Top Secret Fooj

foojA recent re-reading of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang inspired today’s post! This highly entertaining and action-packed book was written in 1964 by Ian Fleming. Yes, THE Ian Fleming. Who knew the book would lead us on a mission of the chocolate variety?

Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang follows the adventures of the Pott family and their fabulously magical car, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. At one point in the story, some gangsters force the Pott twins, Jeremy and Jemima, to assistant in the robbery of Le Bon-Bon, the world’s most famous chocolate shop. The clever children manage to save the day, and, as a reward, the shopkeepers reveal the secret recipe for their famous fudge (which they pronounce “fooj”). The recipe is included at the end of the book (click the image to enlarge it).

recipe in book

From Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. Random House, 1964.

So…what does the famous fudge taste like? Does the recipe hold up after 51 years? Katie decided to test drive it in her kitchen. Take it away Katie!


With my trusty sous-chef son by my side, we gathered and set out all of the ingredients for the “fooj.” There were only a handful of items needed to make the fudge and most we had on-hand in our pantry. We did have to purchase corn “sirup” (we went with the clear corn syrup, not dark) and a bar of unsweetened chocolate (from Ghirardelli, yum!). We also had to figure out a few measurements, like how many ounces are in a tablespoon (the answer is 0.5 ounces).

We took a wild guess at how much evaporated milk to use because the recipe called for one small can, so we used a 5 ounce can rather than the 12 ounce. Trusting our guts and confirming measurements courtesy of Google, we set forth to make our own batch of fudge.

adding milkWe followed the recipe exactly as it was written. It took some time to slowly melt all of the ingredients together, but this step probably would have been faster if we hadn’t used frozen butter. It didn’t take long for the mixture to start boiling, and we were careful to not let the chocolate burn on the sides of the pot. Incredibly, the fudge did form into little balls when dropped into a glass of cold water! I was skeptical of this description listed in the recipe, but was amazed when we watched it happen.

water testWe even beat the boiling hot fudge mixture with a wooden spoon instead of the silicone mixing spoon we had been using earlier.

wooden spoon Once we decided it had been appropriately beaten, we poured the concoction into a greased pan to cool. I used a toothpick to draw lines and mark the fudge into small squares. This is when I had my first inkling that something was not quite right. The marks immediately disappeared. I figured the fudge just needed to harden and then I could redraw the square lines.

scored fudgeHowever, the fudge never hardened. It remained a gloopy, runny mess. I put the fudge into the freezer to see if that would help the hardening process. Freezing it worked great, but then the fudge was rock solid and nearly impossible to cut. Once it cooled, it was back to its original state.

Cue sad music. Fudge failure.

However, the fudge didn’t completely go to waste. We asked a number of kids to try the fudge to let us know what they thought of it. Here’s what they said:

Boy, age almost 9: I think it looks like fudge. It tastes good, really good! Can I have more?

Girl, age 10: I think the fudge kind of looks like brownie batter. Mmm, it’s good!

Boy, age 8: The fudge does not look like fudge. It’s not square. It’s flat and round, like a pancake. It tastes sweet, but it doesn’t really taste like fudge. It tastes like a Hershey chocolate bar.

Girl, age 9: It tastes like chocolate. I can’t tell if it’s milk chocolate, but I like that it is creamy. It doesn’t look like normal fudge, but I like it!

Monsieur Bon-Bon’s Top Secret “Fooj” recipe remains a secret because somewhere between the written page to my kitchen, the recipe got lost in translation. In an effort to discover what I may have done wrong, I again consulted Google and learned from experienced bakers that making fudge can be quite a difficult task. It has to be boiled to a certain temperature after slowly melting the ingredients together, and it has to be beaten for an exact amount of time before pouring it into a pan. Apparently I failed at one or both of these steps.

Perhaps the fudge needed to be shaken, not stirred.

Cozy, Cute, and Charming

snowman bulletin boardTo modify a line from Tolkien, “Even the smallest library can change the course of the future.” This is absolutely true of the children’s room at the Mary Jacobs Memorial Library in Rocky Hill, New Jersey. It’s small, yes. But it is filled with books, fun, and sunshine. It’s the perfect place to instill a love of books in future readers.

