sentimental pillows / cozy butternut squash soup

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Why is it that people feel the need to write sayings on clothing, pillows, wallpaper, plates, absurdly small dog collars, cat food bowls, and generally every object found in a child’s room?  My husband and I used to live next to a family with a stencil above the doorway that read: “have I told you lately that I love you?”.  Oh, crap- no you haven’t, but now that it’s permanently written above the doorway, I’ll always remember that you do love me!  I’m sorry, but there’s no way that this kind of blatant gesture of paint on a wall can be interpreted as genuine (at least to me).  And why is it necessary to begin with?  Do we really need to be reminded of these things so that we don’t forget to “live, love, laugh”?  I can’t even imagine living in a house like our neighbors…
You wake up to the sound of the alarm and slowly open your eyes, but then the bronze letters above your bed reading “dream a little dream” lull you back to sleep. Twenty minutes later, your dog licks your cheek and you grab a decorative pillow to protect your face, but then you notice the writing embedded in the needlepoint “cold nose, warm heart” and you suddenly feel guilty.  You slide into a pair of slippers that say “pink isn’t just a color, it’s an attitude” and walk into the kitchen, feeling sassy. Your cats are already standing impatiently beside their bowl “cats make everything purr-fect” so you pour them some food, then heat up some water for tea.  The backsplash behind the stove say’s “the queen doesn’t cook” so you fix your tea and decide to wait for your husband to make breakfast while you sit in the den.  Then you notice a plaque above the television that says “king of the remote” and you’re suddenly annoyed with him for waking up later than you.  Feeling lonely, you wrap yourself in a blanket that says “mother is another word for love” and the next thing you know, you’re crying on the couch and have forgotten all about your tea, which is in a mug decorated with the phrase “instant human: just add coffee”.  It somehow seems like a lie to have tea in such a mug, so you waddle back to the kitchen in your blanket and dump the tea out in the sink and put the coffee pot on.  Next to the bread basket is a cake stand painted with the words “life is short, eat dessert first”, and it suddenly occurs to you that you no longer care about your diet anymore, and besides, “well behaved women rarely make history” stares back at you from the plate in your hand (you know this doesn’t mean “stuff your face you rebellious woman” but you’re feeling emotional and need some sugary support).  Third cupcake in hand, you sit at your computer and smile at a framed picture of your best friend with sparkly letters that reads “if friends were flowers, I’d pick you” and you decide to write her an email, explaining how you have inexplicably eaten three cupcakes, cried, and felt both guilty and empowered all in the course of the last hour.  Solution?  I think you already know…

In the spirit of sentimentality, let’s make some cozy, sit-by-the-fire and watch The Sound of Music butternut squash soup.  Butternut squash is my favorite winter squash variety, and with it’s natural sweetness and velvety texture, it’s just perfect for a yummy soup.

Cozy Butternut Squash Soup

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 3 inch cubes
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 T dried parsley
4 cups stock (Imagine No-Chicken stock or homemade)
1-2 T apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s Organic)
sea salt & black pepper to taste

In a heavy bottomed stock pot (I use an all-clad copper corepot and I love it!), heat oil on medium flame and add squash, onions, celery, parsley and the bay leaf.  Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and saute for a few minutes, then add the stock and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, cover with lid, reduce flame to low, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Using a blender or food processor, puree the soup (remove the bay leaf first!) in batches, and return to pot.  Gently reheat if needed and add the apple cider vinegar and more salt and pepper to taste.  If you prefer a sweeter soup, you may add 1-2 T maple syrup instead of the apple cider vinegar.  Serve with a crusty loaf of sourdough bread to 4 sentimental unicorns as starters or 2 sentimental unicorns as a main.