My favorite music, movies, television, and books of 2011

You know, I was going to write a post revealing great ideas for celebrating New Year’s Eve with little kids. But then I realized I don’t have any great ideas.

Stay home. Play a board game or two. Pop some popcorn. Maybe watch a movie and stay up a bit later than usual. Talk about your favorite moments of 2011.

That’s all I got. Not much of a post.

So instead, I thought I’d do something I don’t do often on this blog. Talk about me.

On Friday I’ll share my annual Reflection Questions download, where you can journal your answers solo or make it a game with your spouse or friends. It’s fun. It’s Simple Mom-ish. I think you’ll like it.

But in the meantime, I thought it’d be fun to share my favorites 0f 2011. I know you’re oh-so-excited, so I’ll get right to it—here they are.


You should know that I’m all messed up, trend-wise. Living overseas for three years really did a number on my head, so I have no idea when things actually released, what’s new and what’s old hat. I just like what I like. So when I share my favorites of 2011, they’re my 2011. These could have very well been released in 1986, I don’t know.


Some of you already know this… I’m a huge music fan. Huge. We have music piped at home most of the time, thanks to Pandora and Spotify. And my brother, who is cooler than me and has a better pulse on the newness of things. When I’m low on new music, or when I just need a pick-me-up, musically, I’ll ask Josh.

Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues

This is a folksy rock band from Seattle, and when I listen, I sorta picture a modern day Peter, Paul, and Mary. Also, plaid shirts and not much soap. Amazing musicians and harmony…. love them and their new album that released this past summer.

The Civil Wars: Barton Hollow

Beautiful voices and haunting lyrics, this duet rocks my world. Apparently I was in a folksy mood this past year. Great album, especially the song Poison & Wine.

Favorite Songs

Beautiful Things by Gungor (here’s a beautiful acoustic performance) and Enough by Shaun Groves. Both so very good.

Other faves (and again, most didn’t actually release new music this year): Grizzly Bear, Andrew Bird, Broken Bells, Phoenix, Arcade Fire, Florence + the Machine, Sufjan Stevens, Gungor, Coldplay, U2, and many others that elude me at the moment.

Movies and TV

Oh goodness… So very, very behind in this category. Kyle and I are just now watching Lost on Netflix. See? Living overseas can really toss you out of the loop.

Movie: The Big Year

There were lots of movies I wanted to see this year, but I think we went to the theater… three times? Can’t remember. I hope we go a few times over the next few weeks, but three kids plus expensive tickets equals not a lot of trips to the theater and plenty of escapes to the couch with Netflix.

I had a lot of fun watching The Big Year starring three of my favorite actors, Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson. A quirky plot, beautiful cinematography, and CLEAN equals a win for me, no matter what the critics say.

TV: Modern Family

If I’m behind on movies, then I’m in a different era with TV. We haven’t had actual access to current television since 2006, before we left the country. I watch everything via Netflix or online, like Hulu. I’m totally okay with that.

Modern Family is one of the few shows I stay up to date with on Hulu (well, I like 30 Rock even more, but they haven’t had new stuff in quite awhile). Phil and Claire crack me up.

Others I like: Mad Men (rather depressing, though), The Office, and Parenthood, all on Netflix because we’re honestly so far behind on anything television.


Now you’re talking my language. I do love having access to my local library, something I sorely missed while overseas (though with Kindle having a new borrowing program for Prime, it wouldn’t be a big problem now).

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I mentioned that I’m behind on everything, right? Well, let’s just say I read the first Harry Potter back in 2006, the second earlier this year, and then the third through seventh from October to December.

I loved all of them, but my favorite was the third, Prisoner of Azkaban. Great story line, new characters, hilarious one-liners, and Harry matures a bit here. Oddly enough, I’ve found that my favorites of the series are (almost all) the odd numbered ones: 3, 7, 5, and 6, followed by 4, 1, and 2. Who knows why.

The Help

Like everyone and their dog this summer, I read The Help in a few days’ time. Totally sucked me in. Beautifully written in a setting I’d want to live in less than almost any other (except maybe Germany in the 40s): the deep south in the early 60s. Maddening characters and a heart-wrenching story equals a phenomenal read.

