Team Hensley

Team Hensley

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Farewell, 2010.

2010 has been a pretty big year for us. It was a year of transition and change filled with happiness and sadness and pretty much every emotion a human can feel. Here's a little recap:

1. We got married. Kind of a big deal for us.

2. We said good-bye to Granny B. She is missed.
3. We moved to Chicago. This means we are far, far away from our family and friends.

4. Nathan and my mom both started Master's programs. And they are both doing very well.

5. My sister and I are both finally getting paid to do things that we care about. She is teaching third grade and I am working for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

6. We welcomed baby Isla to the world. She is such a calm and precious baby. Here she is smiling at her Aunt Ri-Ri.

2010 is coming to a close and I feel completely grateful for an amazing year. I must admit, I am ready for things to slow down a bit in 2011. It will be nice to continue to settle into our new city.

Much love to all of you. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010


I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday with lots of family, friends, and food. We are having such a lovely holiday and can't wait to tell you all about our Texas travels. It has been so nice to spend time with our wonderful families and friends.

Love to all,
R & N

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Frohe Weihnacht.

This year, I am feeling even more Christmas joy than usual. Maybe it's because we live in a big city with beautiful Christmas decorations and tons of holiday hustle and bustle. Or maybe it's because my walk home from work now consists of children building snowmen in the park and old houses with light and trees in their windows. But I think the real reason is because in just four days we will head home for the holidays. Those words have never meant so much. And this year is even more special because there are two places that feel like home. Both are filled with family, tons of food, good coffee, board games, laughs, movies, relaxation, and funfunfun.

So what is a girl brimming with Christmas cheer to do? Head downtown to the Christkindlmarket, of course. Every year, the Daley Plaza is turned into a little German Christmas village with tons of booths filled with bratwurst, spiced wine, stollen, ornaments, crafts, etc.

Ben and I ventured out last Sunday. It was so, so cold. And the wind was especially brutal. But there will still tons of people out and about. Ben had some sort of greasy, red soup that he didn't care for. I ate this bratwurst that later made me pretty sick.

We walked around and checked out the shops. It mostly seemed to be pretty unimpressive, overpriced stuff. But I did think these steins were cool.

We stopped by Santa's house to say hi, but he was on a break. :( Luckily, we ran into this guy instead:

I also saw this sweet treat, which I thought was pretty cute. It means "Jolly Christmas" in German.

Hope you guys are feeling all warm and fuzzy throughout the holiday season. See you all real soon! xoxo.

The Greatest Hot Dog

First, it's been snowing.Native Chicagoans would laugh at us when we suggested that 35-degree weather was cold. They were right to laugh. Most days the temperature doesn't even get to the 30s. Sometimes it doesn't get to the 20s. Yesterday, Randi and I were walking to the bus when we noticed how nice it was outside. It was 34 degrees.

Ben naturally wanted a hot dog while he was here. I told him I had heard that Fat Johnnie's Famous Red Hots was one of the best places, but I had never been there. He asked what part of town it was in. "South." That's the only part he hadn't seen. We made haste to the car.

Fat Johnnie's is basically a shack.
No, it's definitely a shack. You go up to a crusty window to order your Red Hots from some crusty guy you can barely see. Some other crusty guy makes your order.

Anthony Bourdain ate there once. Or, at least, someone with a name close to Anthony Bourdain's ate there once.

This (above and below) is the "Mother-in-Law." It's name comes from the fact that they "both give you indigestion." As it turns out, I get indigestion neither from my mother-in-law, nor from the mother-in-law.
What is this magical creation? The wiener has been replaced with a beef tamale, covered in chili, and topped with the usual Chicago-style toppings (except that Fat Johnnie's uses a cucumber slice instead of a pickle slice. I feel like the cucumber is better...).
Ben takes his first bite:
Apart from probably being the best hot dog in Chicago, it's also cheapcheapcheap! I got one Red Hot (which was insanely good), a Mother-in-Law (which was insanely good), and a large Coke for $5! I want to eat there everyday! Every. Day. ...everyday.

