May 8, 2020

It was a gorgeous day in Florida today – and began that way with this beautiful sunrise. As I sat there in quiet solitude with my cup of coffee, I began to think back on some of the other sunrises I have been privy to during my lifetime.

I’ve always been partial to sunrises; something about the hope of a new day and all the promises and opportunities that may be contained therein. The most amazing sunrise I was ever awake to see occurred a few years back while we were vacationing in Italy. We found a small little cottage/chalet nestled high up in the Umbrian hills that overlooked the massive valley below. It was located just outside of a little village called Campello sul Clittuno where LA Law actor Michael Tucker and his wife Jill Eikenberrry found their Italian home away from home, as they describe in their book, Living in a Foreign Language.

Our temporary abode, nicknamed Roccioviva Atelier, provided spectacular panoramic views of the valley. Kate and I would sit out on the porch as the sun was setting, listening to the peaceful rustling of the wind through the trees as the distant church bells pealed out their melodic tones marking the end of another day.

The next morning, as I awoke, I was greeted with this magnificent sight:


A blanket of white covered the entire valley, giving me the eerie feeling of being Jack atop the Beanstalk looking down through the clouds. I cherish those moments that catch us by surprise with their sheer beauty and simplicity. I look forward to discovering many more.

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

The Gift That Stole Christmas

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I wanted to share this unsolicited post that popped up on social media last week:

“Christmas is coming! Last year I was able to give my parents an amazing present that was well received by the entire family. Old film, VHS, slides, etc that had not been played in 35+ years (and could not be played on any devices we had!) were brought back to life – we were able to watch Christmas’s, birthdays and other celebrations with loved ones that have passed and we were able to laugh and cry as a family. I also condensed an entire cabinet or two of unplayable media into a small digital drive…mom loved this. I highly recommend Michael Ondrasik at Home Video Studio in Mount Dora for the best Christmas present around.”

We see it happen year after year. The work we do for our clients have a tendency to stop their Christmas celebrations in its tracks. As soon as our gift is unwrapped, all other gifts are put on hold while the family gathers around the TV or computer screen to watch their memories begin to play back.

Watching the old footage sparks laughs, brings tears, and triggers other memories of days and times gone by. Christmas is best spent with families and what better way to spend that time than by reflecting on the experiences you had growing up together?

If you want to turn this Christmas holiday into something truly memorable, get in touch with us. Whether it is a home movie or home video conversion to a digital format or a specially designed photo video keepsake using images from your scrapbook or photo albums, we will make sure that you have something under your tree that will be the most talked about present of the season.

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.

Popeye the Guitar Man

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I was transferring some Christmas video footage today and noticed that one of the gifts opened by a child in the video was a toy guitar with a hand crank on the side of it.

I don’t know if they still are sold today, but they were certainly popular back in my day.  In fact, I got one as a Christmas present a long long time ago. As I recall, it was a Popeye guitar and when you turned the handle it would play the Popeye theme song in a tinny kind of way:

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

I’m strong to the fin-ich

Cause I eats me spin-ach.

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

Of course, I learned the elementary school potty mouth version:

I’m Popeye the sailor man

I live in a garbage can.

I eats all the worms

And spits out the germs.

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

I’m not really sure how much influence this particular Christmas gift had on my musical ability. Well, actually I am. It had zero influence. Because I never did learn to play the guitar. And I hated spinach as a child. I did like hamburgers. Still do. Maybe my folks should have gotten me the Wimpy guitar.

(For my younger readers, Wimpy was Popeye’s friend – a lazy moocher whose catchphrase was “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” It was a debt he never paid because he always managed to stay out of sight on Tuesdays.)

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.

They Just Don’t Write (or Think) Like This Anymore…


We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon
115 West Ninety Fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


“Is There a Santa Claus?” reprinted from the September 21, 1897, number of The New York Sun.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories (and childlike wonder) through the digitalization of film, videotape, 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.

Mischief Managed


One of the truisms I’ve learned over meeting and speaking with a wide variety of people is this: Different parts of the country develop different customs and traditions. This past weekend we were interviewing a couple for a documentary we’ve been hired to make and, as we were getting some background information from them, the conversation turned to what plans we had for Mischief Night.

