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Second act

What's next?

When Jimmy Carter, whose presidency was challenging but whose moral compass always guided him, retired from politics, he became a champion for Habitat for Humanity, continuing to build housing for low-income families well into his 90s. His wife, Rosalynn, worked alongside him, wielding a hammer and leading with grace.

When Audrey Hepburn stopped making movies, she shined her light on UNICEF, drawing attention to the world's neediest children as a goodwill ambassador. 

Sometimes, a person's second act has more impact than the first. 

The time has come for my own second act. After years of writing and editing for nonprofit organizations, and then food writing, and now food blogging, I'm moving on. Let me explain why, and why now.

1: A few months ago, I spent a long day in the emergency room of one of our very good Boston hospitals, after fainting on my bathroom floor and again, two minutes later, in the bedroom. I didn't have a heart attack, nor do I have any heart defect, but I do have a heart condition called atrial fibrillation, and now I have my very own cardiologist. I tried reasoning with her, promising that I would do whatever it took to undo this, even if that meant eating cauliflower every day. Alas, she told me, that won't help. 

While I don't feel that my life will end tomorrow, the whole episode made me take a hard look at how much I've been putting aside until "later", or until retirement two years from now. 

2: The election happened. I can't deny that the election affected me deeply, as in hide-under-the-covers deeply. While the result is disturbing to me, what has been more disturbing is the hate and violence that this election season unleashed in our country, and the huge numbers of people made vulnerable, from our Muslim and Jewish neighbors, to immigrants and Dreamers, to women everywhere, to the poor and elderly who depend on a social safety net that is being shredded before our eyes. I've been knitting hats for the march in Washington next month (I'm a much better cook than a knitter), but knitting is not enough.

And so, faced with health issues and a need to act, I have decided to spend this year doing community service, trying to help and support and strengthen and balance the negativity that has risen to the surface in our society. I volunteer a couple of days a week at the International Institute of New England, which resettles and supports refugees and asylees. After I return from Washington, I'll be training to be an ESOL classroom assistant with an organization that works with homeless women who have children. 

My husband Ted and I signed up for Boston Cares, a volunteer clearinghouse for projects ranging from serving meals to stuffing envelopes for nonprofits throughout the Boston area. On Martin Luther King Day (which also happens to be my birthday), we'll be assembling STEM kits for the Boston Public Schools, and a few weeks later, selecting books for prisoners, helping Big Sisters Association with office tasks, and working with youth at More Than Words.

And, on a very local level, I joined the board of Friends of Watson Park, a recently formed nonprofit working to beautify a pocket park that offers a quiet respite in my densely-populated urban neighborhood.

Woody Guthrie used to say "People are hoping machines." I'm going to try to be a hoping machine every day.

Though I will no longer be sharing new recipes, the blog will still be here, so you can always search for your old favorites.

And I have a treat for you.

I've almost finished making a book -- a real, in-print, book -- featuring my favorite recipes from The Perfect Pantry. It's an eclectic selection, as you might expect. I hoped I'd have it finished by now, but it took longer than I expected to choose 80+ recipes from the 2,500 on the blog. It will take me a few more days to finish. I'll post here when the book is ready, and I hope you'll want a copy for your book shelf.

Best new year wishes from The Perfect Pantry, with gratefulness beyond measure for your support and encouragement over the past ten years.  And in the words of the immortal Jed Bartlet, of The West Wing, "What's next?"



For readers who would like to learn about my second act, I've posted updates about building my volunteering life on my blog Lydia Likes It. You can click over there to read more.

Click here to check it out: Lydia Likes It.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Mazeltov, Lydia!! May you find fulfillment in this exciting new journey. In these disturbing times, nothing is more important than the path you've chosen forward, and I wish you and Ted the best. Have a happy and healthy new year. Many thanks for sharing your kitchen (and life) adventures with all of us.

I knew this was coming, but actually reading it makes me both sad and happy. On a purely selfish note, I am sad that you won't still be doing the day-to-day stuff of blogging with me any more, as we have done as friends oh so many years now. But for you (and the good I know you will do) I feel nothing but happiness. And I know we will still be friends for many more years and look forward to seeing you soon in D.C. Much love!

Best for your next chapter in life and for dedicating more time to helping others. On to 2017!

I wish you the best Lydia. I always admire and respect second acts, yours will be meaningful & impactful. Here's to a healthy new year!!!

