The Accident

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It is funny the things you remember.

I was a junior in high school. During spring break, I went on an extended camping trip with my dad to visit nine college campuses in hopes to narrow my preferences. It was a profitable but tiring trip (I ultimately decided upon Westminster College in New Wilmington PA) and we were both glad to be heading home. We were about twenty miles from our house on Interstate 95 when our rear tire exploded. From then, everything seemed to go into slow motion (even though we were traveling around 65 mph.)

All of our camping gear was loaded into the back of our trusted Ford Fairlaine station wagon. When we lost the tire, we drifted into the left lane and as our luggage and camping gear shifted in the back, we lost control of the now unbalanced car which spun around 180 degrees so we were facing the oncoming traffic as we slid back across the 3 lanes of the highway and onto the shoulder and adjacent hillside.

After checking to make sure I was ok and giving thanks that we did not impact any other vehicles, my dad came up with the game plan. He would stay with the car and our possessions while I flagged down a motorist and catch a ride to the next exit where I would arrange for a tow truck to get us off the highway. I was also tasked with finding a pay phone to call home and tell my mother that we had been in an accident. This was before the age of cell phones.

No matter how nonchalant you try to sound, when you call collect to tell your mother that you’ve been in an accident, you should prepare yourself for a world of worry and concern to come your way. I tried to convey that we were ok and just needed a ride home but I’m not sure she believed me.

In just under an hour, my mother raced into the gas station where our car was brought. She was wearing a housecoat, slippers and I remember distinctly, a pair of ankle socks with puffy pom poms sewn above the heels. As she hurried anxiously to us, our well-being her only concern, I reacted as only an oblivious teenager could.

“Jeez, Mom… Did you have to wear those socks?”

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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Tree Huggers

Over the years, we have provided service to a wide variety of clients from all walks of life but yesterday was the first time (to my knowledge) that we actually had a singing tree in our studio. Not the entire tree of course, just one of its leaves or branches.

Our client performed in an annual Christmas pageant at First Baptist Church in Orlando familiarly known as The Singing Christmas Trees and it is quite the spectacular. It got me to thinking about Christmas trees in general and how they became a thing in this country.

According to Wikipedia, the first Christmas trees were brought to the US in the 1740s by Moravian settlers. They came from an area that is now part of the Czech Republic (where many of my ancestors are from). The first commercial tree lot was set up in New York City in 1851 and not long after, President Franklin Pierce set up the first official White House Christmas tree in 1856.

While celebrants often would gather around their decorated trees and sing carols, the idea of actually placing carolers inside of the trees has been traced back to Bellhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi who held their first Singing Christmas Tree concert in 1933. Since then it has been duplicated and modified at schools and churches around the world.

The First Baptist version taking place in Orlando is an elaborate stage show that began in 1980 and grew to include a quarter million synchronized lights, a 300 member choir stacked to the rafters in 2 giant tree shaped structures, and a 50 piece orchestra.

According to my client, there’s a lot of unheralded work that takes place behind the scenes as well. To prevent injuries or discomfort that may come from standing in place for the length of the show, designated “tree rests” work backstage massaging legs and checking on choir members while the show is in progress. Thankful choir members have taken to taping pieces of candy to the back of their legs as a little thank you to these tireless workers for the welcomed relief they bring.

It is almost time to open the curtain on this year’s Singing Christmas Trees. Here’s how to get tickets.

First Baptist Church of Orlando – The Singing Christmas Trees

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Gobble, Gobble

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Another Thanksgiving is upon us and while we should all take time to reflect on those things we are or should be thankful for, there’s no escaping the fact that so much of this holiday will be focused on or around the dining room table.

I got off easy this year. My contribution to the family meal will be met with a simple cauliflower dish. I plan to make a cauliflower ‘mac n cheese’ concoction which has been a big hit in my household.  Here’s how to make it:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with salt.
  • Spray an 8×8  baking dish with vegetable oil spray
  • Cook the florets of 1 head of cauliflower in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well and pat between several layers of paper towels to dry.
  • Transfer the cauliflower to the baking dish and set aside.
  • Bring 1 cup heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan, and whisk in 2 oz. of cream cheese and 1 1/2 teaspoons of dijon mustard until smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of  shredded sharp cheddar cheese, salt, pepper and garlic (to taste) and whisk just until the cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, pour over the cauliflower, and stir to combine. Top with an additional 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese and bake until browned and bubbly hot, about 15 minutes.
  • Serve.

In years past, when I’ve been on turkey duty, I’ve relied on Giada’s citrus-stuffed recipe which results in a moist and flavorful bird.  It’s my go to recipe whenever asked to provide the main course. If only she would show how to carve the darn thing. I make the family leave the kitchen so they aren’t witness to the carnage when I attempt it. Here’s a link to that recipe.

Turkey with Herbes de Provence and Citrus

But my most vivid Thanksgiving memories are courtesy of my maternal grandmother whose house hosted most of our turkey dinners when I was growing up. The one thing I most looked forward to was the Thanksgiving giblet gravy which was made only for this particular meal. It’s a southern variation using the giblets of the turkey and hard boiled eggs and it was all I could do not to drink it right out of the gravy boat. 

It’s been a while since I have had it. I may have to rectify that next year.  Here’s that recipe.

  1. Remove liver from giblets and refrigerate.

  2. Place the remaining giblets into a saucepan and cover with 4 cups cold water; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the giblets for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. At this point add the liver to the saucepan and simmer for another 30 minutes.