My wife and I looked at each other and it was clear that neither of us had ever heard of it. The couple was shocked as it was a big night back where they were from.  They’ve been “celebrating” it since they were kids.

It seems that, in some areas, on the night before Halloween, it is customary to pull harmless (or relatively harmless) pranks on unsuspecting friends and neighbors. This includes but is not restricted to: the papering of cars and houses, the “relocation” of porch furniture, and the random knocking on doors and dashing away. It was with great pride they remembered the time they found these huge concrete planters at a neighbor’s house and managed to drag them into the neighborhood street to barricade the block from all vehicular traffic.

It is known by different names in different parts of the world. It has been called “Devil’s Night,” “Goosey Night,” “Cabbage Night,” and “Tick Tack Night” among other things. How it escaped our radar all these years is beyond us but it appears it is well known in certain areas.

The increasingly inventive antics that this couple pulled off eventually culminated with the police showing up at their door with a heartfelt plea to knock it off and give them a break. It seems their reputation as pranksters was well known in their small town community. At that bequest, they toned down their “celebration” of this particular event. But they still hold fond memories of the fun mischief they caused back in the day.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of 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.



Today is my birthday.  And while I celebrate the occasion with my family and friends I like to take a look at what other celebrations are taking place around the world that will be sharing the day with me.

In the Czech Republic, people there will be celebrating St Wenceslaus Day – in commemoration of the assassination of Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia. His martyrdom and eventual canonization cements his place in history as a key figure in the emancipation of the Czech state. And yes, he is the good king Wenceslaus mentioned in the popular Christmas carol that bears his name. Even though he was only a duke when he was murdered, he was granted the regal title posthumously by the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I.

Those in healthcare may be recognizing today because it happens to be World Rabies Day. Not that they are celebrating rabies. Just bringing increased awareness to the disease. This year’s theme is “Spread the Message; Save a Life.”

If rabies doesn’t put you in a holiday mood, you can always join in some community revelry by celebrating Good Neighbor Day which has been an American National holiday since 1978. Some suggestions for celebrants: Be nice to your neighbor; if you don’t really know them, go strike up a conversation with them; or just bake them some goodies. Perhaps our congressional leaders should practice this holiday a little bit more.  Spread the Message; Save the Senate.

If your neighbor happens to be a vegetarian, you can kill two birds with one stone. Today also happens to be National Hug a Vegan Day.

In Taiwan, they’ll be celebrating Teachers’ Day which was originally set to commemorate the birthday of Confucius who is considered to be model master educator in ancient China. These days it marks a time for students to show their gratitude and appreciation to their teachers.

And of course, no September 28 would be complete without a nod to National Ask A Stupid Question Day. Here’s mine: How do you celebrate National Ask A Stupid Question Day? (pause) Do you want another example?

And it can’t be an accident that National Ask A Stupid Question Day falls on the same day as National Drink A Beer Day.   But however you celebrate today and for whatever reason, know that I’ll be out there celebrating right along with you. Happy birthday to me.

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.

Light Up The Sky


We had a great time in Mount Dora on Tuesday night at our local Freedom on the Waterfront celebration which culminated with a spectacular fireworks display. It made me think back to what might have been the most memorable 4th of July in my memory.

There was the time my family drove to a local Maryland park and we laid out a blanket and had sandwiches and sodas while listening to an army band and watching the explosions in the sky. I was probably 8 or 9. It was my first major fireworks display that I saw in person.

Then there was the time I was driving on I-95 on my way from DC to Cape Cod. I just happened to pass NYC as they were lighting off the fireworks. The year was 1986, the year we celebrated the centennial anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. I’m told the fireworks were incredible – I didn’t dare look at them, traffic was intense and we were traveling at 70 mph plus. My eyes stayed locked on the bumper of the car in front of me.

There was the one year in Orlando where my family and I, along with thousands of others, gathered around Lake Eola even though a lack of rainfall caused the fireworks display to be cancelled. City planners instead quickly arranged for a laser light show in its stead. It fizzled.