I am in the same position as you so your post really touched me. I have been looking at what is next being a spiritual counselor for years health issues have come up and I decided to just be me-ok in younger years I knew who I was and that my life made sense now trying to find a new place in service hasn't been that easy but I need to be of service, I am going to be 69 on January 12 and single I use your posts as inspiration to encourage me to eat, and make food for one isn't easy some times I need to see an idea to adopt one that will work for me, Congrats on the second half it was God's way of messaging me so today you get to be my earth angel. I grew up hungry not just for the food we didn't have but the love so I know that I will be led to the next part of my life, I am touched and I will buy your cook book hot off of the press, I know that you are being led and I too look forward to my second or next adventure life has to offer.

Lydia, I am so surprised, and not sure if happy or sad. I guess both. It is very hard to learn you won't be blogging, but then, I totally "hear you" on the election and the impact it has on you. It is the same for me, I am constantly feeling a sense of devastation and depression, and shock and disgust with my fellow human beings.

so I wish you all the best in your new phase. Take care of your health, take care of the environment around you, and I hope we can keep in touch... somehow

Lorna, thank you so much. The beautiful pan you sent me sits on my shelf, and whenever I make a cake, I use it and think of you.

Kalyn, we will still talk about blogging! And our friendship, which never would have happened without this blog, is one of the greatest gifts I've received.

David, merci beaucoup.

Aggie, I wish the same for you and your family.

Janice, it seems you are open to a message from the universe, as was I, and events just pushed me in a direction I'd already been wanting to go. I hope you will find your next path in 2017.

Sally, obrigada! I'm not going away, just leaving the blog for a different way of being in this unsettled world. Please keep in touch.

Best wishes for all health and happiness! Please stay in touch. Dave and I, too, have committed to a good dose of volunteer work over this last year and for 2017; it's a good way to go. It's also a great way to become closer to those in your community, meet new people, and just plain old feel like you're making a difference--such an important thing in life. Take care of yourself and I hope you'll be in touch on Facebook. I'll look forward to your book--congrats!!!

Alyce, big thanks. I've always volunteered, but in my spare time, not in my main time. I feel that this is right for me at this moment, and I hope we stay in touch.

As my Mother would say, "Good for You!" And all those old timey sayings, The Power of Conviction, More Power to You, and best of all "God Be With You".

What a wonderful second act! Much love and admiration and many well wishes to you!

I can appreciate where you're coming from and cheer you on! I'm looking at what I will do in 2017 and beyond with the time I now have available since retiring. The community I live in needs all the help they can get as does this country and the world. We can make things better.

Lydia, Best of luck with all these new adventures! Enjoy what you do and enjoy life...service will always make a person happier for doing good for others.
Pam WILLEY (Kalyn's sister)

Oh, no! Oh, yes!
First, Oh, no!: To learn of your health issues, and the decisions you've made as a result. (I feel both sad and glad.)
Second, Oh, yes!:The election and it's awful affect which mirrors my own experience.
Third: You'll make the 'air feel good' with the work you'll do. That's important in every respect.
I wish you well, Lydia.
Happy New Year.

Mary Jane, thanks for all!

Elisa, without BlogHer, the blogging life would not have been possible. We all owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

Laurie, we absolutely can make things better, each working in our own way. I'm following my heart, as we each must do.

Pam, this feels completely right to me! And I'll always be grateful to Kalyn for bringing the Denny family into my life.

Mary-Rose, I'm fine, and feeling that this is the time when I need to do something to put some part of the world on a more compassionate course. Thanks for your ongoing support.

Brave, Lydia! Your second act is perfect in so many ways and I applaud your choices. I wish you good health and many blessings as you go forward into this new adventure.

I am so sorry not to see new posts. I hope you will keep your blog up. I hope your second act is fulfilling and rewarding for you. I know this wasn't an easy choice to make. Best wishes my friend.

Congratulations Lydia! I always view moving on, and the related changes, as opportunities. Clearly, the time is right for you to take on new challenges and reap new rewards. I want to thank you publicly for the support an counsel you gave me as I embarked on my own new journey. That spirit will certainly be welcomed by everyone you touch in your new adventures. I'm excited to hear you are compiling a print book of your favorite recipes. It will surely be a worthy representation of your work.

Christine, I don't always listen when the universe sends me messages, but this time, I am listening. Thanks so much.

Stephanie, without blogging, we would never have met, and how sad that would be!

Donna, how far we have come! I value your help and counsel, too, and the ways you pushed me to look more creatively at my blogging life. Now, on to the second act!

I'm thrilled for you, Lydia! Please don't stop blogging, though. Start a new blog - or just morph this one - into a blog that documents your experiences. I know so many people would like to follow along and no doubt would be inspired to make their own contributions.

Beautiful, my friend. xoxo

Renee, I just might do that. Not here on this blog, but some day, on another blog.... I'll ponder.

Jane, xoxoxo to you.

Sounds so good. You will be enriched so much by the people you are working for and they will be blessed. Hugs

This is such a wonderful and inspiring direction! Love to you xo

Bev, thanks so much. You are always an inspiration to me.

