The winter landscape can be dreary, but one of the things I like about it is that after the trees lose their leaves, you can see where the birds made their nests. The window of my home office looks out at a white birch I planted more than a dozen years ago in remembrance of my father. It’s about 30 feet tall now, with upright, pliant branches that wouldn’t hold the sturdy, mud-lined nest a robin would build, or even a sparrow’s messier sticks-and-grass arrangement. But right at the very top, there’s the pouch-like nest of a Baltimore oriole. The birds use strands of grass to hang them from the slenderest twigs so they’ll be safe from predators, and it amazes me that they stay put. Over the past weeks, through rain and windstorms and gathering gloom over the deepening financial mess, that little nest has remained intact, no matter how the twig it’s woven onto bends and dips.
Lately, I’m sure many of us have been feeling a bit like an oriole chick, hanging on in a precarious situation and trusting that all will eventually be well. Home has never seemed more of a refuge, and I’ve been busy doing a few bargain-conscious things to make mine even more welcoming (to me, at least). In this issue, we asked some local interior designers for easy, affordable ideas you could use to make your own nest more pleasing — and we take a look inside the homes of two of them, to see how they apply their talents on their own turf (see “The Art of a Home” and “Rose Cottage Blooms Again“).
Finally, no matter how tight the budget gets, I’m making a New Year’s resolution to entertain friends at least once a month in the coming year. Some of the most enjoyable dinner parties my husband and I have thrown were the simple, spontaneous ones — the ones that didn’t cost much. Chef Ric Orlando weighs in with four inexpensive, really tasty chicken dishes that have a little pizzazz but are simple to prepare — just the sort of comforting food your friends are probably craving just now.
So let’s all hunker down, weather the storm, and look forward to brighter days. I can hardly wait to see the cheery flash of orange in my garden when the orioles come back.