The Thrill is in the Hunt.

I used to throw themed parties all the time. My boys were raised with big birthday parties that had tons of elements that coordinated with whatever show, movie, or thing they were into that year. The ability to take a theme and run with it, usually far further than the average person would care to and what I mean by that is “until said theme is nearly dead and gasping for breath but in a good way,” is something I come by honestly: my sister and I both get it from our mom.

While I have contributed ideas for themed parties in the past few years when my friends have needed input, it’s been a really long time since I’ve done a non-holiday related theme party myself. That’s why, last week as Jim and I approached the middle of the final season of “Breaking Bad” on Netflix (my first time watching the show), I decided it was time to put a halt to that theme-less streak around here. I remembered when the series finale aired in real time back in 2013, diehard fans were having parties with series-related food and drink and why couldn’t I do that six years after the fact? Answer: I COULD.

The next question was, “Why would I go to the trouble for just two of us?” Answer: WHY NOT? A theme party (and most anything, truly) is so much easier to execute for two than it is for twenty. I put “Breaking Bad dinner” into the meal plan and figured it wouldn’t be all that much extra work over just, well, making dinner.

My first step in planning was something I’m good at: research. The most excellent thing about throwing a series finale party six years after the show aired is that everyone else’s party write-ups and pictures have been live online for six years, so the “research” was easier than ever. I borrowed some ideas and came up with a few of my own. The menu was simple and fun:

  1. Heisenburgers: I made sliders and topped them with cheese sauce and grilled onions as a tip of the hat (ha!) to Walter White’s “alter ego.” I printed out Heisenburg graphics on card stock, which I taped to toothpicks and inserted into the bun tops.
  2. Popcorn chicken from Los Pollos Hermanos, Gustavo Fring’s cover business: Okay, it was actually Tyson popcorn chicken, but I bought a little white bucket at Party City and printed out the LPH logo to decorate it.
  3. Roasted purple potatoes: The first color I noticed being used repeatedly in “Breaking Bad was purple, worn in almost every episode by Marie and seen all over her and Hank’s home. The color theory used by writer/creator Vince Gilligan is fascinating; you can read about it here but spoiler alert.
  4. Funyuns: When Jesse and Walt went to the desert for a weekend meth cook, three bags of Funyuns were the only food Jesse brought to eat.
  5. Margaritas: The Mexican connection had to be acknowledged!
  6. “Meth”-covered rainbow cupcakes: I baked ROYGBIV cupcakes as another nod to the importance of color in the show, and topped them with the cotton candy flavored rock candy that was used in the show to portray the Blue Sky meth that Jesse and Walt cooked.
Heisenburgers Los Pollos Hermanos

Once I made the plan I picked up the food I needed at the grocery store and ordered the rock candy on Amazon, to be delivered yesterday just hours before dinner. All I had left to do for the few days in between was wait.

I probably should have tried printing out the Heisenberg and Los Pollos Hermanos graphics a few days ahead of time rather that waiting for day-of. After all, I knew that my colored ink was running low. About mid-morning yesterday it occurred to me that I really needed to make that attempt so that if it turned out I needed to go out for ink I wouldn’t be cutting myself too close. Of course I wouldn’t be, though; I mean, I’ve been printing out all kinds of stuff in the past couple of months and the ink supply has been fine.

That’s why, when I clicked “print” and heard the familiar whir of the paper being grabbed from the tray, I expected to grab the finished print and swiftly use my scissors to cut it out and take it to the kitchen staging area. And that’s also why my colored ink decided to run out before the paper even started moving. (I know, ink does not have the capacity to make decisions. Go with it.)

“It’s okay,” I thought to myself, “I have plenty of time to run to the store for ink.” I grabbed my purse and drove down the street to Staples, returning home not even twenty minutes later. After I replaced all three cartridges, I inserted more card stock and clicked “print” again, scissors in hand so I was ready.

The card stock came out of the printer with no color to be found. I will spare you the details of the cursing that ensued but after nine wasted pieces of paper, five print head cleaning sessions, an online chat with HP support, two “helpful” articles, thoughts of throwing my printer through my beautiful octagon office window, and ONE ENDLESS AND FRUSTRATING HOUR, I finally got those suckers printed and cut.

NOW all I had to do was wait for the rock candy to be delivered. I had baked the cupcakes earlier in the day and thanks to an Amazon email I knew that my candy was “out for delivery,” so there was no problem in sight. It was about 2:30 and Jim wouldn’t be home from work until about 5:30. Plenty of time! Then I got another Amazon email basically saying, “Oh, oopsie! Remember how we told you that your rock candy was out for delivery? Actually that was more of a prediction. It’s been delayed and while it’s still coming, we’re sorry to report that it’ll be another few days before you see it. The centerpiece of your dinner is now going to suuuuuuuck. Bygones?” (The email may not have been so snarky in actuality.)

“OF COURSE!” I loudly exclaimed to nobody. I grabbed my purse and headed out again. There are two Party City stores in my area of town so I went to the closer one first. I found the candy aisle immediately and since they smartly have everything arranged by color, the light blue meth, err rock candy, was easy to spot. I just needed two or three packages and they had…one.

“OF COURSE!” I exclaimed in my head. They had six packages of every other color, but only one of the color I needed. I bought it anyway, figuring that if the other Party City only had one package I’d still be good.

There happens to be a Cracker Barrel on the way to the other Party City and I decided to stop there, what with the Little House on the Prairie-style offerings in their candy department. I didn’t see any rock candy among their straw-like flavored candy sticks and other classic treats, so I asked an employee who was nearby. “Oh, we do have it!” she said, leading me to the shelves on the outer wall where she pulled a mug of assorted rock candy sticks from behind other items. She had four light blue sticks and they weren’t exactly the color of the package of six sticks I had just purchased at Party City. Also? The wooden sticks were, I’d say, sickly looking. Toothpick-y, even. Truth be told the quality of the sticks mattered not one bit because my plan was to use a hammer to get the candy off of the sticks. But maybe it did matter? What if wood slivers came off with the candy? (Sometimes it’s painful to be me.) To buy or not to buy? It was your classic quandary, or maybe I should say it was my classic quandary. Was “close, but not really” good enough? Answer: NO.

I left Cracker Barrel and while I was hauling my butt over to Party City the Sequel, two things occurred to me:

How hilariously apropos is this that I’m rushing around town for “meth”-looking rock candy as if my life depended on it?

AND

“My gosh, this is ridiculous! All of this trouble just to get a theme right?? Who DOES that? I mean, I feel so…ALIVE!

I actually laughed–cackled, really–because THIS is what I’m good at: nearly breaking my own neck to fulfill my own vision. The thrill is in the hunt, after all, and that tides me over until the job is done, and done right.

The second Party City had five packages of the exact color rock candy I needed. I bought two and when the cashier asked me if I needed a bag I wiped the sweat from my brow, shook my head, and said, “HELL NO I DON’T NEED A BAG!” (Well, I didn’t do that last part.)

By the time I headed home I had about ninety minutes to frost those cupcakes and get everything else started. Everything worked out just fine after that, and Jim was impressed with dinner but most importantly I impressed myself. Sitting there grinning like a Cheshire Cat as I surveyed the fruits of my labor felt really good and, sadly for all of us I’m now on the hunt for our next theme night.

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