Relationships

The Crazy Thing We Did at My 40th Birthday Party

YOU GUYS IT’S HAPPENING!!!!!! Today, my twin sister, Lucy, and I turn forty. It feels so nuts to say that. (I keep thinking about what my childhood self would think!) Anyway, this past weekend, I had a party at home, and the weirdest thing went down…

The party started at 6:30 p.m., so the boys were still awake. They tried their hardest to sneak upstairs to join!

And it worked ;)

We’ve never hired a caterer before, but for this milestone, I really wanted to soak it all up and be present with my friends, so we decided to go for it. My food-writer friend recommended the wonderful Ana Ortiz, a former restaurant pastry chef. Here, she was preparing a winter salad with fennel and citrus, and she made everything feel so effortless.

Toby made the placecards!

This year, the guests were all women. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt such a strong kinship with women and wanted to be surrounded by that magical energy of book-loving, joke-telling, lipstick-wearing ladies.

(A selfie with the soup group!)

For dinner, we had delicious roast chicken, creamy mashed potatoes and “schmaltzy onions.” Sometimes the best meals are the simplest, don’t you think?

Alex had planned to go to a friend’s house while we had our ladies’ dinner. “I’m not here,” he said to the first few people who arrived, as he gathered his shoes and jacket. “I’m a ghost.” Fifteen minutes later, he was mixing everyone martinis — and of course he stayed all night. I was so glad he did! Here he is, giving a toast, which was extra sweet because he hates public speaking.

Some friends — including Gemma! — also gave toasts and brought down the house.

But the craziest part of the night was seeing mentalist Ryan Oakes. YOU GUYS IT WAS BANANAS.

Look at the expressions! It was MINDBLOWING. We were trying to reverse-engineer his tricks, but we couldn’t. He guessed people’s phone numbers, figured out words they were thinking, and made a shot of tequila come out of nowhere.

At first, we were SUCH moms. I kept thinking, ‘I’m so nervous for him! I’ll clap no matter what!’ My friend Alex said, “I was rooting so hard for him, imagining him as a seven-year-old working on his tricks.” But when he killed at every single one, our amazement took over. “More like sleight of hand-SOME,” joked my friend Lucy. “Should I quit my job and be a mentalist?!”

Finally, we had flourless chocolate cake, and as I blew out the candles, I teared up, feeling so lucky to be in a world with such amazing women — these friends and neighbors, this Cup of Jo community, and the people out there who are raising kind children, sharing their light, and doing such good work in the world.

Thank you so much for reading. xoxo

P.S. Two birthday realizations, and a foolproof present for $1.

(Photos by the lovely Julia Robbs for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Stacey-Lynn Mulligan says...

    Happy belated birthday! I’m happy to share that turning 40 starts a whole new era of being strong and awesome. For my 40th birthday party (a few years ago…) I rented a huge inflatable movie screen, covered the yard in lawn/beach chairs, invited all the great women in my life, watched my favorite movie (Moonstruck) ate delicious food and had an ice cream sundae bar for dessert. As I get older, I realize that the female friendships I have are what sustain and inspire me. These friendships are a beautiful love story of their own.

  2. Libertad Vera says...

    happy happy (belated) birthday, it seem you all had a great time! What a wonderful idea a ladies only party.

  3. plch says...

    Happy belated birthday to you and your sister!
    I write to add that you and your sister as children looked very much like Toby and Anton!

  4. Erin says...

    Hi Joanne! Your post has inspired me to host my own fortieth coming this fall! I’ve been putting it off with a lot of pain associated with the number as I have yet to find ‘Mr. Right” and desperately want to have children. I know many options are still available to me but this number seems very much like a marker not in my favour. Although, much like you, I am surrounded my a formidable group of women and your post prompted me to celebrate what I have, rather than what I want. Thank you for prompting this very significant shift to my thinking! And of course, most importantly, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  5. JSR says...

    are you still friends with the gal who wrote the blog about living in NYC. ugh i can’t remember her name but I loved that blog.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes! Sharon! She came to my birthday party and slept over afterward, I adore her :)

  6. Gi says...

    Happt bday Jo! Its a joy keeping up with your blog :)

  7. jade lees says...

