’t decide what to wear so I inevitably spent 15 minutes trashing my room searching for an outfit that would make me look halfway presentable, and I made my morning coffee way too strong and then, in an attempt to dilute my bitter cup of joe, discovered that my creamer was expired. Safe to say, it was not the best start to my day. Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, and I am fully aware of this, so I proceeded on with my morning.

Just 45 minutes later, I was inside an elementary school tutoring a first grade student in literacy. In our lesson that day, I had brought one of my childhood favorites to read. Dogs Don’t Wear Sneakers, by Laura Numeroff. This book is silly and full of colorful illustrations, which means it is the most fun kind of book to read. My student read aloud to me…

Fish don’t eat bagels
And penguin don’t teach
And rabbits don’t sunbathe
At your local beach.

After a few giggles at the funny images, he began reading again…

Now just close your eyes
And draw with your mind.
You might be surprised 

He was stuck. The word surprised is a big one for a first grader, and I wasn’t sure if he had seen it before. He tried to sound it out, and got as far as the “ssss” sound of the first letter, then blurted out with full confidence: “SUPER DUPER!!!” He looked at me with a big smile on his face for reassurance that he had sounded it out correctly, and I couldn’t help but smile in return at him.

30 minutes later, on my way back home, I drove with my windows cracked a little bit for some fresh air. As I rolled to a stop, I heard some music playing. I looked to my right, finding a huge cement truck and inside it was an equally huge cement truck driver, belting out Whitney Houston’s, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” without a care in the world.

Right after the lyrical “OHHHHHHHH!!!! I wanna dance with somebody” left his mouth, I realized how emotionally raw that moment was. Life is full of those little moments. When you get to see someone totally in his or her element, unbothered by what other people think.

So what if you pronounce surprised wrong? So what if someone catches you belting Whitney songs to yourself? If someone catches you being yourself, they should feel lucky to have witnessed it, and that’s that. Life is pretty beautiful sometimes, don’t you think?

I’m back!

It has been just over five months (wow…time sure does fly by fast) since I have shared my thoughts, adventures, embarrassing moments, and interesting stories with all of you. For a while, I figured my days of travel blogging (I’m not even sure if it’s correct to label my random rants as ‘travel blogging’ but anyways…) would be put on hold until I decided to embark on another adventure as exciting as my semester abroad. I have always had this idea that a blog is only for people who have exciting lives, full of spontaneity, fancy clothes, groundbreaking ideas, and mouth-watering recipes. While I lived in Florence, Italy for 4 glorious, life-altering months, I dubbed myself worthy enough to write a blog post every now and again because I fell into my own pre-determined category of “exciting life”. Once I left, I found myself falling back into routine, which was a concept my European self was not used to, and something that I found hard to blog about.

Wake up at 6:00am, shower, get dressed in my camp counselor uniform, go to summer camp, play octopus tag, eat PB&J for lunch, get used as a human jungle gym during swim time, clean up approximately 27 spilled apple juice boxes, get pegged in the forehead with a Gator Ball by a 7-year-old kid during dodge ball, go home, eat dinner, fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, repeat.

Like I said – pretty lame routine compared to what I had been used to. But, just recently, I have had change of heart. I’m not sure what it is exactly that changed my perspective. It could be the idea that maybe someone out there actually cares about what I have to say, or that writing about my own life is fun and adventurous within itself, or that somewhere down the road, my lame-o blog posts could be labeled as historical autobiographical documents to the life of the late, world renowned educator of America’s youth, self proclaimed cute cupcake-bakery owner, gourmet grilled cheese restaurant owner, loving wife, mother of beautiful children, Sara Dalan. Either way, I have decided that now that I am certainly (sigh) back in the good ‘ol U.S. of A., well into my Junior year of college, and back to routine of classes, work, homework, a few hours of sleep, repeat, I figured that my life is just as worthy as any other life for a blog.