Here’s a bookshelf that’s just begging to be browsed. And look at those adorable wall decals! The staff update them from time to time to keep the room fresh and interesting. Decals are an easy, inexpensive, and non-permanent way to jazz up a space. The farm decals you see below, for example, are $13.99 on All Posters.com (and the company’s almost always running 15% off deals).

shelvesIn addition to a big sofa and two comfy armchairs, the children’s room has three sets of kid-sized tables and chairs. They are nestled in front of the sunny windows, which overlook trees, grass, and the town’s main street.

farm tableThe children’s room also has toys for kids to play with. They’re kept in a centralized area that allows for quick and easy clean up. My kids are partial to the castle set, the giant foam blocks, and the vehicles. There are also activity towers for babies to explore.

back cornerAnd speaking of babies, here’s one of my favorite touches in the room…

baby surprise 1I call these “baby surprises.” Scattered throughout the room, at infant eye level, are images for babies to discover and revisit. Fantastic idea!

baby surprise 2And don’t forget to give Brownie, the room’s resident bear, a big hug!

big bearOutside the children’s room are shelves containing materials for older readers.

author tableThere are awesome touches here, too. Like this fabulous ship.

ship in stacksThe staff change the library’s bulletin boards every month. Sometimes, they’re seasonal, sometimes they’re thematic, and sometimes they’re matched to a library program. Often, the staff will post games like “Vote for your favorite Dr. Seuss story” or display kids’ artwork.

maker day bulletin boardLet’s get a closer look at that splendid box robot, shall we?

robot I love everything about this guy. The steel wool hair, the tea strainer eyes, the plastic cup ears wrapped with pipe cleaners. Youth services librarian Katie Winjum is responsible for this handsome fellow. She also does the bulletin boards and general decor. Like this super-sized snowman door. Fun!

snowman doorA few summer’s ago, when the library had a “Dig Into Reading” theme, Katie hand-rolled a zillion paper cone stalactites and attached them to the ceiling! The shelves were adorned with things like head lamps and gold bars (i.e., boxes wrapped in gold foil). I was seriously impressed. A tip of the crafting hat to you, Katie!

I’m obviously not a professional photographer, but I sincerely hope the library’s welcoming atmosphere comes through in these photos. When you walk in, you immediately know that you’re invited to make yourself comfortable and read something wonderful. It’s the perfect place for little readers.

amazing space

Character Books

fawkesDo red and gold feathers, priceless tears, and a box of matches remind you of anyone? If you guessed Fawkes, the phoenix from Harry Potter, you are correct! We had a blast with this “character book” activity at Cotsen Critix, our literary group for kids ages 9-12.

Basically, each member of the group was given a plain paper mache “book” and asked to fill it with objects and/or drawings that somehow relate to a character in a book. Words and writing were fine too, so long as they didn’t reveal the name of the character or the title of the book. Then, we put all the books on display and tried to guess who the characters were.

I purchased the paper mache books online from Discount School Supply. They call them “Papier-Mache “Secret” Books.” A set of 12 books costs $13.99.

paper mache bookMy favorite part of this project is the creativity and diversity of the books. Even if two kids chose the same character, it’s interesting to see the different elements they decide to include. Some even took on non-fiction “characters!”

ruby redfordRuby Redfort

apolloAncient Greek God Apollo (above photo shows both the cover of the book and the interior)

theresaTeresa Agnes

percy jackson 1Percy Jackson (recognize one of our Mythomagic cards in there?)

matildaMatilda

the wizard of ozThe Wizard of Oz

taylor swiftTaylor Swift (non-fiction biography…nice!)

percy jackson 2Percy Jackson

kate weatherallKate Wetherall (if you want your own red bucket with all the equipment, look here)

miloMilo

sadie kaneSadie Kane

jimmy gownleyJimmy Gownley (as depicted in The Dumbest Idea Ever, his graphic novel and memoir!).

annabethAnnabeth Chase (a Camp Half Blood map is drawn on the back cover of the book!)