    Where oh where are those fantastic wooden candlesticks from?

  8. Happy Happy belated Birthday Joanna. You are an inspiration. Cheers to another 40 years of your magic! xxx

  9. Kirsten says...

    This is so wonderful and bizarre….because my 40th was January 21st and my husband threw a surprise birthday party for me that only included all of my girlfriends. He was supposed to leave, and stayed and it was the most wonderful evening. And he’s a journalist that hates public speaking haha.

  10. Happy birthday, sweet Joanna, and thank you for all your work, i absolutely love reading you ***

  11. YUMI says...

    Happy Birthday Joanna! Thank you for being you and bringing such positivity to this world through your blog. I hope to one day be more like you. :)

  12. Kerry says...

    Adding my happy birthday wishes and heartfelt thanks for building this community! <3

  13. Brooke says...

    Thank you Jo for the light you bring to this world. I have been reading your blog for years and it is everything. Happy Birthday to you!… And thank you for creating a space for curiosity and dialogue. xo

  14. Anonymous says...

    Happy birthday!! Been reading Cup of Jo for more years than I can count and love the community you’ve built. So lovely to hear you had a wonderful night to celebrate yourself!

  15. Hope says...

    Awww, Happiest of Birthdays, Joanna! This post had me tearing up for you.
    I’m so happy you had such a love-filled celebration. Thank you for creating this beautiful corner of the internet. I applaud your courage, creativity and the way you love your family! Wishing you all the best, happiest, juiciest things for year 40, lovely!

  16. Melissa says...

    Can you please tell where your beautiful friend with the black chunky frames got her glasses?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I’ll ask!

  17. Ana says...

    So lovely. Happy Birthday! I love the part about Alex staying and you guys fearing for the mentalist before he wowed you.

  18. David says...

    Happy birthday from a guy / dad in London who has read CoJ for many years! Looks like a wonderful party

  19. Laken Been says...

    Happy belated birthday!
    I so admire your love for and camaraderie with other women. It is so inspiring! I also love your friendship with Gemma – I have followed your friendship the way others follow hollywood romances. So sweet!

  20. Angela says...

    I have been reading your blog for YEARS. I am currently in the thick of the newborn stage with my first baby boy so I don’t get to “catch up with you” as much as I would like. However, whenever I decide to give myself just 30 minutes of “me” time, I fire up your blog for pure self-indulgence. Happy Late Birthday! You will never know how many of your posts have truly impacted my life. I am hoping your next trip around the sun is as wonderful as you are!

  21. Isabelle says...

    Happy belated birthday Joanna! What a fun looking party.

  22. Kristian Olson says...

    Happy Birthday!

  23. Maria says...

    Belated happy birthday Joanna, all the way from Italy! xxx

  24. Lindsay says...

    Happy, happy birthday, Joanna and Lucy! You both bring so much light into the world and I’m so grateful! May the year ahead bring much happiness and love!

  25. Veronica says...

    Happy birthday dear lady!
    Your work has bettered my life, no doubt, and I’m so grateful,you are alive and who you are, and that your voice has reached me on the other side of the country. You are lovely, and deserve the best in life.

  26. Maywyn says...

    Happy Birthday!

  27. Jovita says...

    I’m late with this but happy birthday, Joanna and Lucy! Wishing you all the best for the next forty years!

  28. Heidi says...

    Happy Birthday to you both! Thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself and your insights throughout the years. Cup of Jo has always been one of my favorite spots to pay a visit— :)

  29. My 40th was a few years ago and I had an almost identical party! Ladies only (aside from my husband and brother), catered by my favorite Mexican restaurant, my daughter just upstairs and lots of great conversations. Should have thought of hiring entertainment! Happy 40th! Yours is the only blog I’ve read since the beginning and it just keeps getting better ❤️

  30. Emily says...

    Happy birthday to you both. How lovely to have each other to share your milestones.