Jen, without BlogHer, none of this would have been possible. I cannot thank you enough for always being there for me. xoxo

So, I have thought of you as a community servant for years -- this seems like an absolutely natural evolution, and such a great way for you to share your gentle and kind heart with people who need everything you have available to offer.

I'm so glad the blog will still be here, and I can't wait to see the book (you KNOW I'll be a purchaser), and I'm wishing you and Ted all the best as you embark together on this next chapter. You guys are some of my favorite people, and just knowing you're both out there makes me smile.

Here's to this next adventure, and to this wonderful year of self-care and care for others! Sending lots of love from Oakland.

When I met you and Jennifer and started reading your blog posts and using your recipes, communicating one-on-one from time to time, I felt as though I met a new friend. Your recipes are tried and true and unfailingly good (Just this Friday I made your Herb Marinated Grilled Chicken for a dinner party; it is undoubtedly the best chicken I ever ate.

Will I miss your posts and creations? Sure. Of course. But second acts are important, and as I approach the last couple of years before retiring I understand even more fully the need for change.

I look forward to the hard cover book (I have all the electronic ones) and wish you the best as you change direction.

With deep affection,
~Connie Ciampanelli

Genie, you are so sweet. Next time we are in Oakland, let's have a play date. It's been far too long since we've seen you. xoxo

Connie, our Rhode Island connection remains strong, and meeting you at our book signing years ago was a high point of my years there. Let's keep in touch.

Congratulations on your new beginning, Lydia! You and your actions will directly make the world a better place, and you can't get any better than that! Thank you so much for the work you will be doing! I will be at the march and despite the thousands who will be participating with us, I sure hope to see you there.

All the best,

Dear Lydia- You are such an inspiration! For years, I have enjoyed your warm writing and wonderful recipes, and I thank you for it. Best of luck in your year of meaningful action. People like you fill me with hope and gratitude.

Shirley, thanks so much. I'm excited to be joining the march!

Nupur, I've missed your gentle voice. I learn so much about Indian cooking from your recipes.

You'll be missed in the food blogging world for sure, but what you're off to do sounds marvelous, purposeful and powerful. Bravo to you for following your heart! Literally! Best of absolutely everything to you!

Good for you, Lydia! Every day's a gift.....and you're giving, and giving and giving. You've been an inspiration to me for years, and I love that you're following your heart!

I've been searching for something to do to contribute to the world... It's a bit harder living where we do but I'll find something. Congratulations to you for having found a new purpose and best of wishes for the coming year.

I love the idea of a second act and I especially love yours. Best of luck!

Rand, perhaps it's your example of following your heart that has led the way for me.

Toni, this feels like the completely right time, and right path, for me. Thanks for your kind words.

Katie, a lesson I learned a long time ago is that you can't always make the whole world better, but you can make someone's world better for a day. That's where to start.

Barbara, thanks! And for teaching me about pressure cooking, I'm so grateful to your blog.

FABULOUS. And do find a way to keep us all posted. I am sure there will a number who will want to follow in your footsteps! Onward ho!

Pantries, food, and recipes have always been about careful planning, creativity and joy, and you, my friend, are creating a glorious second act that will feed so many people and give them joy! I wish you joy and blessings, knowing how much what you do will mean to others.

Lydia, this is wonderful news!

Healing your heart and psyche by reaching outside yourself to help others is such a fine "next chapter" for you. Having a special partner like Ted - someone who is on your same wavelength - makes it an even more satisfying plan.

Most people never figure out their life's purpose. Congratulations and love to you! ❤

Christine, I really need to think about how to do that. I'm grateful to all of my friends for being supportive and understanding.

TW, you are another gift food blogging has brought into my life. I am so lucky to have met you.

Ann, is it possible that, at this stage of life, we're finally figuring out where we are meant to be? I feel that so much has come into focus in the past few months. Not the path I expected to walk at this time, but I'm sure it is the right one.

Lydia, you make me proud to know you. Instead of sitting idly by, you are taking action; for you, for all of us. Thank you. Good luck on this first chapter of your second act. I'm sure you will do great things.

Best of health to you! Thank you for your courage. I'm grateful for your example, and pray blessings over your year.

Jocelyn, thank you so much. I hope your mom is smiling down on both of us.

Jennifer, so sweet! Thank goodness for Drop In & Decorate, that brought you into my life.

All the best to you and thanks for all the good you'll be doing. Can't wait for the book.

Congratulations!! So happy you're following your heart and going after what makes you really happy. You were meant for this and I personally know what it feels to be helped by you, so you're about to make a lot of people happy. Love and light every day!

Katrina, thanks so much.

