Monday, December 19, 2016

Year in Review: 2016

I don't know about anyone else, but I've seen this meme popping up on social media quite a bit in the last week or so:

And while I wish I could join in on the commiserating, I honestly cannot bring myself to. I truly had quite an amazing year! Since I actually posted quite a few times to this blog, I thought I'd share some of the highlights from here, as well as life in general, of 2016 - if anything, it'll be great to look back on it all encapsulated in one place. Happy reading!


The year truly started off with a bang. Our trip to San Diego to visit our friends Laura and Mitchell (and Harvey!) was hands down the best way to kick off 2016! 

And coupled with that, of course, was our visit to the Channel Islands to cross the first National Park off our bucket list to eventually visit them all!

While we were in San Diego, our first nephew, Jack, was born! He's Uncle Daniel's first real experiences with a baby.


In late February, as part of my job, I had to attend a day training in the Lake George area of the Adirondacks. We had an unusually warm winter last year, and it was a beautiful, crisp 40 degree sunny day this particular day I was there. I had a 3 hour drive each way, and when the training ended at 2pm, I wasn't exactly itching to leave the Adirondacks! It felt so weird to not enjoy some of the outdoors while I was attending a training related to camp and was in one of my favorite places - so, I found a short hike nearby, Pilot's Knob Preserve, and took in some beautiful sights of Lake George.

It was a particularly meaningful hike. As I wrote on Instagram (@itsmandible), Left my ❤️ in the Adirondacks today. So grateful that I took a chance on myself and made the leap two years ago to pursue my Master's in Recreation... It has been so much more than just a "degree program" and taught me so much about myself that I never expected to gain. After a crummy week last week (for no good reason), it was amazing to stop at a trail for a quick solo hike after a training this afternoon, enjoy this view of Lake George and lay in the sun on the patio of this gazebo - quiet, calm and alone in the woods. I could've stayed there for hours - it really pressed the reset button on my soul,🌺 and I'm not sure that I would've ever come this in touch with my deep connection with the outdoors (past the recreational, "plain old fun" aspects I've engaged in my whole life) had I not gotten so deep in the literature and understanding regarding the benefits of the outdoor experience as I have in my program to realize that... Wow, I have experienced this all and never truly internalized its beauty, worth and peace it brings.

We also took a weekend trip to Boston and took in all of the classic sights! It was Daniel's first time, and my first time since I was 17, and we enjoyed getting away for the weekend for some spontaneous fun. Again, it was such a warm winter, so it was the perfect temperature for walking around - not too hot, not too cold.

Among other notable highlights was a wintery visit to the nearby Chittenango Falls State Park on a sunny but snowy day, because I'd lived nearby for about 6 months and hadn't visited yet!

And I was also featured on a Facebook post for my job during February!


March wasn't quite as eventful as January and February. However, I did get to travel to Atlantic City, NJ for the Annual American Camp Association Tri-State conference, my first ACA conference! That was tons of fun... it was awesome to attend a professional event in my field.

This was also the month Daniel got accepted to his PhD program at the University of Rochester... which actually happened while I was in NJ!

The only other real excitement was the 5K myself, Daniel and my aunt did at Easter time - one that was new to us.


April was another big month (I'm starting to realize they were almost all big months!). It started off with a bang, with our weekend trip to Montreal, Canada as part of Daniel attending a conference!

Mid-April, we celebrated my brother Jacob becoming an Eagle Scout.

And April ended with my long-awaited National Outdoor Leadership School course. Looking back now, 8 months later, I know this will always be one of my most proud and cherished accomplishments and experiences. If you're interested in reading more about my NOLS course, click here for Part 1, here for Part 2, and here for some of the lessons I learned along the way.


At the start of May, I explored a couple of "new to me" trails in Tully NY, near the camp I work at,

But more importantly: I GRADUATED WITH MY FREAKIN MASTER'S! Mandi Torres M.S.! I now proudly hold a Master of Science in Recreation with a concentration in Outdoor and Environmental Education from SUNY Cortland. And I worked hard for that thing, too. Again, easily will always rank as one of my most proud accomplishments... ever. And, even more significantly, is what it represents... you can read more about that here: my Ode to a Master's degree.

2011 (High School) --> 2014 (Bachelor's) --> 2016 (Master's)

Just because I love this picture. Notice my sister's messed up ankle... (love you bug!)

May ended with Daniel's first backpacking trip! After my NOLS course, I was longing for another backcountry adventure, and took him out with me.


June kicks off the summer camp season, which really means that my personal endeavors come to a slow drag - which I'm totally fine with! But one notable thing was my little brother - who's definitely not so little anymore - graduated high school (and actually came to work at camp, funny enough!!)