Other great reads: The Happiness Project, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Grace for the Good Girl, and honestly, too many others to list here.

We moved, I traveled a ton, and we essentially started a new life this year… 2011 has been a great one for us. Lost of spiritual, professional, and relational growth, as well as lots of good memories. Things like music and movies pepper our days with soundtracks and a bit of escape… It’s fun.

How was 2011 for you? What were your favorite movies, TV shows, books, or music?

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Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Oh Oh Oh! The Civil Wars! So glad you mentioned them. LOVE them!

  2. My husband and I are just watching lost (right now actually) on Netflix, as we are terribly far behind, not life overseas but a busy life. Finally made it to season 6.

  3. have you watched Psych? the very first two minutes of the very first episode made me think it was going to be kind of raunchy, but the show is actually hilarious, brilliantly written, and definitely more PG than Mad Men.

    i really enjoyed the film The Lincoln Lawyer this year, as well as the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

    Best Books, Rachel Jankovic’s Loving the Little Years, and One Thousand Gifts

    I love Slugs Bugs and Lullabies…new music for the kiddos.

  4. I just loved the Help, lots of parallels between life in the South and South Africa. Heartwrenching and gripping in a book. Brilliant!!! We have a New YEar Tree Party with our kids – the morning after… It is brilliant fun every year and it doesn’t matter when we go to bed the night before (early after a day outdoors or late after a night partying…) just whenever we wake up: you can read about it here:

  5. Yes! I just recently got Barton’s Hollow and LOVE it. Those sweet, sweet harmonies.
    Thanks for the recommendation on The Big Year. We’ve been in Uganda since August and I do feel out of touch already of what’s being released, etc.
    So it’s on my list of to-watch. 🙂

  6. It would seem I’ve lived in another country for years, but I haven’t. I’m not up-to-date on anything involving movies or television. I did take my daughter to see “The Help” with strict instructions she had to read the book. She hasn’t yet. I watch Parenthood on television occasionally. I have to catch up on Hulu, too. I fast forward through Glee to watch the singing parts. I read lots and haven’t had anything give me chills like “The Help” in a while. And music? It’s funny, but I listen to those recommended by fellow bloggers mostly. Avett Brothers, Civil Wars, Mumford and Sons and the regular contemporary Christian artists on the local radio station.

  7. Fun post! I love Parenthood – one of my favorite shows. I love that (to me at least) it depicts more of real life than some other tv dramas. I also want to read the Happiness Project and Grace for the Good Girl! Thanks for sharing. :)Enjoy your holiday and New Years!

  8. I am looking forward to digging through your list and making up my own. In the meantime, here is a link to our most favorite New Years Eve activities…

  9. I don’t have any favorite tv or movies to share but I loved your music list! My favorite musical discovery of the year was Josh Garrels’ album, Love & War & The Sea in Between. It’s free for download through the end of the year and recently received accolades as Christianty Today’s album of the year. We have since purchased all of his albums and feel like we’ve given ourselves a tremendous gift!

  10. This year has been a wonderful year of reading for me and I’ve thankfully read so much that it’s hard to remember them all but the book that stands out the most is “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba. If you haven’t read it I think you would like it Tsh because of his ingenuity and just a generally hopeful story.

  11. You’re finally bitten by the Lost bug! Tim and I were major fans. It bonded us for months — we’d watch and actually *discuss.*

    We watch so few shows, but our newest mutual habit is “Person of Interest.”

    I’ll be making my own list in a day or two!

    • I’m not sure I’d call myself a “Lost person” yet. I know everyone was less than enthused by the end, so that already tempers my opinion a bit. Also, it makes me nervous—something about the potential sighting of blood and gore makes me nervous about anything I watch, so it’s not terribly relaxing. We’ll see, though…

    • I have wanted to try out Person of Interest but haven’t got hubby convinced yet!

  12. My faves didn’t come out this yr, but include Randall Fitzgerald’s bk “The 100 Year Lie.” A wake-up call to anyone concerned about all the health issues of the modern day.

