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Ed and Lorraine "Blondie" Wappel and Peggy and Chester Potempa September 2003

Ed and Lorraine "Blondie" Wappel and Peggy and Chester Potempa are shown at a September 2003 anniversary party at Drury Lane Martinique Dinner Theatre in Evergreen Park, Ill., which closed after one last New Year's Eve Bash later that year.

How quickly 2011 came and went.

The arrival of 2012 marks a special year for this From the Farm column.

It was on Wednesday, April 27, 2002, when this feature launched and the very first From the Farm column published.

So this spring will be the 10-year anniversary and you can expect some fun events in store to celebrate the occasion.

Over the years, I've written about the annual New Year's Eve parties my parents traditionally hosted at their farm for their friends and neighboring farming couples. Last year's New Year's Eve column included favorite cheeseball recipes.

Each year, my parents' guest list always included Bill and Marie Skuderna, Ed and Lorraine "Blondie" Wappel, Art and Jeanne Dolezal, Bud and Pat Royce, Joe and Debbie Russell, Steve and Joann Scamerhorn and Joe Ruszczyk.

The night always featured plenty to eat and drink, and as mentioned in previous columns, with my mom enforcing her one very important menu rule: only drinks and nibbling, with the primary buffet being served only after midnight to assure good luck in the new year after the champagne toast.

And of course, New Year's Eve isn't complete without singing "Auld Lang Syne." According to my music reference book, this centuries-old song is about "old friends who have parted and meet again."

The explanation continues with: "To celebrate their long friendship, they share a drink together and reminisce of memories from long ago. The basic message is that we should not forget our old friends and should celebrate a reunion with them. When the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, everyone gathers together at a party or celebration to sing this New Years Song and remember the good memories of family and friends from long ago."

This year, we are missing another of our good farm friends to share the arrival of 2012. Lorraine "Blondie" Wappel, whose name came from her high-teased hairdo and her likeness to Blondie of newspaper comics page fame, passed away at age 86 on Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving. And she will certainly be missed by all. She's been included in many of my farm columns and cookbooks in the past decade. Husband Ed passed away at age 86 in October 2006.

For years, the Wappel Family Farm sold their fresh produce to Harvey Miller for his Miller's Market grocery store in Valparaiso, which after 50 years in business, closed in 1996.

Today's recipe is in honor of Lorraine "Blondie" Wappel.

My mom would usually always bake a cake for the grand finale dessert at our New Year's Eve party. One year, as a change, she decided to purchase a pre-decorated cake from the glass case at Miller's Market in Valparaiso (which she always thought had the best bakery in the world). It was the way the cake was decorated that captured my mom's attention and her money. It was a layer cake adorned with little plastic champagne glasses, a plastic clock face that was about to strike midnight and best of all, a little pink plastic elephant.

Today, she still continues to use these same decorations she saved from so many years ago to decorate her homemade New Year's cakes.

Today's recipe for a bright and festive Pink Champagne Cake is courtesy of friend Ann Scamerhorn, who thought it also nicely suited Lorraine. Ann, her sister Amy and their parents were also always at our side with these same friends to welcome every New Year's Eve at our farm.

A happy, healthy and blessed New Year to all Times readers as we welcome 2012!

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Blondie Wappel's Favorite Pink Champagne Cake

Cake:

1 (16.25-ounce) package white cake mix

1-1/4 cups pink champagne

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 egg whites

3 or 4 drops red food color

Pink Champagne Frosting:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, softened

3-3/4 to 4 cups sifted powdered sugar

1/4 cup pink champagne

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 or 4 drops red food color

DIRECTIONS: For the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together dry cake mix and champagne in a large bowl; add oil, egg whites and food color and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Lightly grease and flour the bottom of a 13-inch by 9-inch shiny aluminum pan. (The baking temp has to be adjusted for glass, dark or nonstick pans or alter baking times and pan prep according to the directions on the cake mix package.) Pour cake batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake for 25 to 29 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting. To make frosting, cream butter with an electric mixer in a medium bowl and gradually add the rest of the frosting ingredients, beating at medium speed until the frosting is of a smooth consistency. Spread frosting evenly over cooled cake. Decorate as desired, including possible garnish with pink and white sugar crystals. Makes 18 servings.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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