This was certainly a big month for me professionally, as well as for my inner seven year old. I was able to make my first shot at my career goal of being a camp director - something I certainly didn't think I'd get to be doing at the ripe age of 22, that's for sure! While it was only for half of a summer in 2016 due to crazy circumstances, it was honestly a dream come true. I had always wondered, once I actually got to do "the thing" I had been aiming for, if it would be all that I thought it was cracked up to be - and oh my, was it! It was everything I could've dreamed of, and more. It was challenging, invigorating, fun, inspiring, exciting... it was everything I hoped it would be, and truly is the best job on the planet! I am so looking forward to a full summer as director in 2017 (and can I just say, getting to do all off the off-season planning this year is SO. FUN. too!).


August brought the end of the camp season, which included an end-of-camp trip to Water Safari water park in Old Forge NY and a quick hike up Rocky Mountain in Inlet with some of my staff! 

The day after camp ended was my bridal shower.

After a few days handling appointments, Daniel and I set off on our pre-wedding vacation! It was not in the cards for us to be able to have a true "honeymoon" due to the whole "life happens" thing. Daniel was starting school at U of R two days before the wedding. So - we took an amazing weeklong vacation in Maine, and crossed another National Park off of our Bucket List - Acadia.

We bookended our days in Acadia with a day in Portland, Maine and a day in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, to help break up the 9 hour drive each way.

Portland, ME

White Mountains

And - I celebrated my 23rd birthday, and it was a combo wedding Bachelor/Bachelorette party with our friends the same day... it was a good night!


Here's the big one! The best of 2016. I GOT MARRIED. 


Waiting on full rights/access from our photographer to come in early January (6 months after the wedding), but for now, we have some teaser shots and shots from friends and family. The most magical day - perfect weather, perfect location, perfect people present, perfect everything! Scroll on if you're not interested in 20 wedding photos...

And while we couldn't take a full-blown honeymoon, we were able to take a few days away to Toronto, which I detailed here on the blog. Funny story about Toronto that isn't captured in the original blog post... is that the first night there, we went to dinner at this delicious place. Now mind you, we'd been married less than 24 hours at this point, and when we got back to the hotel room, despite the delicious dinner, I didn't feel super fantastic... I ended up throwing it all up, and in our 5 years together as a couple, this was literally the first time I've ever thrown up in front of my now husband... welcome to marriage! 

During late September, we also spent one night camping at Lewey Lake Campground in the Adirondacks, and hiked a seven mile roundtrip route to the top of Peaked Mountain - it was a GORGEOUS fall day.


During October, Daniel and I went for a night at my grandparents' lake house. For the past two years, we've gone up Labor Day weekend, but since our wedding was Labor Day weekend, we went in October instead! We did some beautiful dusk kayaking, had a chilly campfire with s'mores, and played a long game of cards. It's always a peaceful and refreshing time!

We rocked an awesome Halloween costume as flying monkey and witch:

And most significantly, at the end of the month, we left the Syracuse area, due to starting our home buying process (it should officially be ours January 20th!).

As I put it in my Instagram: On the left is the day we first moved to Syracuse in August 2014 to start graduate school. Today, we moved out of our townhouse in Manlius, officially ending our time as residents of the city of Syracuse/outlying areas. While Syracuse is certainly (and unapologetically!) the last city on our list of favorite places we've lived, I'm so sad to go, because some of the biggest and most formative times of our lives happened on Gray Ave and West Pleasant Street. We started and finished our Master's degrees; we worked our first real jobs that paid the bills and learned how to sort through all that kind of adult financial stuff; we learned the difference between just loving someone and being their boyfriend or girlfriend, versus what it really means to be someone's partner through thick or thin; this is where I started my first full time job and learned how truly rewarding working in my desired recreation field could be; this is where we got to live with Rudy as our own little family for such an ephemeral but beautiful amount of time; this is where I grappled with H. Pylori and learned to take charge of my own health; this is where Daniel got his first gigs as a professional musician; this is where we built routines and habits together and had our first true "go-to" places together; this is where we planned our wedding and spent our first months as newlyweds; there is where I feel I truly found my voice/confidence as a young adult and honed in on what's important to me; we learned to be somewhat independent and self-reliant; and so, so, so, so much more. This is the place we truly started "the rest of our lives" together and made so many everlasting memories that I will always cherish. #Cuse ❤️:

 November & December

The past two months have been slow - and it's been a much needed slowness. It's been nice to take some time to breathe and do basically nothing on the weekends - aside from the occasional dinner out/Christmas shopping excursion. The only notable thing was the 4th annual year running the Turkey Trot Thanksgiving Day as a family.

Other than that, these last two months have been a lot of dreaming about what renovations to make to our new house, and what traveling we can do in the spring! I can only hope 2017 is as amazing as 2016.

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