Top Fives: 2010 Discoveries

It’s time for the final Top Fives post. I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Today is my top five 2010 discoveries. As you will see, it’s a rather eclectic list.

1. Asheville

I visited a number of new cities this year but none of them compare to Asheville. Ben spent the summer there and while I only visited for four days, I would drop everything and move there if we could. It is a lot like Ann Arbor (which you know I adore and miss like crazy) but with southern charm (credit goes to Ben for that comparison) and milder weather.. Mountains to hike on the weekends, vegetarian restaurants galore, and indie bookstores to peruse. Living in Asheville is kind of my new goal in life.

2. Vegetarianism

After years of slowly moving in this direction, I finally committed to being a vegetarian. It’s been almost an entire year now since I’ve had meat of any kind. And I love it (although my mom was cooking bacon this morning and that really tested my resolve). I feel healthier but, more importantly, I feel like I’ve correctly made the moral decision that I’ve struggled with for a long time. I appreciate that not everyone can do this but I’m so happy with my choice to give up meat.

3. Running

As I mentioned a little yesterday, I started running in 2010. Only a few months ago I thought I could never be a runner. I had tried in the past and failed. But after a few people encouraged me to try the Couch to 5k podcasts, I decided to give it a shot. Now I’m only two weeks away from my first 5k race. I’ve been plagued with a few injuries but for the most part it just feels so good to finish a run. Also, [see photo to the right] is one of the places I get to run. Hard to hate that.

4. The Avett Brothers

I couldn’t include them in my Top Fives: 2010 Albums post because they didn’t release an album this year, but I only discovered The Avett Bothers in 2010. And I LOVE them. Please go listen to I and Love and You if you haven’t already. I also wish January Wedding had existed when I got married (in January 2005).

5. Butterbeer

This one is just on here for kicks. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened this year in Orlando and thanks to some Annual passes, it’s relative proximity to my home, and the wishes of many visitors, I went three times in the first few months it was open. You can read my post on it here. But I really do love the Butterbeer. Cheers!

What did you discover in 2010?

Top Fives: 2010 Apps

2010 was the year that I fully embraced apps. Probably because the iPhone introduced multitasking (finally) and I got an iPad. These are my favorite app discoveries this year.

1. Angry Birds -$0.99

Yes, I jumped on this bandwagon. It was Rebecca from The Book Lady’s Blog that first introduced me to the joy of Angry Birds. Equally satisfying and frustrating, I never knew I would have so much fun launching various birds into the complicated structures built around the egg-stealing pigs. I got stuck on a level once and had Ben help. He spent the rest of the night playing on his phone. I downloaded it for my dad when I visited. That’s all he played Thanksgiving weekend. And then I discovered the Christmas version of the game and was given the Best Advent Calendar Ever. Also, if you haven’t watched this little gem, you should.

2. Instagram – Free

Instagram is specific to the iPhone but it is a wonderful free photo sharing app. You can take pictures from within the app or use images already in your photo album. You can then apply a filter to the photo to reflect the style you like (e.g., black and white, 1960s, lomo). Then share with fellow Instragram users plus cross post to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Foursquare (there is a location based aspect), Flickr, and/or Posterous. It’s really made sharing iPhone pictures fun.

3. Netflix – Free (the app is free, the service is not)

We’ve been netflix subscribers for years. But this was the first year we really started taking advantage of the instant streaming feature. In fact, we just switched to the instant only plan. Watching Netflix movies (or, more appropriately, tv shows) is one of my favorite uses of the iPad. And I even used the app on the iPhone a few times (once when we were stuck in traffic on I-4 at 1am after a concert we watched an episode of The Office to pass the time).

4. Couch to 5k/Runkeeper – $2.99/Free or $9.99

For the first time in my life, I am a runner. And it is because of these two apps (yes I’m cheating and using two here). The Couch to 5K app set out a plan that even I could keep up with and I know I would have given up ages ago if I didn’t have this app to motivate me. At the same time, I use the RunKeeper app to keep track of my speed and distance (using GPS). Once the Couch to 5K program ends, I will probably splurge for the RunKeeper Pro app because I like it that much.

