A Suggestion

As one does when in Seattle, we spent the better part of an afternoon roaming Pike Place Market.

Pike Place Market gets mail too.
Pike Place Market gets mail too.

We bought a lb. of hazelnuts, crammed into a restaurant and ate some hearty clam chowder (good, but not award-winning, truth be told), and eyed a lot of produce and fresh fish that we had no place to cook.

No grazing!
No grazing!
Pike Place Peonies.
Smelt pretty fishy.

Amidst the iced-over fish eyes and neat rows of flower bouquets, the aisles were tightly packed with locals, chefs, street musicians, tourists with cameras. It’s an experience in people watching as much as in food.

Because of my obsession with Lunch at the Shop, I knew I wanted to visit Peter Miller Books. It’s walking distance from the market, so once we’d had our fill there, we headed over.

Despite knowing better, we arrived near lunch time and had to mill about the neighborhood until the shop reopened. We could have gotten lost in the book stacks for hours – it’s like taking a design and architecture world tour within a couple hundred square feet. Not wanting to carry a lot of heavy books back (plus we had a Powell’s trip on the docket), we ended up with some Japanese award-winning pencils, smooth erasers that look almost like stone and heavy brass pencil sharpeners.

As we checked out, I was too shy to gush as I wanted: “OH MY GOSH. I LOVE YOUR BOOK!” so I said nothing. Peter was quite friendly and struck up a conversation anyway. He asked where we were from and to my relief didn’t talk RFRA (which was all over the news). We asked for a lunch recommendation, and he recommended a Middle Eastern place called Mamnoon, which sounded perfect.

Lunch at Mamnoon.
Lunch at Mamnoon.

We had quite a feast, and doodled with our new pencils while we ate. Seattle International Film Festival was running, and over fattoush, we chose a french fashion documentary to see later that day.

Doodling on the SIFF cover.
Doodling on the SIFF cover.

Peter had made a second suggestion. “If you’re going that way, there’s a small church worth seeing…” After lunch, our friend Jenn met us, and we took the second half of our two-part directions and ventured together to find the church.

By this point we’d walked a lot, but we it seemed wise to listen to a fellow who owns and curates a shop specializing in architecture books when he suggests seeing a building. It was the Chapel of St. Ignatius, on the campus of Seattle University. It was well worth the extra jaunt to find it.

St. Ignatius by Steven Holl

Pops of colored light pierced through the white plaster, a strange play between serenity and joy. I hadn’t known then that architect Steven Holl’s guiding principle for the space was “a gathering of different lights.” Mission accomplished – you feel the color. (None of my images fully capture that magic, but you can see some that do here.)


We took a break on the benches outside, gazed into the reflection pool.


Somehow, it’s like he’d known we’d need this restorative stop, a peaceful oasis within the bustle of travel. You just can’t beat a good recommendation from a local.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Influencers. Did you witness someone influence others? Perhaps you experienced it directly. Share a tale of persuasion.”

The Embarcadero

Our San Francisco flight had been delayed, which meant we’d be hard pressed to make it for the start of the Giants game. It was a frenzied dash, from landing to hotel check-in, then we rushed to AT&T Park to catch the game in progress.

Look at that blue sky. Hello, California.
Look at that blue sky. Hello, California.

Louie kept score as usual. I kind of tuned out, soaked up the sunshine and tried to recover from the hustle of traveling.

This hot dog and garlic fries helped the recovery situation tremendously.
This hot dog and garlic fries helped the recovery situation tremendously.

The Embarcadero picks up near the park. We planned to walk off our ballpark lunch and get a feel for the city. Eventually, we’d end up at the Ferry Building to explore the market inside.

Direct hit.
Cupid’s Span by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

After all of the sitting on the plane and at the ballpark, it felt good to get moving and listen to the water lapping up the shore.

San Francisco Bay from Sara McGuyer on Vimeo.

Obligatory bird shot.

One odd moment transported me from the place I’d just come – home. This sculpture along the waterfront so reminded me of our state flag, I couldn’t help but think of Indiana.

SOMA by Flaming Lotus Girls
SOMA by Flaming Lotus Girls

We made it to the Ferry Building ready for coffee. Good thing we found Blue Bottle inside, and a wonderful place to get a sweet treat too.

The Port of San Francisco.
The Port of San Francisco.
Macaroon from Miette in the Ferry Building.

Good job on the strolling situation, San Francisco.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “It’s All About the Journey. Where did you travel this year? Did it move or change you?”

Golden Gate Bridge Run

Since we would be in San Francisco for our last training run before the Eugene Marathon, we decided we should do it in grand fashion and run the Golden Gate Bridge. An article had pointed us to start in Crissy Field. To the bridge and back made for a seven-mile run.

Our SF run path.
Our SF run path.

