If you’ve been following along with me this month, you’ve probably picked up on the theme of this post already. There are good days and bad days. Even more granular … there are good meals and bad meals. What I’m learning about myself is that I can’t get too down because of the lows, and I shouldn’t be too excited about the highs. Yes – I will make bad decisions and have days that are less successful, but I can’t let that get me down. That hit me hard two days ago. On the other hand, I can’t feel as though I’ve won or hit the target because of one good day or meal.

And it goes a little deeper than that too. Is health and wellness a goal with a clear finish line? I posit that it’s not. There is no moment when you can say, “I reached my goals. I have achieved fitness and health and can now live freely.” This is more of a lifelong marathon. There is no time at which I can feel that I’m done – “check this one off the list.” Rather, the finish line is getting to a point when I fully understand my own limitations and make the best decisions for my health more often than I don’t. THAT, to me, is the finish line. And I have a long way to go!

And that brings us to today. Yesterday was a pretty successful Monday. I need to back it up with another good day. How did I do?

  • Breakfast. It wouldn’t be me if it weren’t my Fiber One bar.
  • Lunch. I made a salad with chicken made in the AirFryer, romaine (that is hopefully clear from any contaminants), celery, zucchini, too much shredded cheddar, and some lite Italian dressing. Doing well so far.
  • Dinner.

And the Beer of Choice?

I was super excited to see a beer from Pretoria Fields in Albany, GA (pronounced All-benny.) My mom’s side of the family is from just south of Albany (shout out to Quincy, Fl and Attapulgus, GA!) and my wife was raised a few miles north of Albany (All-benny) … hello, Leesburg, GA!
Albany recently added a brewery downtown – I’ve been there and can verify that it’s a great and beautiful place to grab a pint. Beer is quite solid as well. So, again, very happy to see that their Walkers Station stout was on tap right down the road from my house. Score! It’s a smooth, not-too-heavy stout with a nice roasted flavor, swimming with chocolate and a little bit of coffee. And so I had two of them. ‘Cause, you know.
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

With apologies to Matchbox 20, today’s post is about a level of redemption after yesterday’s failures. I finished yesterday’s post saying, “Tomorrow is a new day.” My plan was to get “back to good” on the #DrinkAndDropChallenge. Mission, mostly, accomplished.

I’ll take today as a step in the right direction. It wasn’t a day of perfect choices, but at least it was a step in the right direction. We press onward, eyes on the prize of a smaller version of me on the horizon somewhere.

Today’s Food

  • Breakfast. You guessed it.
  • Lunch. I got a frozen meal. It was small. I mean, kid’s menu small. It was good, actually. Quite tasty, but it was barely enough food for a 4-year old. It’s the SmartMade Chicken Fried Cauliflower Rice Bowl. Bonus points for sitting at just 150 calories
  • Snack. About 11 minutes later, I was hungry again, so I opted for a banana and some trail mix.
  • About 2 hours later, I was hungry again. Ugh. A second banana got me through until later in the evening.
  • Dinner. This didn’t come until after tennis. And yeah … we got housed in tennis once again. There was plenty of beer. I wasn’t altogether happy. And this is why my mission for the day was mostly accomplished. I basically had Fritos and Cheez-Its for dinner. So, I wasn’t over-the-top on calories. But nutritional value …. nope. Not even close.

And Now, Beer

We had our final tennis match of the season (make-up from the washout yesterday.) So I got in a nice workout. Having almost no calories all day followed by a bunch of cardio … yeah. We deserve some beer tonight. Tonight was a simple “empty the fridge of the random leftover singles that have been collecting.” It’s like I made my own mix-a-six for the match. In tonight’s grab bag:

  • Boulder Brewing Pulp Fusion. Not gonna lie. I wasn’t looking forward to this one. But it was actually quite tasty. It’s a citrusy-IPA that gets it bright flavors from blood orange juice, rather than just from the hops themselves.
  • Sweetwater Black Lager. The magic of a black lager. Crazy dark in color, super light in flavor. One of my favorites from Sweetwater.
  • Red Hare SPF 50/50 Tangerine. Pretty sure Red Hare created a style for this one. They call it an India Pale Radler. So, they take an IPA (their Gangway) and mix it 50-50 with tangerine juice/flavor. (Hint – that’s what a radler is: half fruit, half beer.)
THIS. This is what I meant yesterday by recovering from a bad day. I’m not going to let yesterday’s failures become today’s repeat of the same. Each new day is a chance to chart a new course. Yeah, this is more like it!
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

I’ve been on a bit of roll lately. I’ve had a lot of good days this week. And it felt good at church this morning when I had some people comment on the fact that I seemed less large. (And they had been reading the blog which it made it a double bonus.)

