On Barb’s Bookshelf: Catholic Fun from Ave Maria Press

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Celebrate the fun of being Catholic with two clever offerings from Ave Maria Press.

Tommy Tighe’s Catholic Hipster Handbook reminded me of what I love about handbooks.

True confession: when I was in high school, The Preppy Handbook came out. My high school was preppy long before Lisa Birnbach told the rest of us how to imitate the real deal, complete with detailed drawings of what to wear for all occasions. I studied that book relentlessly, though it was clear from the subtext that as alligator-logo shirts and Weejuns weren’t in my budget, I wasn’t worthy to be among those who were to the manor born.

The Catholic Hipster Handbook is packed with plenty of Catholic inside baseball without making the reader feel unworthy. This book won’t teach you how to be a cool Catholic. Instead, it revels in what’s cool about being Catholic and invites the reader to revel in it too.

Tommy Tighe gathered together 15 cool Catholics, many of whom you’ll find speaking and tweeting and writing and hosting Catholic radio shows, to help put this handbook together. One of my favorite essays was Tommy’s own “Take a fresh look at that rosary” which encouraged readers to explore other forms of the rosary and chaplets. I’d add the Franciscan Crown to Tommy’s list of rosary-based prayer alternatives. Lisa Hendey details the must-have apps: I love the way she uses Evernote! And Anna Mitchell’s essay on the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) is excellent as well. And and and …

This isn’t a book you need to read start-to-finish. Skip around. Open at random. The only thing this book doesn’t have (that I wish it did) is a detailed table of contents that includes the title of each essay. In a book of this nature, that would have been very helpful.

Who should read it: anyone who’s into history, trivia, and great stories — and who possesses a healthy sense of humor.

Speaking of trivia, reading The Catholic Hipster Handbook will prove very handy when you open up Catholic Puzzles, Word Games, and Brainteasers. (It’s not cheating if you read the Handbook before you do the puzzles! It’s priming your brain!)

Matt Swaim included puzzles of all kinds in Catholic Puzzles. If crosswords aren’t your thing, there are plenty of anagrams, code scrambles, word-link puzzles, and more. Do you like a challenge? Try the word search with missing vowels.

Some of the puzzles are quick to complete, like “Misspelled Books of the Bible” (of course I did this one first!) and “Scrambled Partner Saints.” Others, such as “Alphabet Fill-Ins,” will take a while.

When you’ve filled in all the blanks in Catholic Puzzles, Word Games, and Brainteasers, you’ll be relieved to note that there’s a Volume 2 with even more Catholic-puzzle fun.

Who will love it: teachers, youth-group leaders, and anyone who enjoys puzzles! Pair it with a pack of mechanical pencils for a terrific gift.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Fun Friday: Seen About Town

When you’re out and about, do you bring your sense of humor with you? I definitely recommend it. It’s hard to give in to road rage when you’re laughing at things you see while out on the road.

This week I’ve noticed some strange and fascinating (and just plain silly) things as I’ve gone about my errands.

A real-life Bluesmobile at the Wawa.bluesmobile

Unfortunately, Jake and Elwood were nowhere in sight.

I spotted yet another Bluesmobile not five minutes later, but I was driving and couldn’t take a photo. That one still had a municipal seal on the driver’s door, but it was partially obscured by spray paint.


Another day, I saw two vehicles with interesting messages on them. Again, I was driving (and alone in the car) so I couldn’t get photos.

But I’ve never driven behind a car that advertised, among other services, “crime scene cleanup.”

And then there was the plumbing truck, complete with this customer testimonial: “It’s a privilege to flush my toilet.”

I am not even making that up. I was laughing so hard I could barely see to drive.

And from the Department of There Must Be a Reason They Needed This Sign:


If I were a fiction writer, this could lead to some fun speculation.

What strange and funny things have you noticed this week?


This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.
"Fun Friday: Signs" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (Franciscanmom.com)

Fun Friday: Signs

Things that make editors laugh (and sometimes cry): misspellings and grammatical errors on signs. Just for fun, I’ve gathered up a few of these that I’ve found recently.

All Out of Letters

"Fun Friday: Signs" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (Franciscanmom.com)
Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Delran, NJ. I added an arrow to this one because of the hot mess of signs that’s going on at this corner along our local miracle mile. There are actually 2 typos on the sign, both caused by missing letters. But the line on the bottom is the funniest. I go through this intersection several times on any given day, and it always makes me laugh. I’m wondering what other gems the new management will have in store?


