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.

Eggs, Glorious Eggs

eggs glorious eggsSquare eggs with unique, artisanal patterning? A beauty contest? Princess chickens? Yes, there is a book that brings all these elements together!

We read The Most Wonderful Egg in the World, by Helme Heine (Margaret K. McElderry imprint, 1983). In a kingdom, long ago, three hens got in an argument. Which hen was the most beautiful? Could it be Dotty, with her beautiful feathers? Stalky, with her beautiful legs? Or Plumy, with her beautiful crest? They decide to take matters to the king. Being a practical man (“What you can do is more important than what you look like”), he decreed that whoever laid the most wonderful egg would become a princess. Dotty laid the most perfect, shimmering, spotless egg the kingdom had even seen. Stalky laid the biggest egg the kingdom had ever seen. And Plumy…laid a square egg with a different color on each side! Since the king could not decide which egg was the most wonderful, he made all three hens princesses. And they lived happily ever after.

You’ll need:

  • A strip of white poster board (approximately 2.25″ x 22″)
  • A sturdy, 7″ paper plate
  • Nest making materials (brown construction paper, raffia, and paper crinkle)
  • A small box (mine was 4″ x 4″ x 4″)
  • Egg decorating materials (complete list a little later in the post!)
  • A couple of name tag stickers
  • 2 pieces of gold ribbon (approximately 2.25″ each)
  • Stapler, scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Hot glue

For this project, we made a nest, decorated a “square” egg, and then held an egg-tastic beauty contest in which everyone took home a prize!

egg in nestWe’ll begin with the nest. Circle a strip of white poster board around the outside of a paper plate and staple it securely (you’ll need to remove the circle from around the plate to staple it properly).

nest step 1Slide the paper plate back inside the circle, pushing it all the way to the bottom.

nest step 2Now flip the “nest” over and use tape to reinforce the connection between the plate and the circle. I used at least 4 pieces of tape:

nest step 3I also reinforced the inside connection with a ring of hot glue.

nest step 4Time to decorate! I offered strips of brown construction paper, raffia, and paper crinkle. Kids attached these materials to their nests with tape and/or glue.

finished nestNow for the egg! We used dot stickers, craft ties, ribbon, tissue paper, small feathers, sparkle stems, self-adhesive foam shapes, drinking straws, cotton balls, patterned paper, and colored masking tape to jazz thing up. You can also forgo all these things and simply use markers to fancy your egg up.

eggWhile the kids were decorating their eggs, Miss Joani and I circled around, making note of who was putting the most dot stickers on his/her egg, who was doing lots of stripes, who was going to town with the sparkly materials. Later, we used our notes to award the beauty contest prizes.

In my story time contests, everyone is awarded a prize ribbon, and no 2 categories are the same! Here are some of the “categories” from our egg beauty contest:

  1. Best spots
  2. Best stripes
  3. Most colorful
  4. Best use of red
  5. Best use of blue
  6. Best use of pink
  7. Best use of purple
  8. Best use of sparkle stems
  9. Best pattern
  10. Most original
  11. Fluffiest egg
  12. Most imaginative
  13. Most mysterious
  14. Best nest
  15. Most cheerful
  16. Best feathers
  17. Most shiny

You can make up a few prize categories on the spot, but I’d recommend having some ready-made ones handy. The contest’s “parade” only lasts a few minutes, and I find it difficult to come up with prize categories quickly, especially if you’re awarding ribbons to 22 kids at once!

Making the prize ribbons is super easy. I purchased some gold-bordered name tag stickers from Office Max, and used a gold metallic Sharpie pen to write the category on each sticker. Next, I peeled back the sticker and placed two, 2.25″ pieces of gold ribbon near the bottom. Then I lowered the sticker gently back in place. During the award ceremony, all you have to do is peel and stick the ribbon on the nest!

prize ribbonsWhen it was time for the contest, everyone placed their eggs in their nests and followed “Judge Joani” out to the lobby of the library.

judge joaniOnce in the lobby, the contestants circled, reversed directions twice, and stood in line while the judge examined their eggs. Then everyone sat down while I announced the prizes, to the hearty applause and cheers of the grown-ups!

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