But the fourth of July that stands out the most in my mind occurred a few years ago. We were visiting my son, who is in the Coast Guard, and we were invited to take part in their 4th of July family day. Servicemen and women were invited to bring their families onto the base to celebrate the day together. What made that particular celebration most meaningful was not necessarily the pyrotechnics, although they were impressive… It was that, as we stood there looking up at the night sky, surrounded by men and women who had made the decision to join the military to serve our nation, we could not help but have a deep appreciation for that service and their sacrifice. Celebrating our country’s Independence Day with them and their families put the day’s celebration in its proper perspective.

Wherever you may be, have a Happy Independence Day but try to remember the why of the celebration. As John Adams once wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail:

“I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory.”

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.

You Can’t Dress Me Up


If you study your home movies closely enough, you may begin to see the origin of certain character traits or peculiarities you may have. It just happened to me. I had an epiphany. You see, for as long as I can remember, I have always hated costume parties. Just getting an invitation to one would make me cringe.

Halloween, for all its candy, is absolutely my least favorite holiday. Why? It’s the dressing up part… which is a bit odd for someone who spent a large part of his life on stage in costumes playing different characters. That didn’t seem to bother me. But I have almost always had an aversion to costume parties and Halloween celebrations where dressing in costume was a prerequisite.

I think I’ve discovered the reason why I have such a negative bias of a practice that so many others enjoy.  I came across this rare footage of me as a child in the midst of what must be a Halloween parade.


First off, let me say the sight of so many white sheeted costumes with pointy hats is a bit off-putting. I’m pretty sure they were supposed to be ghosts (Casper was popular back then) but when viewing the past through the lens of today’s social filters things can tend to take on unintentional meanings.

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So, here are my sisters.  Angelic looking aren’t they? No, I’m not the creepy kid behind them looking like a zombiefied caped crusader.  I wish I was. It would have been much cooler. Here I am in my costume:

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Seriously? Of all the costumes in the world to choose from, I got to dress up as a fashion challenged Mickey Mouse in a Pepto Bismol colored fat suit with pom poms? Granted this picture doesn’t do it justice but in all honesty, I’m not even sure that’s a genuine Mickey Mouse mask. Looks a little deformed.  But get this:

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Again, hard to see but this is a different year. The pink outfit is gone but the same mask is being used? I must have complained about the oversized clown suit so this was the solution? Dress the boy all in black and send him out into the night? I’m amazed I got to live through puberty.

With this as my entry into a world of costumes, it is no wonder I shy away from them. Since I still get the inevitable invites, I have, though pure necessity, devised the only getup I’ll wear.  I’ve got jeans, boots, and a plaid shirt. If your party ever needs a cowboy, I’m your guy. Hat is optional.

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

Christmas Disappointments


I transferred some video footage today that could have come from my own family archives. It was a VHS tape that contained previously transferred footage from old 8mm film. It was a Christmas video and the kids were enjoying all their new toys.

Two brothers were intently focused on “knocking the block off” their opponent as they played with their “Rock-em, Sock-em Robots.” I had one of those. But I didn’t have a brother and my sisters were too into Barbies to have any interest in my cool game. It is hard to enjoy a robot boxing game without another player operating the other robot.

And then the scene shifted to the brothers playing with their new slot car race track. Even at 62 years of age, my envy kicked in. I always wanted a slot car race track. I remember one year, it was the only thing on my Christmas list. I asked Santa for it. I cut out ads for it. I circled in red the pages where it appeared in the toy catalogues. I was sure I was going to get it.

That Christmas morning, I sprang from my bed and waited like a crouching predator for the go sign from the parents. I rushed to the Christmas tree expecting to find a slot car race track all set up and ready to go. But no.

Maybe I was too eager and my parents knew I would waste all my free time playing with the track. Maybe it was too expensive and my parents thought it would be better to feed and clothe me. Whatever the reason, my slot car race track was not there.

What was there was a lame substitute. Some stupid battery operated car chase game where you couldn’t control the speed of the cars. All you could do was flip a lever on the track to make the car change direction and then just sit there and watch as it chugged its way around its track. I was bored with it before I even started playing with it. I don’t even remember what its name was.

I’m sure I did not hide my disappointment. It is hard to admit but I may have been a bit of a snot as a child. And for that I do apologize. In retrospect, I probably did not need a slot car race track as badly as I thought back then. Still, deep down inside I know… it would have been a lot of fun to have.

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