  31. Belated Happy Birthday Joanna and Lucy! Much love and light to both of you for the decades to come!

  32. Gina Dwyer says...

    I think it might have been MY sister that got me into following your blog, and now I never miss it! Love the Happy Weekend posts, especially :) Happy 40th to you, Joanna!! BTW, does Anton ever look like your sister in that first pic! And that last pic of you? Love!

  33. I have never commented here before, but wanted to say thank you for fostering such a kind, thoughtful community here. It’s kept me company through really difficult days of work and has always been a fountain of creativity, inspiration and, again, kindness to dip into when I needed it. I hope you and Lucy had wonderful birthdays and wish you a gentle year ahead.

  34. hita says...

    Happy Birthday, Joanna and Lucy!! It’s hard to believe how long I have ‘known’ you. Thanks for the reminder that we should always stop to celebrate the important milestones of our lives.

  35. Anna says...

    Your blog was the first one I ever read. It‘s almost 7 years ago and I still love it best.❤️
    You seem like a incredible warm, giving and delightful person and I congratulate you from my heart to your 40th birthday. From now on it even gets better every year. I am 41 and so far I am loving my forties. Cheers from Germany.

  36. Christa says...

    Happy 40th Birthday! I adore your blog!!

  37. Karen says...

    This might be my first comment! But have read you since you and Alex got married.A very happy birthday to you and your sister,keep writing,love your posts!

  38. Emma Clifton says...

    You’re such a beauty and this looks like a wonderful party. Also I interviewed Lucy a couple of years ago for Paul’s book, for a magazine in NZ, and she was such a delight, it’s been wonderful keeping up with her via your site since. Thank you both for putting such beautiful work into the world and HAPPY BIRTHDAY ❤️

  39. Shannon says...

    I’m tearing up at your milestone! Congratulations, Jo!! Here’s to raising a glass to you and to the people who love you… there are so many of us!!!!.
    And remember…the best is yet to come….

  40. Stefa says...

    Happy Birthday Joanna and Lucy, thanks for sharing your celebration ❤️

  41. Katie H says...

    Sounds like a dream!

  42. Trish says...

    Happy birthday, Joanna and Lucy! Welcome to your 40s…it’s a great place to be. :-)

  43. Lisa T says...

    Happy birthday! As a 48 year old, I welcome you to your 40s! It is a wonderful time and your party looked fantastic!

  44. Linda Z says...

    Looks like such a special evening!! Happy Birthday and welcome to a new decade!

  45. N Rogers says...

    OMG, I never noticed it before, but Anton looks just like you and your sister as youngsters!

  46. Happy Birthday Joanna! Such a lovely post- it looks like the perfect evening.

  47. Happy birthday Joanna! Thanks for being here for me (online) from 17 to 24 and on into the future. ❤ I hope this year is full of wonder and blessings for you.

  48. The fact that I can immediately tell the difference between you and your twin sister makes me realize I’ve been following for a very long time ha. I have identical twin cousins that I still mix up! Happy happy birthday to two dear women who have inspired so much of my life xo.

  49. Rue says...

    Ugh, Alex with the MVP status. Close second is Anton with the killer outfit!

    I’ve been single and dating for a while now. (It feels like forever, but I understand that “years” = a short amount of time, all told.) I’ve been dating my boyfriend for six months now, and with him I feel a lot of things I’ve hoped for for a long time. I could totally imagine my dude doing EXACTLY that Alex move, there. “Oh I’m heading out. As soon as I help with this one thing. And this other thing.” It makes me feel really hopeful.

    I appreciate seeing glimpses of your world, because in my life I have few women role models. I’m in a male-dominated career, living in a small conservative city with strong cultural expectations about what women “should” have/do/be by X or Y point in time. It’s soothing to see that the world can be like what I envision for myself, or even what I can’t articulate I want. I understand your life is real, and full of a wide variety of emotions and challenges. I love that the women in this online space are part of a big team, and having that team is important to me.

    • Chloe says...

      This is really lovely. Thanks for sharing, Rue.

