This woman deserves a party

Monday, June 18, 2001 at 1:00am

One of my most popular greeting cards of all time is "This woman deserves a party." It's a picture of a very pregnant woman who looks like she's going to pop at any second. If you know someone who is similarly proportioned, why not lighten her spirits by throwing her a shower?

You don't have to spend lots of money to pull off a wonderful get-together. Since the weather's nice, think about having one right in your own backyard. The staff of my magazine hosted just such a gathering and "birthed" quite a few ideas.

First, you'll want to choose a motif and weave it throughout the event. We went with swans, since they're so downy soft (and because our hostess collects them). But you could choose something equally appropriate like teddy bears or fairies.

We set the theme by making invitations in the shapes of swans. They were hand-painted and cut from lightweight watercolor paper with white feathers from the crafts store glued on for a fluffy effect. When guests arrived, they were greeted at the garden gate by a stone swan planter filled with a mass of peonies, which set a pastel palette for the event.

To carry the theme through to the table, we placed celluloid swans at each place setting. Each had a ribbon tied around its neck with the name of a guest hand-lettered in paint pen. We also featured a 1940s milk glass swan at the center of the table. Just for fun, guests were encouraged to write down pet names for the babe-in-waiting and place it in the swan.

We even made our sandwiches in the shapes of swans. They were hand-cut from crustless white bread and filled with saffron cream cheese or chicken salad. An orange-fennel salad on the side rounded out the meal.

With bouquets picked fresh from the garden and plunked in pastel vases and bistro chairs trimmed with peonies pinned to ribbons as the finishing touches, the shower had a truly enchanted look. And the mother-to-be actually forgot (at least for a few minutes) that she hadn't seen her feet for weeks.

Here's an easy-to-make salad featuring oranges and fennel that captures the lighthearted tone of the shower. It can be tossed at the last minute. Since it serves four, adjust the amounts to the number of guests.

Swan shower salad

2 Tbsp. orange juice

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1 head buttercrunch or Boston lettuce

1 orange

1 small fennel bulb

Freshly ground pepper to taste

To make vinaigrette whisk orange juice, lemon juice and salt into the olive oil. For the salad tear lettuce leaves into pieces, wash and dry. Peel orange, remove white pith and slice into sections. Remove celery-like stalk and trim root end from fennel bulb. Cut into quarters and chop. Combine orange and fennel with lettuce. When ready to serve, toss salad with vinaigrette. Add pepper to taste.

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