Julie, you are following your heart, too, and I predict good things for both of us in 2017. xo

I've never admired anyone as mch as I admire you right now, Lydia. Good for you!


Matt and I are in your cheering section and so happy that you have made this choice to go where your heart is telling you to go ! I can't wait to hear about the (many) new acts that you and Ted are exploring! xxxxxx Mary


What a perfect second act for you. I'm happy to hear that you are able to control your "condition" with medication (that must have been so frightening) and that you're moving on to new ventures. I hope you find a way to keep us up to date on your activities, if only via postings on FaceBook.

Best to you!


Mimi, merci beaucoup. You are so kind to say that. I miss your sumptuous blog from the early days.

Mary, I think you know how much your ongoing support means to me. xoxo

Pat, I will miss cooking together but let's try to do that from time to time.

Lydia, sorry it took a-fib to nudge you to this big step but congratulations! As always, you are an inspiration in so many ways. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate everything you do! Much love to you, Ted, Maggie and Gyllen!

Lucia, both the AFib and the election nudged me in a direction I might have been headed anyway, now on an accelerated timetable. Gyllen misses you, and Maggie is, well, Maggie! xoxo

I am so excited for your second act and look forward to our lunch next week to compare notes on our 2017 activities! ;)

Janice, thank you! So much to share over lunch next week.

Thoughtful, caring, good-hearted... this is the way I have come to know you from years of blogging and some appreciated personal contact.
"Open your heart, and let the river of love flow through," a song my women's chorus sang, and you have, I have seen, done that for years. Cookies, little library and more, so this move will give you a greater canvas to share your love.
(For some reason, this post only arrived this morning. Others have said so much that I could have said. It is good to see how appreciated you are.)
I am already in the habit to searching the blog(s) for more oldies to make, so that part of you that is in cyberspace will still keep me going, along with your ebooks and the anticipated print book.
Lydia, you are an inspiration!

Dear Lydia,

I will miss your blog, but I will continue to refer to it frequently. I celebrate your decision, in light of this uncertain and frightening political climate (plus your scary "new normal" in terms of health). We have benefited from your clear thinking, creativity, and true heart for many years - lucky are the people you are stepping up to support.

I am about to start knitting pink hats too, in preparation for the march in Philadelphia. Are you happy with the pattern you are using? (My first step is to look for the right pattern! If you're interested, a friend of mine developed a pattern that is done on circular needles using only the knit stitch - no purling.)

I can't wait for your cookbook!

All my best, Lydia!

Susan, would our paths have crossed without the blog? Possibly, but life would have been measurably less rich if they had not. I'm grateful for your support over all these years, and I'll always remember fondly how you managed to make my grandmother's brisket recipe without meat!

Judy, again, I can only thank the blog for bringing you into my universe. And I'm knitting my pink hats on circular needles, too, though with ribbing at the bottom.

Congratulations, Lydia, on your 2nd act! Somehow, several years ago, I stumbled across your blog and added your RSS feed to my homepage. I loved your recipes and the short essays that accompanied them.

I took early retirement 6 years ago. I volunteer, take classes and tithe. Since the election, I decided to support civil rights organizations for the next 4 years: the ACLU, Planned Parenthood& the Southern Poverty Law Center. I am marching January 21.

Take care!

Natasha, will you be marching in Washington? I will be there. I support those same organizations; it feels more important now than ever. Thanks for following my blog over the years.

Dearest Lydia, I read your news some days ago and appreciate the gracious departure ... or forward move. We sure did have some fun though, didn’t we?! All the best as you strive to make your worlds better places. And may God long bless that warm heart of yours ...

Alanna, another person who came into my life through blogging! The good old days really were good, weren't they? For the many times we talked about exit strategies, I never could have predicted this would be mine. xo

I have been reading your blog and cooking from it for several years. I just wanted you to know that I appreciate and enjoy your recipes and writing. Thank you for what you have done with the blog, but much more than that, thank you for your volunteering!

Erin, thanks. I'm posting about my volunteering life from time to time on www.lydialikesit.com. Check it out!

Lydia, I so admire you and your resolve, and always have.

You've taught me two very important life lessons: don't give a fuck what anyone thinks, and always choose love over fear.

So for those two pieces of wisdom alone, I am so glad that you created this space online and that it connected us.

I think of Drop In and Decorate often (and how much I wanted to get you into Family Circle magazine!), and look forward to following your adventures in community service as I figure out my own leading an auxiliary board for a local org that helps at risk teens.

First and foremost, take care of yourself and your health. xox

Maris, thanks so much. Blogging brought us together, and I'll always be grateful for that. And I'm so proud of the woman you have become in the many years we've known each other. Next time I'm in Chicago, or you're in Boston, let's find a great cup of coffee together. xo

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