"Fun Friday: Signs" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (Franciscanmom.com)
Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

West Milford, NJ. I found this paragon of redundancy around the corner from my parents’ house. It begs the question: what else would pedestrians possibly be doing?

Awning Fail

"Fun Friday: Signs" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (Franciscanmom.com)
Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

San Juan, Puerto Rico. This almost shouldn’t count, because there might be a Google Translate issue happening here. But it’s still funny.



This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

Things you’ll find in my car, but not my husband’s

Just for fun, I’m piggybacking on Lisa Hess’s post, 3 Things You’ll Find in My Car, But Not My Husband’s.

My van looks like this fairly often.
My van looks like this fairly often.

I purposely didn’t include a number in my title, because I’m quite sure I can think of more than 3 without even going to the car.

  • Maps. I’m a visual girl. I don’t want my phone telling me how to get somewhere. I need to see it on the map, then write down the directions, then have the directions there.
  • Tissues.
  • Pens, Sharpie and Scotch tape. In a pencil case, no less.
  • Batteries (AAA, or what the kids used to call “triple batteries,” for the headsets to the in-van movie.)
  • A trash container.
  • A couple of fleece blankets and at least one beach towel, for warmth and for covering the seats and steering wheels on hot days.
  • Snacks. TheKid is diabetic. We have a stash of granola bars in the car at all times.
  • Book. I have a big Real Simple hint book I got for free someplace, and I keep it in the car for when I’m stuck for a few minutes and need something to browse.

Yes, I treat my minivan like it’s one of the rooms in my home. I’m in it enough.

Prepared? Or packrat? You might need it someday–that’s my philosophy. And everything on this list has been needed at one time or another.

Love the Creativity

Today is the Cardboard Tube Fighting Tournament in Philadelphia. Big Brother heard about this and invited a few friends to go along. Then he enlisted Middle Sister’s help to make him a cardboard shield for the event.

She and her friend made this as a prank, never suspecting that Big Brother would love it! He thought it was great, but is refusing to bring it (they made him a “real” one as well) because he doesn’t want it to be ruined. This one, he says, is a keeper.

Things Moms Love to Hear

“Hey, Mom, can you buy us some more BLOCKS? We need more!”

If they’re going to beg for toys, I love that they chose blocks.

The other day I received a big, heavy package in the mail. I had been asked to test out a new toy, Fisher-Price Spike the Ultra Dinosaur, as part of a product review for Family Corner.

Amazingly, Middle Sister and Boy Next Door are having even more fun with this toy than Little Brother did. They are currently building block towers all over the family room so they can make Spike “do a Godzilla” and knock down the whole city.

Obviously this product has broader appeal than the suggested ages 3 – 10.

And he also eats Storm Troopers. Chews them up and spits them out.

The family room is an apocalyptic scene of destruction.

Fun in the Sun

OK, I’m a little sunburned.

But it was worth it. Ellen had my family and Christine‘s over for a fun afternoon including lunch and a swim. And it was so hot today, I even got in the pool! My younger children had a good time with Christine’s two. The girls spent a good amount of time in the “Secret Garden;” Ellen should have put them to work weeding back there. Harry was kind enough to show Little Brother how he can play “Freebird” on his really sweet red electric guitar, and he even let Middle Sister try out his treasured 2-wheeled skateboard (I think she wants one).

Little Brother lived in the pool all afternoon and Ellen observed that “he’s gone from tadpole to frog.” I couldn’t believe that he was jumping right into the deep end! He’ll be so proud to show TheDad and Big Brother how well he’s swimming now.

And we moms enjoyed each other’s company and chatted about everything from rowing to ripstiks to school uniforms. Ellen makes a fabulous ice-cream sandwich cake, too. Thanks again, Ellen, and it was great to see you and Christine.

Fitness Equipment AKA My Second Childhood

I’m allergic to exercise. I find it really boring, especially when I could be doing something fun like reading, eating, cooking, blogging, or sleeping. But I know I really do need to do some exercise.

So today Middle Sister and I went shopping at Five Below, where I found the perfect tools for summer exercise and fun:
a jump rope
a hula hoop
and a Skip-It!

There’s a good reason, I think, why kids don’t have to work to stay in shape. Their exercise is their play. So I intend to get in on the fun.