Murdo was my first serious boyfriend. The first guy I brought home to my parents. When he met them for the first time, over Christmas break nearly eight years ago, he had driven an hour and a half from his house to ours to take me out to dinner. "He must like her a lot," I remember hearing my dad say.

We started dating in college. I was at the University of Illinois, and he was finishing up classes at Illinois State. The first week we started dating, he sent me a card in the mail, after I had mentioned how I loved receiving mail but never got any. The card had a sepia-toned image on the front, an old-timey looking photo of a young girl wearing a white bonnet and dress, sitting on a donkey, staring straight ahead with a blank look on her face. The outside read, "Nothing much going on here..." Inside: "Just sitting on my ass, thinking of you."

On our first anniversary, he surprised me while I was at my part-time job at the physics building, setting up pulleys and ramps for undergrad-level labs. My boss let me leave early, and we went off to a fancy dinner, which he had been planning with the help of my roommate all week.

Our relationship was long-distant for the first three years. There were a lot of hours-long phone calls, emailed love letters, poems, long drives. There were small, dirty apartments with crazy neighbors, jobs we hated and jobs we couldn't get, weekdays apart, weekends together. We talked on the phone before bed and dreamed about the day we'd live together, and be able to kiss each other good night, every night.

He proposed on a spring day at the arboretum. The flowering trees were just starting to bloom, and we had followed a pretty bird to a hidden waterfall, where I stopped to take photos and he wandered toward a nearby willow tree. "Hey, come look at this," he said. I walked toward him suspiciously, and there, hidden among the roots of the tree, was the small box holding my engagement ring.

Two years ago today, I married him.

I think about marriage a lot -- about what it is, what it's supposed to be, or, rather, what we think it's supposed to be. Sometimes I get caught up in the "supposed to be," forgetting that every marriage is different, but at its core, I've been learning that it's about love and growth. Love that changes. That grows from first dates and butterflies in your stomach and looking into the other's eyes, afraid and excited at the same time, not knowing what he's thinking but knowing that you're happy. Into family. Sharing a home, sharing triumphs, big and small, and seeing the best and the worst and the every day. Being afraid, and happy, together. Being together through it all.

Last night, we made tacos together. I minced onion and cilantro and tomatoes, cooked ground beef for him and prepared a bowl of black beans for me. He grated the cheese, then sprinkled it onto tortillas and heated them on the griddle until the cheese was hot and melty. We ate in front of the TV, rewatching episodes of "The Wire," him sitting on the couch, me perched on a cushion on the floor. Scattered around us, second grade worksheets with questions about telling time and writing stories with a beginning, middle and end, waiting to be graded. A pile of clean laundry on one corner of the couch, and a cat napping on a chair. A box of unpacked picture frames on the floor, and the only decor in the room a collection of old cameras lining the mantle. It may not seem as romantic as a surprise dinner or a sparkling engagement ring, but it's where we are after two years. In our very first house, eating dinner that we both prepared. And it will only grow from here.

I don't have a recipe for tacos for you today, since you probably don't need one. I do have a recipe for baked sausages and potatoes, adapted from Jenny Rosenstrach's "Dinner: A Love Story." I thought it appropriate to share a recipe from this book on our wedding anniversary because it's more than just a cookbook. It's a story about being newlywed, being married, and building a family through dinners together. I love that. Also, this dish was recently approved for our regular dinner rotation, making it a small triumph (although I've only made it once so far, so hopefully this post doesn't jinx it). That's another thing about marriage -- among all the big stuff like new houses and new jobs, there are the little things, like a familiar meal at the dinner table, and a sink full of clean dishes, and quiet weeknights. Together.

Baked Sausage and Potatoes (adapted from Dinner: A Love Story)
The original recipe is called Baked Sausage with Apples, Potatoes and Onions,  but I knew Murdo wasn't going to be crazy about the apples. So I adjusted the dish to our tastes, adding green pepper and a small handful of grape tomatoes. Jenny suggests serving the sausage, potatoes and apples with a dollop of mustard, but Murdo ate his with warm tomato sauce, instead. 

4 cups baby red or gold potatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 large bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper
4 to 5 sweet Italian pork sausages

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large baking dish, mixing well to coat the vegetables with oil. Place the Italian sausage links on top of the vegetables. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, until sausage is brown on top. Using tongs, flip the sausages over and bake for 10 to 15 more minutes, until fully cooked through. (I pulled mine out after 10 minutes, cut each of the sausage links in half, and put back in the oven for the last 5 minutes.)

Top photo by Jen Badalamenti


  1. Tears in my eyes. Jacqui. You kill me with your exquisite way of saying what is there--the scene in front of the TV, especially.

    I'm so blessed to know you two. Happy anniversary!

    1. Aw, thank you, Shanna! You are too nice ... I just write what I see. :)

  2. I'm just going to go ahead and quote Shanna on this one..."Tears in my eyes. Jacqui. You kill me with your exquisite way of saying what is there--the scene in front of the TV, especially."

    My heart is just full of joy and my throat has a lump the size of a tennis ball. Congratulations on your second anniversary, and here's to many more happy years to come.


    1. Thank you so much for your sweet words, Kim!

  3. Happy Anniversary! It was also my second anniversary on Sept. 25 :) It's a good day to get married.

    1. Happy anniversary to you, too! Yes, definitely a good day. :)

  4. Congratulations!

    You both looked so lovely at your wedding!

  5. Love is that beautiful thing you describe; the knowing, the not knowing, the anticipation and reward. The ups, downs, sideways and all over the map. It's perfect and imperfect. Everything and nothing.

    We just celebrated our 10th anniversary in August. As we sat at the fanciest of our anniversary dinners (we had three, all in the same week....) we talked about the highs and lows of the past 10 years, pointing out each year and what was good, bad or not even worth remembering. We dabbled through a perfect meal, speaking of those 10 years and I thought 'What a gift' and a million other thoughts. It's those millions of little things, the mound that's formed underneath us and gives us our strength. It's the laundry and the piles and the cat sleeping by and the meals, both great and mediocre and the details of every day, unfolded on a nightly walk, hand in hand.

    Happy anniversary Jacqui.... I remember reading about your wedding and remarking to no one but me how beautiful it was. Marriage is such an amazing gift. Here's to the rest of your lives. Cheers.

    1. Happy 10 year anniversary, Kate! How crazy and wonderful to be able to look back at so many memories together. Thanks so much for your sweet comment. Cheers to you and yours, and to the rest of your lives, as well. xo

  6. I keep coming back to this post—you two have had such a sweet love story, and you distill perfectly what your experiences say about marriage in general. Also: I've picked up "Dinner: A Love Story" based on your recommendation, and am already a big fan!

    1. Thanks, Maddie! And yes, that book is awesome. You should see my copy -- post it notes flagging nearly every page! :)

  7. I love this post - it's so beautiful!


Post a Comment