I’m not often in the habit of stopping during runs, especially just a seven-miler – but this one was as much about exploration as getting in the miles.

Boats in San Francisco Marina.

This route included a nice steep hill (607 feet of elevation gain), which meant a breathtaking view of the sundrenched landscape, the city outlined in the distance.

Eye level with the sunshine.
Eye level with the sunshine.

Inching closer in run step increments, the world seemed wide and open, and we were on top of it. From this vantage, anything is possible.

Not to scale
Not to scale.

Running toward the bridge was a test of my sense of scale and time. From a distance, it was hard to guess at how far away we were from the abutment.

A stranger took our photo for us.
A stranger took our photo for us.

Running over the bridge is a whole other matter – the panoramic views are divided by suspensions, concrete, structural steel. 1.7 miles traversing 894,500 tons of bridge. Traffic zips by, high speed and in close quarters. Here the world tightened back up. We picked up our pace until we put the bridge behind us.

On the way back, we wandered from our path. Alcatraz gazing, run-ins with blue heron, a detour to explore the Palace of Fine Arts.

A palatial diversion in our activewear.
A palatial diversion in our activewear.

In those last two miles we “ran” 17:32 and 25:12 respectively, ending with an overall 11:09 pace over the seven miles. Not exactly a sprint, but enough to work up an appetite. Still in our running gear, we stopped at the donut place we’d been eyeing around the corner from our hotel.

Awesomefacing at Bakehouse.
Awesomefacing at Bakehouse.
Before, during and after our gluttonous donut frenzy.
Before, during and after our gluttonous donut frenzy.

We don’t normally devour a box of donuts after a run, but, hey, we were on vacation. No regrets. Those pastries were amazing. And we had a marathon looming in our future…

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “It’s All About the Journey. Where did you travel this year? Did it move or change you?”

Lost Coast

The Lost Coast is a land without internet. We showed up in early spring. The off season, when all the vacation homes were shuttered up.

Surrounded by the sea.
Surrounded by the sea. The Lost Coast in California.
Waiting for action that may never come. A tiny boat in the off season.
Waiting for action that may never come. A tiny boat in the off season.

The Inn where we rented a room was kept up by one woman, plus a teenager who came in the morning to run the coffee shop. We saw no other guests as we arrived. We were more likely to meet a whale, if we sat on our balcony and waited. They’d been spotted just earlier, the inn keeper said. Lore and suspense? Maybe. We waited, but no whales.

Fog rolls in.
The view from our balcony. Not bad.

Sea lions and cormorants camped out on jagged rock. Like they owned the place. (They did).

Owning the place. Creatures outnumbered humans at least 20 to 1.
Creatures outnumbered humans at least 20 to 1.

The sound of the sea was constant and gushing. We slept with the balcony door open, salt mist lullabies pushing in. This is how to have a really good night’s sleep.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “It’s All About the Journey. Where did you travel this year? Did it move or change you?”

Hokey Pokey

You put your right foot in…

Dozens of times I’ve sung along, busted those moves. I’ve done the hokey pokey on roller skates, under spinning bedazzled lights. If called upon to do so, though I’ve never tried, I could do it with my eyes closed or in my sleep.

But when I stood, feet planted right in front of this step map of pokey moves, it was like I sprouted two left feet.  I made the moves in the wrong order, couldn’t quite toe into the brass footprint.

The Hokey Pokey dance steps, as emblazoned into the sidewalk in the North Shore, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

It was entirely unnatural to follow a map for something I already feel in my soul. When it comes to dancing, which I do early and often, dancingeveryday please and thank you, I like to do my own thing.

As I stumbled over the steps, a couple walked up and said, “You should try the one down there! It’s impossible!” 

It was the Mambo.

Nope. Thanks for the invitation, but one dance by numbers was enough for me.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Strange Encounter. Share a story about a stranger this year. Was it something you overheard? Someone you accidentally met & bonded with? A funny…or strange!…coincidence?”

Simple Ingredients

It occurred to me this morning that my favorite meals from last year were not expensive, elaborate restaurant outings, nor painstakingly prepared home made affairs. The two meals I recall most vividly and fondly were simple, featuring just a few ingredients and almost no prep time.

In the spring, we bought a crusty loaf of bread from Ken’s Artisan Bakery in Portland. We paired it with a supermarket haul of a soft, stinky cheese and a thinly sliced prosciutto, all wrapped up to-go in brown deli paper. We hit the road toward Troutdale, along the Columbia River Gorge, in search of the great Multnomah Falls.

After hiking a loop, we unpacked our parcel of meat and cheese, and satiated the appetite born of several miles effort with the shush roar of 620 feet of falls as a back drop.

A meal fit for Multnomah
A meal fit for Multnomah.
Could it be more green? No. The answer is no.
Could it be more green? No. The answer is no.