For breakfast, I had my requisite Fiber One bar. Duh. And then I hustled home from church to get ready for tennis. Mentally, I was prepared to play at 1pm … get a ton of steps and cardio in, and basically earn some bad decisions today. But Atlanta is the new Seattle and it rains every day. Today was a washout, and that threw me off my game all day. One bad thing led to more bad decisions and I feel like I dumped all of my progress in the pooper with one bad day.

Lunch was a pile of crap I pulled out of the fridge. One slice of yesterday’s pizza; some leftover pulled pork; a boatload of BBQ chips … sigh. And then I sat on the couch doing nothing for what seemed like another 7 or 8 hours. I rallied in time to go out and celebrate my nephew’s birthday.

Originally, he had chosen Longhorn for dinner, and I was pumped about that. You can escape that place with a filet and salad for about 600-700 calories. And then it was changed to my nemesis … Mexican.  Yeah: tacos + chips + queso + rice & beans. No bueno. More sighs …

And now for the beer

Delicious, fantastic Variant

Tonight, I had a Variant Brewing Moon Cloud. It’s a lighter IPA. Very smooth and nicely balanced. And then the keg floated, and so I switched over to Scofflaw Basement. Much like CC Tropicalia from yesterday, it’s a great fallback option when I find myself confronted by a not so varied tap list. A good beer night after a bad food choice day.

But tomorrow is a new day. And I hope that tennis match can be rescheduled!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Today was just a weird day. It started off slow, just hanging out quietly, our day’s plans hinging on impending weather. Do we have baseball practice? Is there a chance to do some work in the yard?

And then I found out that a mentor and inspiration had been moved to hospice care. I was asked if I wanted to come and visit with her. My message for today is … never say no to that. I accepted the invitation and will always be grateful that I did. I went to visit Sharon, and while she was physically very week, she knew who I was. I took the opportunity to tell her how much she meant to me … how much I’ve learned from her. I shared stories and visited with her daughter. I probably overstayed my welcome, but it just felt right to be there. And then I found out that she passed away peacefully just a  few hours after I left. Had I declined the invitation or given an “I’ll try to get by next week”, I would have missed my opportunity.

What does this have to do with beer? In a weird way, I think they’re very closely related. Life is short … enjoy it. It’s kinda the whole point of this series in February. It’s about enjoying life and life’s moments while we can. I’m glad I said yes to the opportunity. And I’m glad that I choose new beers whenever I can. It’s a tiny way to experience more of what life has to offer.

As trivial as it sounds after all that …

  • Breakfast – nothing. The morning got away from me and I just never ate. Good on calories … not good on health.
  • Lunch – I got home from hospice later in the day, and so I had a PB&J and some chips. Not my worst decision ever.
  • Dinner – we went to Mellow Mushroom. But I was pretty smart. I split a meatball sub with my youngest and had a side salad with it.  A pretty solid day for me.


Pizza I didn’t eat in the background

So, I ordered a Creature Comforts Tropicalia on draft, because nothing else on the menu excited me. It’s a great fallback option, although it doesn’t really push the boundaries either. The funny part is, my beer was delivered, and I didn’t jump right into it immediately. The server came over, before I had any, and asked “Can you check? Is that Tropicalia or is it Bud Light?” Those two are as different as golf and curling. They’re both sports, but that’s where the similarities end.

So, yes, she had mistakenly given me a Bud Light (and I had thought that it looked very clear for a Trop when she first brought it), and I’m glad she warned me. Or yikes, it would have been a very bad shock to the system! A pretty solid little Saturday, albeit a very disjointed one.
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Spoiler alert … today may have been my favorite beer day so far during the #DrinkAndDropChallenge. But you’re not allowed to scroll ahead and … who am I kidding? Go ahead and skip to the end if you want. I mean, this isn’t Russia, is it Danny?

Okay, if you’re still reading and didn’t skip ahead, thank you. Today was another pretty excellent day. New massive and fancy fridge installed in the kitchen, impromptu date with the most beautiful woman in the world, beer at one of my favorite breweries, delicious dinner with the fam, and capped it off with movie night downstairs (we finally got around to watching Bohemian Rhapsody, which is really well done. And makes me want to listen to Queen a lot more.)

