Chapter 15 – High School

At the beginning of high school, it was mostly a continuation of junior high awkwardness for me, with the added problem of being in the same building with my dad. As head of the Foreign Language Department at Hinsdale Central, he would often find out what I got on my tests before I did! There were some perks though: he could tell us which teachers were best for certain subjects, and we could all ride there together in one car if we wanted, though this also made getting everyone in and out of the single bathroom we had quite hectic in the morning.

During my sophomore year, I started dating. My first boyfriend was a fellow teacher’s brat that I knew better than most because we vacationed at his dad’s cottages near Hayward, WI. That started my real social life of parties, and getting to know other people in band, choir and drama. I sung in concert choir and was considered good enough to get some voice lessons, but never got solos or leads. Some friends were on stage crew, so I joined them. It was a blast, so many things go into a show: building sets, sound, lights, props, curtains, moving sets. I got to try nearly all of it. We also had great parties, often pot luck dinners. My lasagna was in demand. I did it all the hard way then, cooking the noodles, making my own sauce.  I still like to make my own sauce, but the recipe at the end of this chapter saves a few dishes at least.

While not letting on to most of my friends, I continued getting As in most classes, even calculus. Didn’t like it, don’t remember a bit of it, but I could do it. Computer programming was more fun; we were lucky to have the chance to take that, but the classes were quite small. In the first year we were using Fortran and punch cards, by my second year we had moved on to Basic and cassette tapes. The assignment I remember most vividly was moving a knight around a chess board in such a way that it covered every square, but never twice. It took me a while, but I got it. While I didn’t choose this for a career, unfortunately it seems, it is still fairly easy for me to think in terms of flow charts.

I liked my language and literature classes, and most aspects of social studies, too, but was most fascinated by sciences. Our chemistry classes with Mr. Hake were like going to stand up comedy performances. To this day I remember him saying “Fluorine is the brazen hussy of the elements, she’ll combine with anything.”  One December day, we had a lab assignment involving boiling a sugar solution and “protein pellets” I think I was the first to figure out we were making peanut brittle! So between liking science and having a strong interest in food and nutrition, and thinking cousin Laurie’s job as a dietitian sounded really cool, I planned to major in Dietetics.

The grading system changed while I was at Hinsdale Central, at some point they awarded an extra point for getting an A in advanced placement classes. This left them unable to figure out who was really valedictorian, so they named a 14-way tie, which included me, but a better speaker got to give the commencement address. Diane distinguished herself in a different way, she had mostly As too, but also got it all done in 3 years so we graduated together. Uncle Clay and Grandpa Nelson had passed on by this time, but Auntie was there to share the day with us.


High school graduation, me, Auntie and Diane
High school graduation, me, Auntie and Diane

Minimal Mess Lasagna

adapted from a church cookbook

12 servings

1 pound Ground beef
1/2 Onion ; minced
26-28 oz Pasta sauce
12 ounce Lasagna noodles
1 cup Cottage cheese ; 2% fat
16 ounce Mozzerella cheese ; shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan ; grated
1 1/2 cups Hot water

Brown ground beef with onion, drain excess fat.

Place enough sauce in bottom of 9 x 13 pan to just coat it. Add a layer of uncooked noodles. Cover with about half of the ground beef. Sprinkle with 1/2 of  cottage cheese, the 1/3 of mozzarella, and then 1/3 of remaining sauce. Repeat. Cover with a layer of noodles and press down gently. Pour 1/2 of hot water over all, cover with remaining sauce and then remaining mozzarella, then Parmesan. Pour in rest of hot water around edges.

Cover with foil and bake at 350, 45 min- 1 hr. Remove foil and bake 20-30 min more until bubbly.


There are good brands of pasta sauce in jars now, but I still start from scratch occasionally. The optional wine may get added if I have an open bottle in the refrigerator.

Pasta Sauce

Recipe by Nicole Simonian Masika

1 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves Garlic, minced or pressed
Pinch of Red pepper flakes
28 oz can of Crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. Dried basil
1/2 tsp. Dried oregano leaves
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Sugar or to taste
1-2 tablespoons Red wine- optional


Heat oil slightly in large skillet. Add garlic and red pepper and cook until garlic softens a bit.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 min.



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Chapter 15 - High School Copyright © by Nicole Marie Masika is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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