Later, Pele complained that she didn't get to have a hot dog. I told her there was no way I was going to feed something so delicious to a cry-baby cat. She gets cat food. That's it.

Now that my first quarter is over (!!!), I've started to work on my fitness again. I think I look pretty good these days.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Benji, Bars, and Bulls

Our dear, dear friend Ben Lance came for a visit. He was here for a full week, so we had a nice, long visit and saw all the sights. Okay, maybe not all the sights, but many sights. And he was a trooper about walking around in the freezing cold.

Our first stop was Millennium Park.

We spent some time in Chicago's bars. This one is downtown. But we also toured Hyde Park's trinity: Jimmy's, the Pub, and the Cove.

We went to a Bull's game, which was super fun. At the risk of being disowned by my mom, I had a great time rooting for the home team. We beat the OKC Thunder!

We introduced Benji to Chicago deep dish.

Nate vs. pizza. Pizza wins! But just barely...

Tomorrow I will tell you all about the German Christmas festival we attended and our first snow! And, maybe, just maybe, I can convince Nate to share the details of the greatest hot dog he has ever eaten.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Texas Calendar

Here is a calendar of our Texas tour (2 weeks!!!!!!) . It may seem silly to drive to Wichita Falls, then back to San Antonio, then back to Wichita Falls, but that's really the only way we could swing spending enough time with everyone. Can't wait to see you all!!

Austin peeps: let's make some plans! Also, can we sleep on your couch?And I know this is a long shot, but if anyone in San Antonio or Austin has a car laying around that they'd like to lend out, let us know.

Wednesday, Dec 15-Arrive in San Antonio at 9:15pm

Thursday, Dec 16-18- Eat a ridiculous amount of Mexican food, meet Trevor's new kitties, Admire Lydia and Mom's Christmas decorating, lounge around Schertz

Dec 19-20-Go to Austin, catch up with good friends, solve Lonestar bottle cap puzzles

Tuesday, Dec 21-23-Drive to Wichita Falls, give Baby Isla and Owen lots of kisses, make gingerbread houses with fam, get eyes examined

Friday, Dec 24-Tucker/Cusenbary/West/Hensley (maybe Townsend?) Christmas, leave for San Antonio

Saturday, Dec 25-Christmas with the Joneses

Sunday, Dec 26-27-Bum around Schertz, maybe spend an evening in Gruene, wish my parents a happy anniversary, drink lots of vanilla cokes from Sonic

Tuesday, Dec 28-Head back to WF

Thursday, Dec 30- Go to Dallas to help out with last minute wedding tasks

Friday, Dec 31- Watch two lovely people promise to spend the rest of their lives together.

Saturday, Jan 1- leave for Chicago from Dallas at 5:05pm.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

a pox on both our houses?

For at least a decade my parents have endured mischief in their silverware drawer. Gradually, all of their forks have disappeared and been replaced with mysterious forks from different sets. They have the same number of forks they started out with, but they are now mismatched. Nobody knows how or why this happens.

The Hensley household seems to be suffering from the same affliction.

We should have eight of these forks:

Instead, we have seven of the original set and this mystery fork:

Where did it come from? Where is our eighth fork? What is the meaning of this?????

Coincidentally, Lydia visited us last week. Now I'm not making any accusations, but that seems suspicious to me.....

Friday, November 26, 2010

Our first Thanksgiving.

This year was the first that Nate and I have spent Thanksgiving together. Since we are going home for two weeks in December, it didn't make sense to travel to Texas. So, we invited other folks who couldn't make it home for the holiday. This was good for two reasons: 1. it gave us a chance to get to know some cool peeps in Nate's program. 2. It kept me from spending all day crying about how we weren't stuffing our faces with our families, who I miss so much.