  50. Meg says...

    Happiest Belated Birthday to you and to Lucy, too.
    Thank you for sharing these cool party tips and so many other life tips through you blog. Like others have said, I very much appreciate the community you have created. I come hear daily for a lift, a smile, or a lesson.

  51. Happy Birthday!! This sounds like SUCH a fun evening. I totally know what you mean about feeling like a mom when you’re watching magicians, especially up close! Last year, one of the Resident Artists at the small hotel I run was a magician working on a journalistic memoir about modern day magic. When he came by our Front Desk/Bar to chat and show me a trick or two my heart was POUNDING. I was so nervous for him! And then SO. FREAKING. WOWED. To this day I still have no idea how we got me to pull ‘my card’ out of a fully wrapped Hershey’s Bar that had been inside a mason jar on the bar behind me the entire time we’d been talking. (?!) Since you’re a book lover and perhaps now a magic lover too, I have to recommend his book that’s coming out later this month with Dey Street Books: His name is Ian Frisch and the book is titled “MAGIC IS DEAD: My Journey Into the World’s Most Secretive Society of Magicians”.

  52. Crystal says...

    That mentalist sounds amazing and I would love to have him at my 40th birthday! Was he super expensive?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i called a TON of people, and he was the best mix of not-psycho-expensive rates + super super talented. i think the price also depends on the time of year, type of party, type of performance, etc. you should reach out! i’d highly recommend him xoxoxo

  53. Happy, happy birthday to you and Lucy! I’ve always treasured female friendships so much and I adore that you were able to enjoy some girl time along with your sweet husband and kids. Can I replicate this exact party when I turn 40?! Thanks for creating such an open, kind online space for all of us!

  54. Summer says...

    Oh my goodness, happy birthday, Joanna and Lucy! And celebrations to your momma too – I’m sure it was a big day for her as well. :)

    This looks like what I have planned for my 40th. I was planning it all aloud to my husband so he’s aware and he’s like….”This is for 40? Not 36, which is your next birthday?” That is correct. I think 40 is a big deal, especially to women.

    Anyway, I’ve been reading you since your (and my) 20’s! It all goes by so fast. Thank you for everything you do!

  55. Dana says...

    Happy birthday, Joanna! I’ve been reading for years and feel like I know you! Beautiful as ever and thank you for creating this wonderful space and community.

  56. Catherine P Horvath says...

    Hope all your birthday “days” were special. P.S. In the pic, if you are the blonde on the right, Anton is the spitting image of you!

  57. Kristina says...

    Happy birthday to you and Lucy!! What a special day, and what an awesome way to celebrate! Clearly from the comments, we are all so grateful for you and the strong, welcoming community you and your team have created. Thank you for everything you do!!

  58. MB says...

    Happy birthday! Thank you for creating such thoughtful content and such a special community xo

  59. JennniferfromAustin says...

    What a lovely post. Happy birthday, Joanna! Welcome to the 40’s!! Your life’s work makes a difference in my life, and the the lives of my friends.

    • Jen says...

      Hear, hear, and seconded by a Jennifer from Seattle. I am about to exit my 40s this month, and the way you celebrated 40 is very inspirational as I plan my 50th.

      Happy birthday to both you and your sister!

  60. Happy happy birthday, Joanna (and Lucy!) Thanks for sharing your special night with everyone. Hope this decade is the best one yet!

  61. Silvina says...

    Happy birthday Joanna and Lucy!

  62. Happy Birthday to you and Lucy! You have made the world a better place,thank you for that. Much Love

  63. Jody says...

    Beautiful, Joanna! Many happy returns.

  64. Nigerian Girl says...

    Happy Birthday, Joanna. I wish you all that you wish yourself…and lots more. Thank you for creating this safe space and for sharing your wonderful life with us. Warmest birthday wishes to your twin Lucy too.

  65. Mags says...

    Happy birthday! I don’t know what you meant as the crazy-cool thing that happened for your birthday party (it all sounds awesome) but for me the crazy part sounds like only inviting women. This is something I could never imagine doing but I love it SO much. I really wish I had more women friends (I barely have any except the ones from college I see every couple of years) and it is such a special relationship. You are amazing (from what I see through the internet) and deserve these awesome female relationships.