  • Breakfast. broken record … more Fiber One bars for me. I know it’s mundane to have the same, small, simple thing every day. But I like them, they are low calorie, and they get me through to lunch. That’s usually all I’m looking for in a breakfast treat.
  • Lunch. We tried a new Mexican joint near the house today. I got the Speedy Gonzales, mostly because I love that Looney Tunes character. But I was also thinking, it’s a smaller meal and is likely less caloric than the #11 I’d usually get. (Does anyone else notice that the #11 is the same at every Mexican joint on the planet? Burrito, enchilada, taco, rice, beans. The other combos may change, but good ole #11 stays the same. Once again, I digress.) The food was fine, the company was F-I-N-E fine. Yeah – I got to each lunch with my wife, which is an other-worldly treat.
  • Dinner. Instant Pot pulled pork, plus a lighter version of cole slaw, and some waffle fries in the AirFryer … it really wasn’t an unhealthy dinner either. The pork and fries were awesome. The cole slaw – not so much. All in all, it was a pretty successful day.

And Now for the Beer

We snuck over to Variant for a few half pints. (Pro tip – they don’t do flights on Fridays … can get to be too hectic with the crowds. But they will give half-pours which serves the same purpose.) I thought three sounded like a reasonable number, but I really could have ordered about a dozen more. SO GOOD. Beers below are listed front-to-back in the picture above.
  • Tangerine Milkshake Street. It’s a Milkshake IPA (not for the lactose-intolerant.) But this one is brewed with tangerines and vanilla. I didn’t get much vanilla out of it, but the tangerines add a freshness that I wasn’t expecting. This is a fantastic beer.
  • Conditional Love. So very imaginative. It starts as a biere de garde. And they aged it in red wine barrels with … peaches. So, you have the traditional feel and taste of a biere de garde, with some added warmth and depth from the red wine, and a sweetness from the peaches. You just have to try it!
  • International Taste Station. It’s an Imperial Stout brewed with maple, vanilla, and coffee. This is … ridiculous.
That’s all for today. I’ll finish with one thought. #DrinkLocal. I’ve said it before – Russ has said it a lot. DRINK LOCAL. There’s just something special about rolling into the local brewery for a pint.
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

It’s projected that the average person will spend $160+ for Valentine’s Day stuff this year. And that totals over $20 billion. That’s way too many Hallmark cards, roses, stuffed animals, and chocolate. Don’t you think everyone on the planet would be happier if we all spent $150 on beer instead? You’re saving money … you have some delicious fun … and you can share with your significant other, creating an everlasting bonding moment. I’m starting the movement today. Let’s all band together and start ValenStein’s Day! Fill your favorite stein with some fabulous brew, and enjoy some time with the one(s) you love.

That’s a long way to say that my bride and I agree ahead of time that we don’t succumb to the pressures of the Hallmark holiday. We had a lovely dinner with the fam (complete with faux candles) it was a great treat.

Today’s Food Rundown

  • Breakfast. I’ll give you one guess
  • Lunch. I made myself a chef salad. Lettuce, carrots, celery, cheese, salami, ham. Lite Italian dressing. Pretty low-cal and it was yummy too.
  • Dinner. This was the fancy family meal. We grilled some filets and added roasted broccoli and AirFryer cooked mushrooms. This meal was awesome. FIlet can be a little calorie heavy, but overall, it was a healthy day. Once again, I had a lot of room left in the ole calorie budget, so I went with another heavy hitter.

The Beer

Is it just me? It’s virtually impossible to grill without a beer in hand. It’s like the doctor checking for reflexes with that weird little hammer. He hits the knee and the foot goes flying. I light the grill, and the beer fridge door opens automatically (or so it seems.)
Last night was no different. I went for a super boozy little number from Hoppin’ Frog called Frogichlaus. Hoppin’ Frog is out of Akron and is one of the better breweries you’ll ever run across. Frogichlaus is a holiday lager, which means it’s going to be smooth and malty, often with slight notes of winter spice – nutmeg, etc.
This one was intense. 12.4% and you could taste every last bit of alcohol. It was boozy, but not over the top … and yes, it was exceptionally smooth and malty. I gave it a 4/5 on Untappd, but it would have been higher with slightly less of that boozy taste. All in all, very good. And super powerful too.
Happy ValenStein’s Day!
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

… however, I was not able to mess around and get a triple-double.