  13. Hélène Métivier says:

    Your disclaimer sooooo applies to me! This year, I discovered Earth’s Children (the 1st book was realeased in 1980, and the last, this year). I am in the 4th book and I love it! I am also a huge fan of Harry Potter, so I saw the last movie 3 times at the theater before the Dvd release. I have seen the Help also and I am planning on reading it. My favorite artist this year is Maxime Landry (I am in Quebec). He is a sweet young man who came out of the last Star Académie reality show in Québec. Love his music, his voice and his smile 🙂 As for the TV part, my thumbs up of the year goes to OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), whose programming is simply perfect: every show connects to who I am and what I like to watch. Well worth the extra money to get this channel. Have a Happy Holiday Season!!

  14. I love Modern Family too! And we like Fringe a lot.

    As for books, oh too many. Harry Potter #4 is my favorite I think, and I did re-read all of those this year, but they didn’t even make it onto my best of 2011 list because I’ve read so many other good books this year! (126 right now…maybe I’ll squeak another one or two this week.)

    I’ve been trying to rank my favorites, and it’s brutal, but so far: Anne of Green Gables, The Hunger Games, The Glass Castle, Caleb’s Crossing, First Family, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, The Man From Beijing, and Organized Simplicity have made it on to my list! (And I swear it’s really on my list…although commenting this right now makes me feel like a brown-noser.) 😛

  15. Glad to know I’m not the only one watching TV several years old thanks to Netflix (but have no overseas living excuse–I’m just behind the times). I don’t watch TV much even so, but my son and I devoured Heroes this fall. Into the third season, it lost some steam for us, but I highly recommend the first two seasons. So nice to have something both I and a 13-year-old boy can enjoy together. Thanks for all the recommendations from everyone–

  16. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years was my favorite book this year. I highlighted so many passages, so much to ponder for 2012!

  17. <3 Netflix:) Thanks for the peek into you:)

  18. Hi Tsh,

    It was fun to hear about your favorites, and endearing that they don’t follow hottest trends.

    You mentioned celebrating New Year’s with kids, and I thought you might like to hear what we normally do. We invite over another family with kids for dinner, and then celebrate midnight at 8 or 9 pm — full-on with noisemakers and streamers. Then we end up dancing to crazy music and, when we call it a night, nobody is in bed too late.

    I hope your 2012 will bring lots more peace and prosperity,

    • I was going to make this suggestion, too! We live on the West Coast, so we invite friends over and celebrate “New York New Years” at 9pm when the ball is dropping on the east coast. It’s such a fun way to do the whole celebration with kids (and parents that have to be up at 6am anyway!). Another advantage is that nobody has to be on the road at 1 am.

      Tsh, you’re always welcome at our celebration!

      My favorite new music this year is Mumford and Sons. One of my rare moments of being up to date. =)

  19. “The Help” was phenomenal. I agree.

    Incidentally, I just wrote a post about my recent reads too. 🙂

  20. I too, am just now getting hooked on Mad Men. It’s the only TV I watch (and that’s via Netflix). Great books? Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah and My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares. Loved!

  21. I watched all of LOST on dvd as well, I was able to get it at our library here in Dublin.

    I loved The Help! I actually enjoyed the movie as much as the book. Possibly because by the time I saw the movie I’d forgotten some of the details from the book so wasn’t noticing every little thing that was left out.

    Right now I’m reading The Fellowship of the Ring. I was surprised to find I enjoyed the movies and am now thoroughly enjoying the book.

    As far as music goes…I have a hard time staying current but I love Mumford & Sons and James Vincent McMorrow – an Irish artist you should check out! 🙂

  22. Thanks for the favorites! I really want to read the Happiness Project (I actually took it out of the library but didn’t get around to reading it yet – so busy!) Also love Mad Men and the Office. I am really out of the music loop! I am going to check out your choices!

  23. Gonna go grab that movie on Netflix. 🙂 Thanks!
    Have you listened to Lunch Money? It’s music geared toward kids, but some I think you would appreciate!

  24. Fun list, Tsh! I’m behind on everything, too… still have yet to read any Harry Potter or watch Lost. But a friend gave me the Hunger Games trilogy this fall, and I got *totally* sucked in! Now I can’t wait to see the movies…

    I, too, loved The Help, and keep hearing such good things about the movie version that I’m going to try to watch it soon.

    Thanks for the music links!