I have moved on to a new adventure – the adventure of pursuing my career, making mistakes along the way, and trying to better myself after I make these mistakes. Who am I to say that my adventure isn’t worthy of being written about? It doesn’t matter if no one reads this blog, it doesn’t matter if I have fancy clothes, groundbreaking ideas or mouthwatering recipes to share with all of you. All that matters is that I have decided to continue documenting my personal adventure of life. Studying abroad was, and always will be, one of my biggest adventures, but that was just one chapter of my not-yet-finished book. There were chapters that preceded that one, and there will most definitely be chapters to follow after. I have a lot more to say, and I have gobs more to experience.

As a junior elementary education major, I have found that the Internet is a great resource to connect with other educators, find research on topics that I never even knew pertained to education, and to broaden my own horizons on how to better myself as a future educator. I may end up using this blog as a network to reach out with other educators, fellow adventure-seekers in everyday life, and other passionate people. Who knows? That’s all part of the adventure!

So here I am, sweeping the creativity-blocking cobwebs from the corners of my mind, blowing the dust off my keyboard, and telling you I’m back and I think I’m here to stay! Here we go. 😉

it’s not a goodbye, it’s a see you later.

before this point in my life, I have only been truly heartbroken one time. as I sit here in seat 9D on my 8 hour flight across the pond back home to the states, I cannot help but feel that familiar heartbreak feeling setting in in again. But this time, it’s a little different. instead of my heart strings tugging due to a boy am our ended relationship, they tug because I fell in love with a city, learned to call it home, and just as my roots were digging into the florentine soil, I had to rip them out.

rest assured, this is not a completely sad goodbye. it’s a goodbye of confused emotions, a confused heart and most definitely a confused body clock (jet lag will be setting in at any second). it’s a confusing goodbye because I’m both eager to leave and eager to stay where I am.

everyone says “study abroad, you won’t regret it” and I am proud to say that after nearly 4 months of traveling Europe I have become an advocate of that phrase as well. being abroad has taught me more than any gen ed class or university lecture could ever teach me. I didn’t take math classes or physics while I was here, but I took classes that introduced me to culture and people and art. I learned how to cook like an Italian, how much Italians love extra virgin olive oil, and the way to pair white and red wine with specific dishes. I learned how to be more adventurous when I decided that jumping off a cliff was a fun thing instead of a scary thing while white water rafting in Croatia. I learned that money definitely doesn’t grow on trees when I would open my fridge to find it stocked with nothing but half a jar of mayonnaise and a tomato. But I did learn that no amount of money is worth the memories that you will make while abroad. I know it sounds cheesy, but it is SO accurate. An impressively large majority of those memories were good ones, but there were a few memories here and there that were a little more sour than most. like the time I went to Barcelona with a bikini and a beach hat packed for the weekend and it didn’t get warmer than 45 degrees the whole weekend. or the time in Paris where I bought the expensive metro ticket on accident, then lost it, and had to buy another one.

I wouldn’t trade a single one of these bad moments for a thousand good ones. I was always told that everything happens for a reason, and now I think I can finally say I truly believe this is true. some may think it sucks having to spend 8 euro on one trip down the metro, and i thought that too in the moment. but now, I know to ask which ticket to buy. 45 degrees in Barcelona made me a little sad that I couldn’t hang out on the beach and get a tan, but taught me to learn how to pack to be prepared for any weather. and we discovered some of the many other things Barcelona had to offer us besides the beach.

I learned that I have a passion for passionate people. like my food and wine professor, Giancarlo, who is a self proclaimed chef and wine conniseiur. his math degree didn’t get him what he wanted in life, so he followed his love for cooking and vino, studied, and became a professor who loves to give clueless people like me some knowledge about chianti, Chardonnay and how to cook noodles al dente. or like Pino, who owns one of the most popular sandwich shops for us study abroad students. each time you visit his place, he greets you with a smile and a “ciao bella!” as genuine as the prosciutto he slices onto your panino. Milva, my food of Italy professor, has been cooking since she was 6 years old. She learned to love cooking from her mother. when she was small, there was an accident in the kitchen while they were pickling olives and the acid got on her had, deforming it’s veins and swelling her hand to 2 times the normal size. But she was not deterred from cooking. I have never met someone so passionate about the perfect filet of sea bass like she is. she puts so much consideration and detail into her dishes, you can’t help but love it. There’s the artists who sit at the top of piazzale Michelangelo, with a paint stained pallet and wooden easel at sunset. no basket is out begging for money, but their artwork is so genuine it makes you want to empty your entire wallet for them.