5. Nook/Kindle/iBooks – Free

When I first got the iPad, I thought I would use the ereader part of it the most. That hasn’t turned out to be the case but I do really appreciate the various ereader apps that are available. I like the Nook app the best followed by the Kindle. I like the look of the iBooks app but the selection is still pretty pitiful. I haven’t played much with the new Google Books one yet and I only use the Bluefire Reader when I’m reading a Netgalley book. I’m hoping to read more ebooks in the future.

Top Fives: Television

Today’s Top Fives are not shows that are new this year but just shows that are currently on the air. And they may not be the BEST television but they are my favorites. I actually think I did a pretty good job of not looking like a teenage girl here.

1. Glee

I can’t help it. I love Glee. The stories aren’t wonderful, the characters are inconsistent, but the music is just fantastic (same goes for Sue’s insults and Britney’s random comments). I started watching from the beginning and I must admit that I’m a little embarrassed when I think of how much money I’ve spent on the music (I still think Glee is an iTunes conspiracy). And this year we’ve started a nice tradition of watching it with another couple. We take turns cooking and make an evening of it. I hope Glee continues to be this entertaining for a long time.

2. The Vampire Diaries

Ok, so maybe this is where I do look a little like a teenage girl. But have you seen Vampire Diaries? It’s actually a very good show. It’s fast-paced, the stories are constantly moving forward and staying fresh, and the Salvatore brothers are just so dreamy (I would leave my husband for Damon). I read some of the books and I was not a big fan, but the television version is simply addictive.

3. Parenthood

I started watching Parenthood because of a few of the cast members (Lauren Graham from Gilmore Girls, Peter Krause from Sports Night) but I stayed because the entire show is enjoyable. It’s a drama about an extended family and it just seems real (for the most part). They don’t have car accidents and drug overdoses and all of those other things television uses to make a show dramatic. It’s much more subtle but it’s also that much better for it.

4. How I Met Your Mother

Ben and I started watching How I Met Your Mother this summer. After years of hearing how funny it was, we finally watched the pilot. And we were hooked from the beginning. We probably watched the first 5 seasons in less than two months. And now we’re all caught up and watching the current one. I love Barney. He makes the show. But what really drew me in was the same thing that drew me to Friends – it’s just fun to follow a group of friends like that. It always makes me wish I had a bar or coffee shop that I met people at every day (does this happen in real life?).

5. Bones

Bones is another show that I only started watching this year. The first 4 seasons are on Netflix Watch Instantly and I flew through them when Ben was away at school. I am all caught up on this one now and I’m watching the current season. It’s so quirky that it makes a genre that I don’t usually watch interesting. And again, I’ve had a crush on David Boreanez since Season 1 of Buffy so that doesn’t hurt. Sidenote: Did anyone else sob at the last end of the most recent episode? I completely lost it.

What is your favorite television show? Any shows that you wish you want to start watching in 2011?

Top Fives: 2010 Movies

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t get to the movies that often and I always feel painfully behind the times whenever I watch an awards show. But I’m going to share with you my favorites anyway.

1. The Social Network

There was a lot of hype about The Social Network. At least 43 people told me how amazing it was before I went to see it. I figured there was no way it could live up to that hype. But it did. It really was amazing. It was thought-provoking, funny, and completely engrossing. All surrounding this intangible Thing that has become a part of our everyday lives. As my husband said when we left the theater, can Aaron Sorkin please write the script to my life and David Fincher direct it?

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

Best Harry Potter movie yet? I think so. It tracked the book well, remained interesting despite some rather boring parameters to work in (camping, camping, camping), and somehow managed to make me fall in love with Harry Potter even more than I already had. Aside from one scene (the Harry/Hermione vision of Ron’s) I thought it was near perfect. Even at midnight on a school night.

3. Black Swan

There might be some recency effect going on here because I just saw this one last weekend, but I REALLY liked it. It was creepy in a way that I normally wouldn’t like (I do not like being scared at all) and if there hadn’t been ballet in it, I would have passed. But the ballet drew me in. Swan Lake is such a fantastic story and to see it reinterpreted and incorporated into this movie was fascinating. The acting was suburb, especially among the supporting cast. And while I’ve seen some digs regarding the actual ballet, I believed it (thanks to some fancy camera work, I’m sure).