We borrowed a big table and a couple of chairs from the church where my office is. We grabbed a couple more chairs from the lobby of our building. And we asked one couple to bring their own plates because we just didn't have enough!

I baked brie for an appetizer and two pumpkin pies with homemade whipped cream. Nate made the turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and some deviled eggs (isn't he dreamy?). His brined turkey was completely delicious. Many around the table proclaimed it the best they had ever had.

Some of our lovely guests waiting to eat.

The whole crew around the table for dinner. Nate and I sat at the heads of the table, which was accidental, but kind of funny now that I think about it. I guess we're the Lord and Lady of our sweet little apartment.

There was lots of laughter and good conversation.

And, a bit of dancing, of course.

All of our guests are folks that Nate has met through his MAPSS program.

This is Tyler and Marina from Maine. They are getting married in August. Tyler studies Russian history and Marina has a journalism degree, but is working at a mediterranean restaurant while she looks for a job in her field.

This is Jonathan from New Jersey. I'm not sure what he studies, but I do know that he makes killer mac and cheese.

Here are Marcie and Josh from Albuquerque, who you met in a previous post. Josh also studies Eastern Europe. Marcie will start a nanny job in January. She is tops for Chicago tips. For example, she told me that the Chicago public library will let residents check out museum passes for free. So good to know! She's also an amazing cook. As true New Mexicans, they brought mashed potatoes with green chiles. Yum!

Mischa celebrated her first ever Thanksgiving with us. She is from the Czech Republic and studies the migration of Vietnamese people into Czechoslovakia. I am proud to say that my pumpkin pie was the first she had ever tasted.

Last, but not least, Charlie, who has become Nate's Chicago bestie. Charlie is funny and sarcastic and completely unpretentious, so you can see why he and Nate became fast friends. He is from Seattle and studies American history, with a focus on prisons during the progressive era. Here he is at the end of the night trying to steal our cats.

As you can see, we had a pretty good crew. Everyone agreed that we need to get together more often. Unfortunately, Nate and I didn't get a picture together, but here's a not-so-flattering shot of me finishing off the brie.

And here's a blurry one of Nate getting everyone's attention with a flute solo.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Xoxo.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lydia's Here: Part 2.

Chicago misses you already, Lydia!

I just dropped Lydia off at the blue line headed to O'hare. I'll see her in three weeks for Christmas; otherwise, there would have been a lot more tears.

We had a great visit. Monday we walked around the neighborhood, visiting Hyde Park's awesome bookstores, checking out the Hogwart's-like campus, peeping through the windows at the Frank Lloyd Wright house, and ooh-ing and aah-ing at the beautiful Rockefeller Chapel.

We then met some of her Chicago friends at Gino's East for some delicious pizza.

Yesterday, we went to Chinatown where Lydia treated us to a delicious dinner. Nate poses in his meow hat with Hello Kitty.

My sister's favorite dinner consists of tons and tons of mac and cheese and piles of crab rangoon. She didn't get any mac and cheese, but there was a ton of food. Nate is shocked to see so many noodles.

After dinner, we posed as our Chinese zodiac signs by their statues. Lydia is a tiger, I'm a rat, and Nate is a horse.

Today we went downtown to go to the Sear's Tower (technically the Willis tower these days). Turns out, Chicago is super huge! It snowed (!) today and was cloudy, so these pictures aren't very good, but you still get the idea.


The skydeck was super scary. At first, I could only put one foot out there and hold on to the wall.

Although I was very sad to see her go, I know she is glad to get home to her own bed, see her pooch, and get back to 80 degree weather. Lyddie doesn't do cold. She claimed today that Chicago was uninhabitable for humans.

Most importantly, our hard working teacher got to get in some good rest and some quality time with two cats who are really going to miss her. They love a good napping buddy.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, everyone. Tomorrow, Nate and I will host our very first Thanksgiving dinner together. Wish us luck!