For anyone not picking up on the lyric references, go to the Google machine or ask someone in their 40s. But I gotta say, today was a good day – and in more ways than one. I mentioned a few days ago, that it wasn’t the happiest of days. A lot of figurative rain fell on us; it was just one of those days. But we plundered through and made it to the other side. And then yesterday was the complete foil to Monday. The storms passed, the seas parted, the angels sang, and many more cliches.

And that carried over to my #DrinkAndDropChallenge exploits. I found myself, end of the day and ready for my beer, knowing that I had kinda killed it (in a good way) on calories for the day. As the smile on my face widened, I realized that I had enough room left in the calorie budget to bring out one of the heavy hitters. More on that later. For now, the food …

  • Breakfast … standard fare.
  • Lunch – I pulled a few meatballs out of a leftover sub and also had some salad. (The bread just didn’t seem altogether pleasing – and talk about empty calories …)
  • Dinner – Had kids’ baseball practice until after 8pm, so it was off to fast food. What to do, what to do. Luckily, the monkeys asked for Zaxby’s, because it’s easier for me to avoid the fried awfulness that I love so dearly. Blackened chicken salad with lite dressing.  #Winning

Beer. Glorious Beer.

Today’s beer checked off all the boxes.
Wait … nostalgic? Yes. I’ll explain, but first, the beer in question. Southern Tier has long been lauded on this blog for their creation and mastery of ‘dessert beer.’ Yes, they do many other things and do them well. But this beerlover will tell you that Southern Tier is the king of dessert beer. From their Girl Scout Cookie themed beers (Thick Mint and Samoa Thia) to today’s choice … ohmagoddness.

Southern Tier Creme Brulee Imperial Stout. Weighing in at 10% ABV (and in a 22-ounce bottle), this one ‘cost’ me 400 calories. But those are some fantastic calories! Huge vanilla nose, thick & dark in color, and then the taste. I get hit with tons of vanilla and the sweetness from brown sugar. Yeah – basically take a creme brulee, throw it in a blender and pour it in your favorite imperial stout. I have to think this would KILL over ice cream, but I digress.

Back to nostalgia. A little over 5 years ago, my lovely bride surprised me with  40 days of beer leading up to my 40th birthday. It was the gift that kept giving as 40 different friends either took me out for a beer or delivered beer to the house for the 40 days before my birthday. Rock star level achieved. One of those beers came from one of the finest human beings I have ever known. And one that cancer stole from us way before her time. I don’t usually share names on this blog, but I feel like the world needs to always remember Peggy O’Leary Seigler. Funny, smart, beautiful, hysterically funny … she was the one that added energy and smiles in every room she entered. The great thing about nostalgia is that cancer can’t steal that. I have my memories … and as odd as it sounds, enjoying a Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout always reminds me of Peggy and always will.

Cheers, my friends.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Maybe you’ve heard of or experienced that awkward periodic lull in conversation. You’re in a room of people, engaging with each other and having a great time. And then suddenly …….. nothing. Everyone simultaneously stops. And it gets eerily quiet, very quickly.

That’s basically today’s story. Nothing noteworthy. Nothing super exciting or off-the-wall. The beer was great (see below) but other than that … nada. But I promised you a post every day to monitor progress, and so we press forward!

  • Breakfast – Back to the Fiber One routine.
  • Snack – Two 100-calorie packets of cashews/ almonds. (That’s 200 total calories for the math wizards out there.)
  • Lunch – More leftover zucchini lasagna
  • Dinner – Steak salad from Willy’s. YUM! I left off cheese and dressing, and added veggies all over the place. All in all, a pretty dadgum good calorie day.

And now for the beer:

This just in … Wild Leap in LaGrange is for real. If you’ve been under a rock for the past year and didn’t already know it – they just keep innovating and keep winning. From their Alpha Abstraction series to home runs like this Truck Chaser. Orange Creamsicle IPA. There is such a heavy dose of orange in this one that I quite literally had what looked like orange zest pouring out of the first can. Sweet and smooth, this ain’t your daddy’s pine resin-flavored IPA. Well done, Wild Leap. Well done.
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Why does food make us feel better? And why am I asking this question on my kid’s birthday? Hint – they’re totally unrelated.

So, today was certainly magic because the youngest turned ocho today. But it was also set to be magic for a very different, very middle-aged-man-excitement reason. We bought a new fridge and dishwasher to be delivered and installed today. Yes – this is what life has become. New appliances have me as excited as a kid learning they’re taking their first trip to Disney.  Sigh …

Step 1 – refrigerator guys come to deliver and install. The fridge won’t fit. Cannot get it into the house without tunnelling in from underneath or ripping doors from hinges. We have it hanging out on the porch until we can remove an entire door frame and get it inside.