  66. Cláudia says...

    Happy birthday and thank you so much for your blog! :)

  67. jennifer carvalho says...

    very very happy birthday. what a beautiful idea!

  68. Happy Birthday! This looks like such a fun party. I am turning 40 myself in March and have been trying to figure out what to do to celebrate this milestone. I’m not one for parties so I had been trying to figure out a trip or something but now it seems, we’ll be at the happiest place on earth, due to my son being in a state competition for Future Business Leaders of America. I’m totally ok with that. :)

  69. Kimberley says...

    Happy Birthday Joanna!
    Love this space so much, please do go anywhere cuz I haven’t had babies yet and I just need all this to be right here for when I do, k. thx. bye x

  70. Happy Birthday Jo!! Sounds like a magical night to celebrate an amazing woman!

  71. SJ says...

    Happy Birthday Joanna! I found your blog when I first moved to NYC in 2012 and have been following everyday since! I love this space you’ve created. It’s so authentic and inspiring. I come here and laugh and cry and feel motivated. Thank you!!! And enjoy your special day!

  72. Happy birthday! What a wonderful way to do it. How did Lucy celebrate? How DO you feel about turning forty?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Lucy, always so outdoorsy, went glamping with friends! They went swimming in a cold river and then drank wine in a hot tub. She said it was wonderful! :)

    • Summer says...

      Oh, this makes me happy to hear that Lucy had a wonderful celebration, too!

  73. Laura C. says...

    Always late because of the time zone (you’re six hours behind me), HAPPY BIRTHDAY Joanna! I turned 41 in early January and last year I felt the same too about being 40. Tbh, I hoped that this year you and Lucy could have celebrated together.
    I send you a big, big hug!

  74. Niamh NicGhabhann says...

    Happy birthday to the formidable, talented, force-for-good-in-the-world Joanna Goddard!

  75. P says...

    Happy birthday, Joanna! I’ve been reading your blog for as long as I can remember (I’m 26 now) and honestly believe I’m a better writer, thinker, friend, and overall person in the world because of this warm, inclusive lil corner of the internet. I have your career advice post on speed dial in my browser so I can reread it whenever I feel stuck. It never fails to make me feel better. Thank you for everything you do. ❤️ I hope your 40th year is your best yet. Xoxo

  76. G says...

    Joining everyone here to wish you so much joy & love.

  77. Happy birthday! I read you for years now but don’t usually write. You made my weeks (specially Fridays) and love your writing! Keep on!

  78. Jen says...

    Happy 40th birthday Joanna! I turned 40 a few years ago and have been reading cup of jo since around the time you married Alex. Your milestones – marriage, first child, then second, all came just before mine but I got to 40 first. I had to win at something! You have brought so much light into my life with your sharing of yours. How you curate your taste suggestions from tv to novels to fashion has kept me vaguely with it despite how busy life gets w work and kids (and moving and renos and and). Your description of tearing up before blowing out the candles made me tear up too. Seriously, thank you for the beauty of what you create here. It means a lot to me. Xo

  79. Nahal says...

    Happy Birthday Joanna and Lucy! Joanna, we’re very lucky to have you share all these treasures on your blog, thank you for being here. Wishing you every happiness. ❤️

  80. Kelsey says...

    Happy happy birthday, Joanna! All the way from Abu Dhabi :)

  81. Happy birthday. Thank you so much for wearing your heart on your sleeve and continually practicing courage and vulnerability so that we can all be here on this blog with you. I literally come every. day. It’s the only blog that’s true for. You offer something so special to this world. Thank you.

  82. Lena says...

    Happy birthday to the person that brings so much joy and light to the lives of women near and far. :) You are an absolute treasure, Joanna!

  83. Sanda Fuchs says...

    Happy birthday dear Johanna! Love your blog and am following you since 2007?8? I don’t remember exactly. I just remember that the kids were younger we had one computer for the whole family and were having turns. I am 10 years older than you, but always could find something interesting and inspiring. Love your work! Thank you!