  3. Place a mesh strainer or colander over a bowl. Drain the giblets and set the liquids aside to use in the gravy, if needed. Let the giblets cool. Remove the meat from the neck and chop with the rest of the meat

  4. Melt 4 TBs of butter in a heavy saucepan and stir in 4 TBs of flour. Cook and stir for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the roux just barely begins to turn golden.

  5.  If you don’t have drippings from a roasted turkey or chicken, or if you only have a small amount, add the giblet broth or chicken or turkey stock to make 2 cups. Slowly stir in the drippings and/or broth into the roux. Add 1/2 cup of milk or half-and-half. Continue cooking and stirring until thickened.

  6. Taste and season the gravy with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  7. Stir in two chopped hard-cooked eggs and chopped giblets and serve.

  8. The recipe makes about 3 cups of old-fashioned gravy. Enjoy!

     

To all my readers and clients, may you have a Happy Thanksgiving! We hope to see you after the weekend!

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Note; Home Video Studio of Mount Dora will be closed from Thursday Nov 22 through Sunday Nov 25. We will reopen at 9:30am on Monday, Nov 26.

What’s Important

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It is sad to say but sometimes it takes a tragedy to get us to recognize the true value of things.  We often take things for granted until faced with the real possibility that we just might lose them.

I’m working with a woman whose parents own two homes just outside of Paradise, CA which has been devastated by the wildfires that are ravaging that part of the country. Thankfully, their parents heeded the evacuation orders and they are safe but they have not been able to return to check on their properties. They are preparing themselves for the possibility that everything they own may have been lost to the fire.

The one saving grace is that a few years ago, the parents shipped to my client a box filled with Betamax tapes. They are old, unlabeled and nobody seemed to know what’s on them or what to do with them. My client has just been storing the box for her parents all this time. Suddenly, due to the recent events, she has realized exactly what she had been sitting on. That box potentially contains the only evidence that exists of the long life her family has shared together. It has gone from just one more piece of clutter under foot to the most precious possession in her house.

I feel privileged to unlock the memories that may be stored on these tapes and deliver them back to the family. I hope it provides some solace or comfort for the family as they prepare to face whatever they find awaits them.

Here’s a link to a site that describes how people can best help victims of the California wildfires.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Lest We Forget (re-blog)

 

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In honor of Veterans Day, here is a repost from my blog of 2017:

On this Veterans Day I would like to give pause to remember three men from my family who are no longer with us but served this country with honor and distinction. From left to right:

My father, Edward J. Ondrasik, who, with the Eighth Air Force, flew 24 missions over Germany as a bombardier during WWII. We learned afterwards that he flew each of those 24 missions without a parachute as he could not fit into the bombardier compartment with it on. He died in 2009.

My uncle, Charles C. Parish, served as Lt. Commander in the US Navy. Was a pilot of a #2 F-4J (Phantom) during the Vietnam War. He was shot down over North Vietnam and declared Missing in Action in 1968. His status was changed to Killed in Action in 1973. His name is among the tens of thousands engraved on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC.

My maternal grandfather, Herman O. Parish, who, as captain and commanding officer received the Navy Cross and the Legion of Merit for services rendered during WWII. He retired as a US Navy Rear Admiral. He died in 1989.

We honor their memory and thank them for their service and sacrifice. As we do all veterans.

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Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the protection and preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

We All Make Misstakes…

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We’re in our 5th year of serving our community and helping families protect and preserve the memories they’ve recorded over the years. During that time, we’ve seen some wonderful videos, photos and slides that capture the essence of what it is to be a family.  I’ve also been in a position to observe some of the common mistakes made by people who wanted to record their memories.

#1 – Scenery is nice but not always memorable. It’s ok to take a picture of a mountain – just be sure to put someone you love in front of if. If you want to point a video camera out of a moving car to capture a road trip… try provide a running narration so we’ll know decades later what we’re seeing.

#2 –  I know it can sometimes be annoying to have someone point a camera at you but you’ll be thankful he or she did twenty or thirty years from now. So just grin and bear it. Why ruin a memory by showing your annoyance to the camera? Is that really how you want to remember this time?

#3 – Time stamping or mentioning the date and year will help you organize your video clips in the future. It is easy to lose track of time and place as the years pile on. Little clues go a long way when trying to fill the gaps of our older memories.

#4 – Keeping the camera steady will greatly add to one’s viewing enjoyment. Fast pans, quick zooms and shaky footage can actually bore or tire viewers out. When available, use a tripod or camera stabilizer. If you must go handheld, keep your elbows close to your body when shooting.

#5 – The bigger the family, the fewer the pictures or videos of the youngest members. I know it may feel a little like deja-vu to capture yet another 1st grade concert or Pop Warner football game but it’s all about capturing the young one’s first experience – even though you feel like you’ve seen it 100 times before.

#6 – If you find an old piece of media and you’re not sure what’s on it, please don’t throw it away. It’s like tossing away an old wallet before checking to make sure it doesn’t contain anything valuable.

#7 – Don’t assume that no one in the family would want to see the old stuff. Nostalgia can unexpectedly strike at any age. Teens may not want to sit for long periods of time watching themselves as babies but when they have tykes of their own, they’ll be asking “what ever happened to my baby tapes?”

#8 – Family memories are best viewed, when possible, as a family. It is what we used to do in the 50s and 60s before our entertainment options grew to seemingly infinite bounds. Gathering in front of a projector or TV and telling the old family stories and jokes that come to mind as we watch the “olden days,” is part of the family bonding process. One that is sadly in short supply. With the holidays fast approaching, consider having a tape or two transferred to digital so it can be played at your next family function.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.