4. Inception

Again, my list is a little predictable with its inclusion of Inception. But it was kind of a crazy-awesome movie. It was original and took a decent amount of mental focus to follow. Good acting, good directing, visually stunning. And what an ending, right?

5. Toy Story 3

I was twelve when the first Toy Story came out. I remember going to the theater to see it and being so late that I had to sit in the front corner and strain my neck the whole time. But I fell in love with Toy Story then and it continues to this day. I may be 27, but Toy Story 3 moved me just as much as the original did 15 years ago. Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the crew are always welcome in my life.

What were your favorite movies of 2010?

Top Fives: 2010 Albums

Kicking off my week of Top Fives with one of the loves of my life: music. 2010 was a wonderful year in music. These are the albums I’m still playing in December.

Note: clicking on specific songs take you to that song on Grooveshark where you can listen for free. Or you can listen to the playlist at the end of the post.

1. High Violet – The National

I actually only discovered The National this year. I’d seen the name around but it was thanks to my friend Johnny that I finally sat down and listened. And the moment I did, I fell in love. Hard. I’m pretty sure there was a period of many weeks where The National was ALL I listened to. I was lucky enough to be able to see them in concert in October and it was one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen. High Violet is full of the kind of songs The National (and Matt Berninger’s heartwrenching baritone vocals) do best. Bloodbuzz Ohio, Afraid of Everyone, Runaway, Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, and every other song on this album is just music at its best. Love love love.

2. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

I really had a hard time deciding between #1 and #2 and both of these albums are by far my favorites of this year (but keep reading anyway). I’ve been a fan of Arcade Fire for some time and I anxiously awaited this new album. It did not disappoint. It is a not-always-positive homage on life in the suburbs and is full of gems like Month of May, Ready to Start,  and the title track The Suburbs. This Canadian ensemble has once again stolen my musical heart. If only they would tour somewhere – anywhere – near me. Pretty please?

3. The Rock and The Tide – Joshua Radin

I’ve liked Joshua Radin for some time but it wasn’t until I saw his show that I realized just how good his latest album is. The Rock and the Tide is a little more upbeat than his earlier music (although still pretty mellow) and he sings with such joy that it’s hard not to smile. My favorites from this album are We Are Only Getting Better, You’re Not as Young, and The Rock and the Tide.

4. Jimmy Eat World – Invented

My take on Jimmy Eat World has always been that they are pretty good but nothing that I’m likely to go out of my way for. But Invented caught my attention. And I just keep going back for more. So that is why it earns a spot on this list. My absolute favorite track from this album is Coffee and Cigarettes (accoustic). I’m also pretty fond of Mixtape. And someone please confirm that the beginning of Heart is Hard to Find sounds like the Gilmore Girls music.

5. Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said the Last Time I Saw You – Wakey!Wakey!

I actually discovered this band through One Tree Hill (which, let’s face it, features some pretty kickass music). I first fell madly in love with Brooklyn (which did not come out this year but I am linking anyway because it is aMAZing) and then immediately downloaded their latest album. It is a mix of passionate vocals, some killer piano work, and just the right angst to fun ratio. The best song on this album is the live version of 1876 – The Brooklyn Theatre Fire. My other favorites are Light Outside and Almost Everything.

Honorable Mentions

Because 2010 was kind of an awesome year in music, I am going to leave you with a few more albums to check out. I can’t help myself. [Click each band for a sample track].

EDIT: I created this post and realized that I forgot about one of THE BEST albums of 2010 (it probably goes just below Arcade Fire) so please forgive me for tagging it on to the end and not giving it the justice it so very much deserves.

Extra. The Winter of Mixed Drinks – Frightened Rabbit

Again, I have Johnny to thank for this one (when Johnny says listen to a band, I say how loud). Frightened Rabbit is one of my favorite discoveries of this year and their latest album is great from start to finish. Try Living in Colour, Swim Until You Can’t See Land, and The Loneliness and the Scream for a good sampling.

What are YOUR favorite albums from 2010?

For your listening convenience, every song mentioned in this post is included in the following playlist. Enjoy!