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December 10, 2018  |  

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Susan Longmire and her sister, Cheryl, will again bring gingerbread decorating to the library. It’s part of her own family’s tradition.

Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier

Susan Longmire and her sister, Cheryl, will again bring gingerbread decorating to the library. It’s part of her own family’s tradition. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)

Combining Food and Learning at the Library

Published Nov. 28, 2018

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On Saturday, Dec. 8, when the Hagaman Memorial Library holds its second annual Gingerbread House Workshop, a group of East Haven kids will get the chance to decorate their own candy creations with their parents. The event was born out of Susan Longmire’s family traditions.

“My sister [Cheryl] used to make all the gingerbread houses for my nieces and nephews and as they’ve gotten older…we thought that the library children would enjoy it,” Susan says.

The children’s librarian there agreed that the program was a good idea. So they put together about 15 houses for children to come and decorate however they’d like. Because of the material constraints, the event does require registration and this year’s the list is currently full.

“They usually sit with their parents and they have a good time,” she says.

This isn’t the first food-based program Susan has brought to the library. An earlier effort was the Crafts for Food program through which kids could come to make crafts out of foodstuffs to bring home as a snack.

Once, for instance, the group made little turkeys out of Oreo cookies.

“One of the little girls [in the program], when we said we were doing the gingerbread house, she was so excited and she wanted to make sure and sign up,” Susan says. “They look forward to it.”

Her regular job at the library does not involve food—at least not directly. She has covered all conceivable topics as a circulations aid at the library for 11 years, checking books in and out as well as helping library patrons.

Susan grew up in Milford. Her husband, Andrew, is from Tennessee. They lived down there for a while before moving back up to Connecticut. They’ve been married for 30 years.

“I love both the people I work with and the patrons. It’s like family,” she says. “It’s nice to have a relationship with patrons that come in.”

But baking has always been an important part of her life.

“I love to bake,” she says. “I used to bake with my mom. Everything—cakes, cookies. When we would come home from school, she always had fresh-baked cookies or brownies or something coming out of the oven.”

Baking was a part of her family life growing up.

“We would sit with [my mom] and make them. It was a lot of fun. I did that with my kids. They would invite their friends over and make chocolate chip cookies together,” Susan says. “It was just a family type of thing that we love to cook together.”

Susan extended that tradition on to her own children, with her youngest daughter even learning to cook full meals at age 8.

Susan says that her parents were great cooks, as are her siblings.

“For me, it’s just good recipes. It’s not really that I’m a great cook, but I’ve known a lot of people who are great cooks. I get their recipes,” she says.

Now, she and her sister have been able to bring that tradition over to the library and the children of East Haven.

Something of the library has also spilled back into Susan’s family life in the form of a familial book club. It began a few years ago with Susan, her mom, sister, daughter, and niece and, of course, snacks for the discussion.

It came out of a conversation between Susan’s daughter and her niece during which they decided to read To Kill a Mockingbird together and have a discussion.

“I get the books and we all read them together,” Susan says. “We have a really good time. One person will provide the snack. We do it based on something in the book.”

The best book Susan thinks they’ve read as a family was The Nightingale by Kristan Hannah, about World War II-era France. By this time, Susan’s dad had joined the group, enticed in part, Susan says, by the snacks.

“Reading was never one of his hobbies,” Susan says.

She says that her father was at first off put by the “flowery” language of the novel. Susan had to convince him to give the book a chance and by the end, he thought it was the best book he’d ever read.

“I like learning through fiction. I love historical novels. I learn different things. With The Nightingale, I really had never heard much about what went on in France,” she says. “I was really surprised.”

To nominate a Person of the Week, email Nathan Hughart at n.hughart@Zip06.com.

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