  25. I love Fleet Foxes too and I also had the same thought that their sound made me think of Folk music.

  26. I’ve not hear of any of the musicians but coldplay and u2!

    For books…loved the happiness project. This year’s favorites were Home by Bill Bryson, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Charlotte Collins by Jennifer Becton (love Jane Austen), and several regency romances. 🙂

    For movies/TV…liked Crazy, Stupid Love and The Help then Frasier (never tire of it), Chopped, House, and Modern Family.

  27. Glad to see some book suggestions, from both you and the readers. I had a baby in Feb and left my corporate job to stay home with the kids. I have been reading a lot of nutrition based books, like Real Food for Mother and Baby and also blogging books, like Digital Moms Handbook. I’m ready for some fun fiction!
    Fans on Pandora lately are Adele, Mumford & Sons and Frou Frou.

  28. Sorry if somebody else already mentioned this, but 30 Rock is back in January. 🙂

  29. love love love this post Tsh! ahh, I absolutely LOVE the Civil Wars!

  30. I am way behind on music and haven’t seen many movies but my favorite book of the year was ‘Black Heels and Tractor Wheels’ by Ree Drummond. I usually read lots of serious and non-fiction stuff and this one was so fun. Made me remember why I fell for my hubby. I also just finished ‘One Thousand Gifts’ by Ann Voskamp and really enjoyed it as well.

  31. I love Modern Family too. Their quirky antics remind me of my family, only with them its funny because for once it isn’t me.

  32. Doc by Mary Doria Russell of my favorite book of 2011.

  33. Rebecca J. says:

    I loved Downton Abbey. (Season 2 starts in January in the U.S.!) Modern Family and Parenthood are great as well.

  34. Ok, wish you lived closer because we’re just now watching Lost on Netflix also. We love it, but I want to go talk with everyone about it, and they don’t even remember specifics anymore! And we dont even have the living overseas excuse! 🙂

  35. So funny – I always ask my brother about music too! 2011 favs.:
    TV- we haven’t paid for cable our whole 8 years of marriage. We decided this past fall (2011) to have cable from Nov 1 – March 31 every year. (too many details for a comment on making that decision) So I have no clue about past shows but so far my favorites have been Wizards of Waverly Place (yeah, I know :P), Quints By Surprise, Shake it Up (yes I’m admitting these disney pleasures), and recently Tori & Dean.
    Movies – I only seen one in the theater this year and it was the last Harry Potter. I so loved it and it was so worth the money for our once a year movie date!
    Books – One Thousand Gifts; One Thousand White Women; Leaving; The White Queen; Uniting Church and Home; Dressing Your Truth; and The Maze Runner.

  36. Oh, fun fun..I LOVE to see what everyone else is listening to/reading/watching. For me, television is also a few years behind the rest of the world 🙂 We just finished watching Battlestar Galactica, which was terrifically entertaining. One good movie this year pops to mind… “Never let me go” was FABULOUS, so atmospheric and disturbing and beautifully filmed. Now I am reading the book by Kazuo Ishiguro, also really good. But my favourite books this year were DEFINITELY those of Australian writer Kate Morton. Big, grand epics with lots of eccentric characters and eerie but beautiful settings jammed with mystery and tragedy. Best one? The forgotten garden. Gorgeous.
    OH, and music, well, I am biased but I love Rose Cousins and Catherine MacLellan, both Prince Edward Island artists and hugely talented.

  37. Awesome recommendations Tsh—thanks. I also recommend Portland guy Josh Garrels. Do check out the CT’s Top 10 alblums of 2011. I also recently discoverd Future of Forestry and I am liking the new Feist album, Aidan Knight and William Fitzsimmons. My brother introduces me to lots of new music too! Most recently The National.

  38. I love reading other people’s lists so I can get some ideas of what to dive into. I devoured The Help last year and I absolutely love Modern Family! I’ll have to check out your other favs. Thanks for sharing this!

  39. Do you know the Avett Brothers? If you ever have the opportunity to see them live, they’re amazing. I think you might enjoy them, my kids sing along to lots of it, too.

  40. I’ve lived here in Britain for about 15 years now and have very little idea about what goes on in the US media wise. That said, I don’t really follow much of that sort of thing here, either. I think I’ve sort of “dropped out”of current news and gossip (TV and radio stations call news what I call gossip and I find it irritating.) Anything that is REALLY big eventually percolates through, as you are obviously aware. Anything that didn’t make it? Probably isn’t that important. Nice to hear about you for a change though.