Step 2 – dishwasher dude rolls in and tells me that our plumbing isn’t in the right place and he won’t be able to install. He described the issue in very precise detail, and I didn’t understand a word that he said. Reminds me of this Brian Regan bit about Monster Trucks …

And so we have a plumber on the way to fix issue two. And a demo crew on the way to fix issue 1. (Shameless plug. If you need any plumbing work done in Atlanta, call Panacea. Seriously – they’re the best on the planet.) All of that brings us to the point of the title … comfort food. I was disappointed that we couldn’t get our new toys installed today. Normally, I would head straight to the pantry for a bucket of Cheesy Poofs as a way to salve the wound. But not today. Inner Me told me to Just Say No. The allure of garbage food seems to intensify when life turns south. It’s in times like these that we should not compound a bad outcome with a bad decision. Then you only feel worse … and then head for more comfort food … the cycle continues.

Today’s Food:

  • Breakfast: Fiber One called me and said that they missed me. I hopped back on the bandwagon.
  • Lunch: Leftover veggie lasagna.  Doing pretty well so far. All in preparation for …
  • Dinner: The birthday kid chose the local Italian joint for dinner. Salad and bread drenched in buckets of butter and garlic. DELICIOUS!! And I tried to avoid the bread. I mean, when you order mussels, and they’re in that delicious broth … a man has limitations.

Today’s Beer

Moretti La Rossa is the choice. Super malty, but not too heavy. It was a nice foil to the hearty and tangy mussels with broth. It worked so well, that I had to have a second one.

Trying to return to some normalcy tomorrow. My smokin’ hot wife is travelling, so I’ll be playing Mr Mom with the kids. These situations sometimes lead to easy/ bad decisions (like eating out at the greasy place.) We’ll see how I do!
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

It’s one of those days when you know you’ll be bad later in the day, but you’re just not sure HOW bad. How do you budget calories for a questionable evening, not knowing how questionable to will get?

I think the answer lies … again … in moderation and limitations. I have to be good at monitoring (and cataloguing) calories throughout the day. Knowing where I stand and what I have left in the budget for the day allows me to make informed decisions. If I look back after the fact and forget about the two cookies I snuck in at lunch, I’ll be over budget. Strict adherence to the calculation is THE ONLY WAY to succeed in this game. At least for me.

My kid is apparently 75% Italian. He had a meatball sub last night; asked for lasagna tonight, while knowing that he requested his favorite Italian joint for tomorrow night … so that we can have lasagna. So, I’m eating lasagna tonight. Ugh. I do like cheese. Lots of it. The gooier the better. I NEED to budget properly.

At least I was able to suck at tennis for a few hours in the middle of the day to get the blood flowing. 🎾

Breakfast – 🚨 NEWS ALERT 🚨 I did NOT have a Fiber One bar this morning. I had a cinnamon roll (as birthday treats continue for lots of days in our house, apparently.) And I avoided the doughnut. Small victories.
Lunch – tennis courts. I don’t eat much when I play. I had two miniature chicken-salad-on-croissants and a turkey-provolone slider. That’s it. Oh yeah … and a few Peronis.
Dinner – lasagna. But I ate the version made with zucchini noodles instead of normal delicious noodles. So, maybe it was less bad for me? I even avoided having any of the Texas toast. Again, small victories. (And FYI, according to Fitbit, I added 1400 calories to my allowance for the day by playing tennis. Not that I think I should use all of those. Just sayin’.)

And now for the beer …

– Yup. Continuing with the Italian theme, our opponents brought Peroni as part of the spread. Since I was so miserably terrible on the courts today, I thought I should take two beers of theirs.
– As my pre-dinner ritual, I had a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. Uhhhh, yes. Delicious
– And with dinner, there’s a chance that I had a giant bottle of a very cool VariantPontoonGate CitySprayberry Bottle Shop collaboration. It’s called the Wolf Pack. Sharing from the official description, this Imperial Sweet Stout was aged in Vanilla Bourbon Barrels for six months on rich chocolate, toasted coconut and Tongan vanilla beans.” Yes. All of the yes on this one. The birthday finally arrives tomorrow. More Italian food for us … and this time with unlimited salad and bread-swimming-in-butter.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington