What’s For Dinner…Again?

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I hit a home run with dinner tonight.  I made an Instant Pot recipe that was, if I happen to say so myself, delicious.  Here’s the recipe (https://lifemadesweeter.com/instant-pot-lemon-garlic-chicken/)

I received accolades and rave reviews from my dinner companions and had to chuckle to myself because I remember the road I travelled to get here.  I’ve even blogged a little about it in the past. But here’s a specific that came to mind as I accepted the culinary compliments.

When I was in college and on a tight budget, I had to figure out a way to feed myself with limited funds. My solution was to invent a meal that I could stretch to last me an entire week.  To my deepest embarrassment, here’s what I made.  Mind you, this recipe was entirely my doing. And I ate it more times that I can count.

Take a pound of ground beef (or ground chuck, whichever is cheaper) , brown it in a skillet with salt, pepper and a diced onion. Set aside.

Make a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Add the ground chuck mixture to it.

Open a can of Campbell Cream of Mushroom soup. Do not add water.  Just dump the contents into the pot.

By now the concoction will have begun to take on the consistency of spackle. Add a can of corn.  Just because. All balanced meals have vegetables, right?

If you have followed the directions, the mixture will be nearly impossible to stir. I’ve broken many a wooden spoon trying to.  Here’s the secret. Pour a cup or three of red wine into the mess. That will loosen things up so you can stir and serve.  If wine is not available, a can of beer works just as well.

Trust me, you can improvise on this recipe nine ways till Sunday – nothing is going to “ruin” it.  And believe me, it did the job.  I made this on a Monday and by Friday, I was still eating it. Spreading the cost over the span of a week, I figured I was eating on about 70 cents a day. Got me through my senior year in college.  Haven’t dared make it since. I’m afraid to subject my colon to it in my advanced years.

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

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What I Learned in School… From A Substitute Teacher

 

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Substitute teachers have to have one of the hardest jobs I can think of. I only ever had one that I liked and learned from – although the lesson was not part of the regular curriculum. This young teacher, perhaps trying to relate to us kids, decided one day to teach us how to pass time in class while looking like we were working on something.

He had us write down on a piece of paper the letters of the alphabet in one column:

Then he had us choose a section from whatever book we had handy and write a random sentence down a second column.

The instruction then was to see how many famous names you could match to the pair of initials on your page. From a teacher’s perspective, it looked like we were studiously working on a difficult assignment.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I played this little memory game in class when I was bored which was, as I recall, often. I don’t know what happened to that substitute or what career he finally settled upon but I owe him a major debt of gratitude. His little trick got me through calculus.

Here’s an example.  See how many celebrities you can plug in to the following list of initials:

AN – Anthony Newley

BO – Bobby Orr

CW – Carl Withers

DI – Daniel Inouye

ES – Edward Snowden

FT – Forrest Tucker

GH – George Hamilton

HE – Hector Elizando

IW – Irving Wallace

JI – Jeremy Irons

KN – Kevin Nealon

LT – Lawrence Taylor

ME – Mamie Eisenhower

NR – Nancy Reagan

OO – Ozzy Osbourne

PF – Peter Frampton

QO – ????????

RU – ?????????

SR – Sally Ride

TD – Tommy Dorsey

UI – ????????????

VS – Vin Scully

WC – Walter Cronkite

XO –     ??????????

YN – ??????????

ZT – Zachary Taylor

I came up with 20 out of 26. Not a bad score. You can see my answers by dragging your cursor over the space next to the initials. How many could you think of?

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.

Him Not Tarzan

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I was watching a show previously recorded on my DVR and when it was over, the system automatically switched to whatever was playing on the last accessed channel. In my case, it was the TCM (Turner Classic Movies) channel and what came on was what I thought to be the strangest Tarzan movie ever. He was racing through the jungle in shorts and a tee-shirt. No bare-chested, loin-clothed king of the jungle here.

Turns out it wasn’t Tarzan at all but a Jungle Jim movie. I know, right? Who the heck was Jungle Jim? The only jungle gym I knew was a metal monstrosity on our playground that we also called the monkey bars. Believe me, I climbed many of those in my days and managed somehow to avoid hospitalization.

A bit of research informs me that Jungle Jim was a legitimate action hero born of the comic books in the 30s and ably translated to the movies during the 40s and 50s. I can be forgiven for the Tarzan confusion because Johnny Weissmuller, probably best known for his Tarzan features, also played the title role in a series of Jungle Jim films, including the one I stumbled upon which was called The Lost Tribe. Looks like he may have packed on a few pounds since his Tarzan days, which perhaps explains the tee-shirt costuming. As a odd trivia side note, when the studio lost the rights to the Jungle Jim name but had Weissmuller under contract for three more films, they decided to shoot the Jungle Jim scripts anyway. They simply changed the name of Weissmuller’s character to… what else?… Johnny Weissmuller.

Anytime I think of Tarzan, I confess to having a bit of shame. I was tasked in junior high school with writing a essay on the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic novel. The problem was… I never took the time to read the book. Instead, I watched the movie and spoke in general terms about the character in my dissertation. I did my best to stay away from any plot specifics because I had no way of knowing if the movie was anything close to the novel. This of course was before the Internet which admittedly makes cheating so much easier.

Whatever I wrote was enough to allow me to pass the class although I can’t help thinking that it probably would have been easier just to read the book and write the essay based on what I read. Oh well… maybe next time.

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

Frozen In Our Tracks

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Now that spring has arrived, I don’t mind telling you that this has been one heck of a winter. Not that I experienced it first hand mind you… I am in Florida after all. But I do have television and access to the Internet so I know what you Northerners have been going through.

I am no stranger to the cold. I grew up in Maryland, just outside of the DC area, and I have seen my share of winter storms. I think the coldest I have ever been in my life was during a father son trip through Pennsylvania and Ohio. I was a junior in high school and needed to narrow down my college choices. My dad and I decided that during my spring break, we would do a road trip and visit nine of the campuses I had picked out as the leading contenders.

To save money, we were determined to camp along the way. We packed the family tent along with some clothes and looked forward to a great bonding time between us.  In retrospect, we probably should have checked the weather forecast.

Somewhere outside of Lewisburg PA where I visited Bucknell University, we decided to make camp. We set up the tent poles, erected the tent, rolled out our sleeping bags and promptly fell asleep. The next morning we awoke, freezing where we lay. The temperature must have dropped some 40 degrees overnight.

There was frost everywhere. In order to get on the road again and back into the warm confines of our Ford Fairlaine station wagon which was our sole means of transport, we had to break camp… which meant collapsing the tent and it’s metal tent poles.

The problem was that, overnight, the metal poles became solidly encased in ice and, due to our lack of foresight, gloves, heavy coats, and a chisel were not among our provisions. We took turns tag-teaming on the poles and then sitting in our car which was running with the heater on.  I must admit, I spent more time in the car than outside of it. Sorry about that Dad.

We finally got the poles collapsed and threw them into the back of the wagon. The next night, after visiting the campuses scheduled for that day, my dad nosed the Fairlaine into the parking lot of a Motel 6. No words were spoken between us. We both just knew… our camping days were over.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, los and slides. For more information call 352-735-8559 or visit our website.

 

Dodge This!

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It is rather sad when one peaks in the 5th grade. I mean, so much of life still lies ahead but the glory days remain back in grade school. You see, I was a bit of a prodigy in elementary school. I have already recounted my feats of speed in an earlier blog but apparently I was quite the agile little dickens as well. I was unbeatable in a sport I’m told is rarely played in schools these days. Of course, I’m talking about dodgeball.

Because I grew up in the 60s, we’re not talking about the sanctioned sport of Dodgeball with complex rules and uniformed teams as showcased in the Vince Vaughn movie. The way we played it on the blacktop, one kid stood in the center of a circle around which the entire class was standing. And the sole object was to throw a red rubber kickball, a little larger than a basketball, at that kid until he was hit. Who ever threw the ball that hit the kid became the next one to stand in the middle as the target.

Once I made the center, it was game over. I was like ridiculously hard to hit. I may have lost the limberness I once had but back in the day I was a cross between a circus contortionist and Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four (he was the one who could stretch himself like rubber.) On more than one occasion, the recess monitor had to come to break up our game because it was time to resume class. With me in the center, the game would never end.

My superior skill at dodging a ball soon became the stuff of classroom legend. My peers, who once were my friends, became determined to bring me down. They started sneaking extra balls to the lineup thinking I could be blindsided.  They changed the rules by eliminating the circle and just lining me up against the brick wall of the school building. It was like facing a firing squad of rubber balls.

I graduated from elementary school undefeated in dodgeball. I was certain my future was bright. But my career came to a sudden and unexpected end. No one ever told me they didn’t play dodgeball in junior high.

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.

There’s More Than One Way to Pay for College

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One of the jobs that came into the studio today was for a sports highlight video. As high school athletes prepare for college, they sometimes find themselves fielding offers from college scouts and coaches who ask for video footage of them in action to help them decide whether or not to offer them a scholarship to their school. We provide a service that can take the best of their recorded games to create a polished, professional highlight video. One that will put the focus squarely on their skills and abilities.

In this particular case, I’ll be working for a female basketball star who has crazy mad skills. The challenge for me will be to take multiple hours of game films and whittle them down to a five minute highlight reel that can be sent off to interested colleges. The key, as it is with any editing job, is to tell a story. In this instance, it will be to tell the story of why this athlete would be a valuable asset to a collegiate sports program.

My high school athletic prowess didn’t generate any scholarship offers. Instead, I received some financial assistance via an unusual source. As a senior, I decided to enroll in an experimental child development program which gave high schoolers hands-on experience in planning and executing the curriculum of a pre-school daycare.  For part of the year, our class was responsible for a roomful of 4 year olds. I was excellent at story time.

At the end of the year, I was informed that my work was noticed by the trustees of the Fanny Metzger Living Arts Fund. I was presented with an endowment check towards my college expenses and was encouraged to continue my work with children. And all that time, I just thought I was playing with a bunch of kids.

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

Any Requests?

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I don’t know if anyone noticed, but last Sunday there was a live performance of Jesus Christ Superstar on TV. This was a show that debuted in the 1970s when I was in high school. And I, like many of my classmates, owned the soundtrack album and listened to it over and over again.

Now, as embarrassing as it may be, you are about to hear the rest of the story. This is the memory that came to mind as I was watching the show.

WINX was the local radio station that most of us kids listened to in my hometown and they started a request line where teens could call in to ask the DJ to play certain songs. 

I was with a friend in my house after school listening to the afternoon DJ spin his records when the request line came on. I was dared by my friend to call in a request. Stupidly, I didn’t realize that I could have refused to rise to the bait. Instead, I called the radio station and, to my utter amazement, the DJ picked up.

He asked me what I wanted to hear. In retrospect, I probably should have thought about that before I dialed. But now I was on the spot.  Jesus Christ Superstar was the hottest album at that time so I just said “play something from Jesus Christ Superstar.” And I hung up and listened to the broadcast.

After the commercial ended, the DJ came back on air to say, “Here’s a request from Mike in Rockville Maryland who wants to say, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him.”

My friend went into convulsions.

I pretended to be sick the next day so I didn’t have to go to school.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audiotapes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

The Greatest Race

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Let me set the scene. I was in 6th grade. It was the 60s and we were at the height of JFK’s Presidential Physical Fitness Program. My elementary school, acting in accordance with federal mandates, held a school-wide assembly patterned after a mini-olympics.

There were contests of physical strength, competitions involving stamina or endurance, and, of course, the premiere event – the 100 yard dash to determine who would be named the fastest student in the school.

I won my first heat and moved into the second round. I won that one as well (easily if I recall correctly). I moved into the final heat and quickly outpaced the others to be named the fastest boy at Brookhaven Elementary. I was congratulated by none less than the principal himself. It was only then that I learned I was not yet finished. Without regard to the potential humiliation at stake, the principal informed me that in order for them to determine the fastest student, I would have to race the girl champion. Mano a Femano. (sic)

My male peers gathered round me, not to provide encouragement… we were in 6th grade after all… they just wanted to make sure I knew that if i lost to a girl they would never let me live it down.

I glanced at my competitor. She was a speed demon in pigtails with a look of determination I’ve never seen replicated since. To make matters worse, this was the highlight event of the day. All the other competitions stopped and the entire school body: students, teachers, parents, and administrators turned out to watch this one race between two youngsters. Me against a girl, who in all honesty, was probably faster than I was.

I would like to say that I called upon an inner strength or found a Chariots of Fire-like faith but the reality is I was too afraid to lose. I did not want to subject myself to the shame and embarrassment of coming in second in a two person race – losing to a girl. I ran faster than I had ever run in my life. And I prevailed. But when I crossed the finish line a step ahead of little Missy, I could sense the disappointment from the crowd. After all, I was a boy – I was expected to win. Little did they know that it could have gone either way.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Make ‘Em Laugh

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Last night, I found myself watching a “lost” episode of The Carol Burnett Show. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed the old comedy sketch shows that were so prevalent as I was growing up. For a long time, I thought comedy was what I wanted to do for a living.

A comedy sketch was actually the thing that started me down a path towards the theatrical arts. I was a junior in high school and I was encouraged to take an elective class in public speaking. For a class assignment, I chose to present an old Bob Newhart routine. It went over so well I was asked to repeat it for a Forensics competition and it took me to the final round.

The next year, I was president of my school’s Forensics club and began applying to colleges that offered a solid theater or speech/communications program. Up to that point, my school counselors were trying to direct me to a math related program as I was scoring in the upper percentile on those aptitude tests. But its tough to get laughs by filling out a spreadsheet.

For your listening pleasure, here’s the routine that made me what I am today… at least it started the ball rolling.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen… Lend Me Your Ears…

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Michael is away at a training seminar for Home Video Studio owners. He will return Monday March 5th. However he is blogging daily from the field. Subscribe to have it delivered straight to your email.

The keynote speaker at last night’s Celebration Dinner was unable to attend and so I was asked to step in at the last minute to address my peers on the subject of my journey to becoming a Home Video Studio franchise owner.

It was an address I was supposed to give two years ago when I was honored with the title of Home Video Studio Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, family circumstances prevented me from attending in 2016 so this opportunity allowed me to say some of the things I had planned to say back then.

Truth be told, it wasn’t my first keynote address. Back in high school, I was tapped to deliver the class history at our senior class banquet (later to be repeated at an all school assembly). I remember being nervous. I had scripted out the speech which was more or less constructed like a Johnny Carson monologue. One joke after another, many of which were innuendoes in order to get them past the red pen of the administration officials assigned to censor any inappropriate comments. They missed more than they found. But I was nervous because I had never tried any of the jokes out on a live audience. I was going in cold.

I had crafted the speech as a twenty minute routine but it stretched out to twice that length due to the overwhelmingly positive audience reaction. At the end, my classmates rose as one and gifted me with the first standing ovation I ever received.

No, history did not repeat itself here. But, then again, I think I was a lot funnier when I was 18.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.