I learned that my once speedy metabolism has definitely slowed down and simultaneously I learned that I love virtually every flavor of gelato, cheap or expensive wine and spaghetti alla anything. the two don’t exactly even out, but I know my taste buds sure thank me for it.

This whole trip has been nothing but a wonderful learning experience, and I am so happy of the things it has taught me. so here’s to this adventure of mine – probably one of the most exciting and life changing adventures I will ever have. I am so grateful for this chapter of my life, and even though it is hard for me to watch it end, I know that this was a chance of a lifetime and I am so proud of it’s effects on me. ciao firenze, you will forever hold a special place in my heart.

“Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.” -anna ahkmatova


the paparazzi love us

Today Florence is featuring a lot of rain and grey sky, but despite the dreary weather, it’s been a great day so far (big shout-out to my rain boots and rain coat for keeping me dry)!

Mercato Centrale is one of the markets here in Firenze. Located inside of a massive building, there are stands throughout the entire first floor selling products like fresh fish, meat, fruits and veggies, wine, olive oil, dried fruits and nuts, freshly made pasta, cheeses and cold cuts, and basically anything you would need to make yourself a delicious Italian meal. The second floor of the market has been under construction for quite some time now and just last week, they opened it! All brand new, organic, (slightly expensive) and fresh products is what its all about. It is such a beautiful place, full of energy and good food. You can eat freshly prepared food up there and grab a glass of wine, or you can do some grocery shopping and purchase some organic, home grown buffalo mozzarella. The cool thing is that everything that is sold there is local, which means that on top of it being organic, its also of good quality! Besides all the awesome food, the coolest part of the newly renovated market is the fact that there is a brand new, super high tech kitchen specifically for students of Lorenzo Di Medici – THAT’S ME!!!! 




We met our cooking instructor, Milva, there today and she taught her lesson and cooked us a type of vegetable lasagna with Pane Carasau, which is a very thin, dry fragile type of bread. It was made with roasted peppers, buffalo mozzarella, olives and the pane carasau, and it was delicious. 

The kitchen is behind a big glass window, so visitors of the market would stop and watch through the glass to observe Milva cooking us our food! She said she felt like a movie star because so many people gathered to watch her cook – they were taking pictures and everything. I guess we looked pretty cool all dressed up in our chef’s uniforms inside this super modern kitchen, so I don’t blame them for wanting to take pictures 😉



olive trees and italian leather

this weekend was full of good things.

1. on saturday 4 of my friends and I went on a bike tour through the tuscan countryside! We took  a 20 minute bus ride to a town just outside of Florence called Fiesole. It had a COMPLETELY different feel than florence. the people, atmosphere, scents, sounds – you name it – felt different, and it was so weird because I was only a few miles out of town. It was beautiful there. Actually, beautiful doesn’t even begin to cover it. Our tour was basically a personalized ride through the hills. The guide was the most friendly, kind, and patient italian i have met so far. I had like a million questions along the ride, from “is this an olive tree?” to “how do you say dad in italian?” and he answered each and every annoying question i threw his way. We rode for 15 miles from Fiesole back to Florence, and along the way we stopped to see different views of the Duomo in the distance and rolling hills full of olive trees. Honestly this bike tour was one of my favorite things I have done abroad, and that is saying a lot. I am definitely going to recommend this specific tour to each and every person who is studying abroad here next semester. 




2. I had the BEST spaghetti alla carbonara. It was so good I think I will be craving it when I’m back in Illinois. Like, I will probably dream about it. I don’t know why it was so special (probably because I ate it right after our 15 mile bike ride so I was starving) but it just was.


3. I treated myself, and got a fancy new purse from the leather market!!!! I am in love with it and the first thing my roommates said when I brought it home was “seriously Sara, that is so you.” I can’t wait to use it 🙂



I hope you all had as wonderful of a weekend as I did! 

Ciao for now! xoxo

home sweet london

long time no talk, right?!

last weekend was one for the books…literally. I spent all of last week with my nose crammed into articles about different types of pasta and textbooks full of rules about the different scents in red wines. I know it doesn’t sound hard, but it actually does require some thinking and a lot of time. After a week full of assignments and quizzes, I got to spend the weekend in LONDON, ENGLAND and I loved every single second of it.