  41. Funny, we’re listening to the Civil Wars as I read this. 🙂 I think you might also enjoy City & Color. Ry is really into them right now and he says their new album is fantastic.

    Also, we LOVE Parenthood. Definitely our favorite show. We also enjoy Good Wife a lot. It does has the occasional “fast forward” scene, but most episodes are clean and the plot is pretty interesting.

    As for movies, I bet you would enjoy Once. It was recommend to us earlier this year and it was probably our favorite movie of the year. It’s about two musicians, and the music in it is awesome (and therefore, so is the soundtrack). We also really enjoy the group that did the acting/music in the movie (the main actors are real life friends who perform together, even though the movie storyline is totally fictional). They’re called Swell Season.

    We also just bought Human Planet (put out by BBC, same people who did Planet Earth DVDs). We’ve been watching it with our kids since Christmas and it is just fascinating.

  42. I found Mad Men to get less depressing as the seasons (time) moves on. It’s a harsh reminder of how things were – especially being a woman. The civil rights movement is also being reflected on during later seasons. Not that we live in a perfect world but, it’s amazing how different things are and it really wasn’t that long ago!

  43. Was desperate for a book to ring in the new year and saw “Organized Simplicity”…the title alone….YUM! I didn’t buy the book that night, but it drew me back the next day and I made the purchase. With four daughters, a traveling spouse and being a mom-entrepreneur, my life is chaotic but soul craves peace! I am making copies of the personal docket and having a month’s worth bound at Office Depot today. Can’t Wait!

  44. I agree with you about Grace for the Good Girl. Emily’s wonderful. And if you do not laugh while watching Office, your vitals need to be checked.

    I will say that my ultimate favorite read this past year was The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers by Meg Meeker. I cried very hard during the Friendship chapter and thought almost everything she said was on target. In fact after reading her book I purposefully made room in my schedule for intentional alone time on a daily basis- even if it’s 15 minutes. It has made a world of difference.

    Love this post. Thanks for sharing your fav’s. Happy New Year!!!

  45. Thanks Tsh for your great list. I think I have similar taste to you which is why I wanted to tell you about an Australian band called ‘Sons of Korah’. They put music to the Psalms in a gorgeous, contemplative way!
    Thanks for your great blog, books and podcasts, they really keep me inspired through the year.

  46. I’m glad I’m not the only person alive who loves the third Harry Potter! My husband thinks books 3 and 5 are cop-outs because there is no direct confrontation with the dark one … but I think 3 is fun to read and a good base for book 4. I think Book 5 is painful, though. Sorry! 🙂

  47. Yes, yes, yes on all your music recommendations! I saw Gungor live and they blew me out of the water. If you like Civil Wars, check out All Sons and Daughters…they have an EP you can find on Amazon. Also Psych = hilarious, I fully agree with all the recommendations.

  48. I’m still stuck on New Year’s Eve traditions…! We stumbled onto ours ten years ago and now the kids will allow us nothing less than our simple family night. It’s a fondue dinner along with the proverbial family games. Now, our fondue is not the delicious gruyere & emmentaler cheese hubby and I crave, but every vegetable imaginable dipped in delicate tempura batter and fried. (We tried adding cheese one year in an additional fondue pot, but the tempura battered veggies won out. Tempura veggies even won out the year we tried adding chicken, beef, and shrimp to simmer in broth.)

    Later, after a round of favorite games, the (electric) fondue bowl and forks are cleaned, wiped down and out comes the {{chocolate}} fondue dessert. We dip every fruit imaginable. (And frozen pound cake, pretzels, marshmallows, buttery crackers, Christmas cookies… well, you get the idea. If we can imagine it, we try dipping it in chocolate.)

    Now that two of our kids are teenagers, they are inviting special friends to our New Year’s tradition…it’s been a hit to share, the conversations are endearing, enlightening, and enduring. Soon I’ll need additional fondue pots as our tradition grows, but that’s part of what I love about this fondue tradition: we’ve learned it grows more fun with friends and that its worth staying home for. 🙂

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