Hear what I mean by shush roar. This is nearby Wahkeena Falls, part of our hiking loop:

Wahkeena Falls from Sara McGuyer on Vimeo.

Later in the fall, we planned a day hike to get away and celebrate our seven year wedding anniversary. With stories swirling in my head of Turkey Run feeling like a wholly other place than flat, corn-fed Indiana, we set out for our first visit to the state park. The rock formations in browns and greens, with trees growing out of impossible, unexpected places did not disappoint.

We took our picnic of cheese and crackers with Perrier at water’s edge, laid back on a cool, flat rock in the shade.

Picnic at Turkey Run
Picnic at Turkey Run.
Louie and Brüski, ready for adventure.
Louie and Brüski, ready for adventure.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Play Date. You know the story about all work and no play… How did you play with others this year? Let your hair down and share how you escaped for an hour, a day, or more.”

Navigators and Wanderers

Life is so much easier when you have someone to help you navigate.


I’m a wandering sort, the type who gets lost. When this happened, I can’t really say.

From the moment I got my license to drive, I intuitively got the lay of the land. This was pre-GPS. Maps came in tri-fold paper form. Remember those? I could go clear across town and find my way without a map, thank you very much. When I moved to Chicago, I navigated the city without the aid of a cell phone. During my first month in the city, I got off on the wrong train stop once, but otherwise, smooth sailing.

Later on, something changed. Perhaps I let this part of my mind go, as my most frequent travel companion, Louie, has an infallible internal compass. To not need to fret over directions helps me enjoy the journey, while he loves knowing the way and navigating. We make a good pair. I push us toward a diversion, and he rights the ship before we shipwreck in the wrong place. It was the same when I travelled with Lydia in Phoenix – a natural navigator whether in the car or in the wild, she kept us on the right path for our morning hikes.

Louie on our way to the Lost Coast in California last spring.
Louie on our way to the Lost Coast in California last spring.
Lydia leading the way in Phoenix
Lydia leading the way in Phoenix.

I recently finished this book Collaborative Intelligence which teaches you how to think with people who think differently than you do. It’s a little like a Myers-Briggs test to help you understand how you’re wired to make decisions, to notice where your mental blind spots are, and to partner with others who have that strength.

The book presents a useful framework (and there’s much more detail to it), but you can make use of its key message, even without reading the whole thing. Are you a detail person, who can’t see the future? Find a visionary to help you make the leap. Are you caught in the clouds, but couldn’t take a plan from fluff to action no matter how you tried? Find a partner in crime who likes boots on the ground.

Why navigate solo, when a thinking partner can help you see so much more?

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Role Models. Life is so much easier when you have someone to help you navigate. What makes a mentor great? Have you ever had a mentor? Been someone else’s?”


Instructions for how to feel very small:

Step 1) Fly on a jet plane to San Francisco.


Step 2) Get a rental car. Take Highway 101 until you see an exit for California 254, toward Myers Flat, Humboldt County. Turn right toward Avenue of the Giants.

Careful, there might be fog.


Step 3) Look up.

Avenue of the Giants.

A video posted by Sara McGuyer (@sara_mc) on

I’m sure a zillion others have said such things. Standing next to these noble trees, I saw myself for who I am. A rough, flawed beast. My steps, my breath – a clumsy assault on the serene green. Everything draped with prehistoric moss, old, yet fresh. A quiet hush.



This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Prompt: “In your eyes. Share a photo or paint us a picture with words. Show us something from your year through your eyes. Did you see something that took your breath away? Or maybe you just couldn’t look away?”

(Sort of) home

Going back to Chicago is like going home. Sort of.

Heading to my old neighborhood, all the store fronts are different. A rotation of businesses, of spaces, lives and details changed. But from a 30,000 foot view, the city looks the same as when I left in 2005. It feels the same. The old fixtures remain.

Snapshots from a weekend (sort of) home:





(1) I managed to get in my miles – not an easy feat when traveling. A five miler on Saturday, ten on Sunday. Running flies by with such a view. I’ve always been captivated by the lake. It’s perhaps the thing I miss most about the city. So expansive. Endless it seems. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking with my eyes fixed on its waves.
(2) To know me is to know that popcorn is my favorite snack. From the Oak Street Beach murals, the scenes of a Lake Shore run.
(3) Cappuccino art from Intelligentsia. Part one of my favorite Intelligentsia/Reckless Records Lakeview combo.
(4) Wrigley, Louie and I.

Not pictured:
Dinner at Senza. Highly recommended if you’re looking to splurge on a 10 course meal. An incredible experience – creative food, cool, yet comfortable environment. It took a fair amount of restraint to not photograph every course, each its own piece of art. I didn’t want to spoil the meal with low grade iPhone pics. Here’s the menu we enjoyed.