  84. Noor says...

    Happy birthday Joanna & Lucy! I had my fortieth a couple of months ago and it was the first time I celebrated for such a long time. Finally after 10 years I am making true friends again after switching boyfriends, leaving a life behind, living in a new city, becoming a mom times 3. Friendship is so special, so lucky to have it if you do. Glad you celebrated, enjoy your first day of your 41st year of life ;)

  85. Sonja says...

    Happiest 40th birthday! Only the lucky get older and the wise do it with grace and generosity of spirit. Thank you for being a light on dark days, joy on most others, and glitter on an otherwise very regular Tuesday.

  86. Hannah says...

    i’m so happy reading this post and seeing your house full of friends and love for you. happy happy birthday!!

  87. Lindsey says...

    Happy Birthday, Jo! I am right behind you in turning 40…my 40th is in April. I have to say, I am excited for the next decade. My thirties were full of the chaos of getting married and having babies. However, they also brought my being diagnosed with a chronic illness, and my mom getting sick (she is doing better now, thankfully)…wonderful life events happened as well as some tough ones. So, I hope my 40’s bring moments of calm to settle in and enjoy the life that I have created.

    Your blog is truly one of my slices of joy each day and for that, I thank you!

    Xox

  88. Raleigh says...

    Happy happy birthday, Joanna! Thank you for inviting us into your life a few short years ago, and for letting us stick around to watch your beautiful family grow. Big hugs and prayers for a sweet new year!

    Also, HBD, Lucy! I feel like I should know you both… Another Michigan -> Cali transplant… we must be friends, right?!

    xoxo

  89. inbal says...

    happy birthday joanna! you bring so much joy, honesty and greatness to the world!

  90. Lily says...

    Happy birthday! Thank you for this blog, which I look forward to reading every day.

  91. Danielle says...

    Happy Birthday!

  92. Alex says...

    Happy birthday – today is mine as well. We’re bday twins! (Triplets including your sister?). I celebrated by snuggling with my brand new 1-week-old son and having affogato for dessert with my husband. Perfect.

  93. Bina says...

    Happy birthday Joanna. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t mention your blog posts to a co-worker or my husband or a friend. I echo the sentiments of so many here, who have been inspired, cheered, awed, or in some other way struck by something you wrote. Even this birthday post was a beautiful read, showing how much you are loved and beloved to not only your friends and family, but to many all around the world. I am reading the comments with happy tears, because you have made such a difference in people’s lives. Cheers to you, extraordinary lady!

  94. Megan says...

    It all sounds perfect. Biggest happy birthday wishes to you (and Lucy!!)

  95. Graes says...

    Happy birthday, Joanna! And thank you for this blog. It has saved me a lot of times!

  96. Johanna says...

    Happy Birthday, Joanna! Looks like you had such a lovely day. Thank you for sharing it with us, along with other moments of your life!

  97. Happy Birthday! Thank you for making all of our lives brighter with your presence!

  98. Kelly says...

    Amazing! Every bit of this sounds perfect and I hope you enjoyed it. You really deserve to be surrounded by awesome ladies at all times.

  99. Brooke says...

    Happiest of Birthdays, Joanna! What a wonderful celebration to cherish for always! (And Happy Birthday to your sister, too!)

  100. Kristen McCann says...

    This made me tear up. What a beautiful birthday. Thank you for creating my very favorite place on the internet.

  101. Becca says...

    Happy birthday, Joanna! I have read your blog every day for several years now and am always grateful for the joy, curiosity, sincerity, and vibrance you put into the world. Keep shining!

  102. Karin says...

    Every bit of this is awesome! That picture of the boys on the stairs— OMG so delightful. Looks like a beautiful evening. Love that Alex stayed. Happy birthday, Joanna!

  103. A. says...

    Happy birthday! Thank you so much for this blog. I look forward to reading it everyday. You’re amazing!

  104. Shena says...

    Happy Birthday ❤️