We stayed in a hostel called Astor Hostel on Queen’s Gate and it was a really lovely place. Everyone was really friendly towards us and  helpful with all sorts of questions from “what bus stop should we be at to get to the airport?” to “why do people say cheers instead of goodbye?” 

Unfortunately, we only had 2 full days in London but we jam packed each day as full as we could. On Friday we went on a 3 hour bike tour of the city. On the tour, we saw Buckingham Palace, Kensington Gardens, Trafalgar Square, the changing of the guards, I ate chipotle, and we also saw Big Ben.




Saturday we went to see Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theater. That was awesome. I had a vague memory of the storyline, but the play was absolutely amazing! We couldn’t take pictures in the theater, so I can’t show you what the costumes looked like, but they were very impressive. We rode the London Eye after the musical! That was a cool experience.



We also went out for afternoon tea, which was one of my favorite experiences to date. It was a “secret tea room” above a pub. We sipped English Breakfast tea from antique tea cups and ate delicate pastries. I had a lemon tart with raspberry mousse. Seriously, it could not have been any cuter.  


I can honestly say that London is my favorite European city so far. It was all about the atmosphere there that really made me fall in love. The people on the sidewalks give friendly smiles and waves, the tube was easy to figure out for transportation needs and we had beautiful weather. The parks were absolutely breathtaking and the apartment buildings looked so cute. I can definitely 100% say that I will be back in London at some point in my life. 


It is a beautiful day, it is sunny outside and 70 degrees, I just ate a beautiful panini, and……I JUST FINISHED MY LAST MIDTERM!

Now that my last test is over, I can get excited for spring break!!!! My roommates and I are going to Paris for 3 days and then Barcelona for 4 days. Obviously pictures of that trip will come in my next post, but I just wanted you guys to prepare yourselves to see a bunch of pictures of me in front of the Eiffel Tower. 

Now lets talk about food. Before my test a classmate and I went to Antica Sosta deli Aldobrandini for a panini. It is a little panini place that we walk past to go to class every day, and today was the first day I stopped in and actually got something. Let me just tell you, I wish I had gone in earlier. This place is always packed, and on nice days they put tables outside and open all of the glass doors up so basically the whole place is open! A panini is only 3.50 euro and you get to pick your own ingredients! I had a panini with pesto, brie cheese, pears, turkey and walnuts. It was the perfect brain food before my exam because I totally think I aced it. WHAT A GOOD DAY!!! 


Now its time for me to run a bunch of errands before I’m off to Paris and Barcelona! (like packing, printing plane tickets, figuring out how to get to our hostel, etc.) So I hope you all have a wonderful day! I’ll be posting again soon 🙂 

yummy yummy in your tummies

So I have been super busy this week because I have midterms! Studying til 2am every night does not leave me with much free time for blogging, but I wanted to sneak this little bit in today. Yesterday during my Food and Wine midterm, my teacher, Giancarlo, cooked for us while we took our test. It was a SUPER simple dish called pasta alla checca. Its a super fresh dish, very light and perfect for spring and summer when there are fresh tomatoes! (I know that its basically winter still at home, so maybe you guys don’t have fresh tomatoes yet, but just wait until it heats up!).

Pasta Alla Checca

  • Pasta
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Basil
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chili Pepper

All you do is boil some water for your pasta in a pot. While the water is heating up, in a large sautee pan, warm your olive oil and toast the garlic cloves until they are lightly browned. Add your pasta to the water. Add your tomatoes to the garlic and olive oil, and cook only for 1-2 minutes. Season with a little salt, pepper, and a hint of chili pepper. About 2 minutes before the pasta is done, strain it and add the noodles to the sautee pan. Mix it all together with the flame on. After about one more minute, turn off the flame and add the fresh basil! Thats it! 

Such a simple dish, and it was absolutely amazing. It tasted so fresh and I can’t wait to make it in the summer for my family and friends at home. So easy, so delicious and it goes great with a young white wine 🙂

Ciao guys, gotta get back to studying!!