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When it comes to summer entertaining, HGTV star Sabrina Soto has you covered. Whether you’re looking to host a kid-friendly movie night or a more grown-up backyard affair, Soto (in collaboration with Amazon) is here to share all her best tips, advice, and must-have items for the perfect summer fête.
We recently connected with Soto to ask her what we need to add to our shopping carts now to ensure the best summer parties later.
What your top tips are for summer entertaining?
Sabrina Soto: I have two really young kids and a very active social life. So for me, it's all about ease and pre-planning. The night before, after I put the kids to sleep, I get things together—every time I plan to get things done the next morning, it never happens. Pre-planning can be getting everything situated and making sure you have enough snacks and towels for kids, which are both key to a successful party. Once the door opens and the first guests arrive, it's complete mayhem!
How can your summer entertaining be upgraded with smart home devices?
SS: I used to write everything down, but the problem with doing that is I risk losing the notepad I wrote everything down on. So, I always lean on my Alexa to remind me of my list for groceries and other to-dos. For example, last night when I was on my flight home, I had an alert from Alexa reminding me to take out the trash. Having everything in one space to remind me constantly has taken such a load off my shoulders.
Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) | Smart speaker with clock and Alexa
Are there any other smart devices that you think every outdoor party host needs?
SS: I set up the Fire Stick so we can bring it in the backyard for movie night with a projector screen. It is incredible. The kids and I just watched Shrek, and my neighbors (after seeing the setup) invited themselves over. It's so amazing that the Fire Stick can be taken outside and put into a projector screen where we normally wouldn't have a TV. You can have a movie night, or host a Super Bowl watch party outside—you can do so many things.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
What are your other must-haves for outdoor entertaining season?
SS: Melamine! I've been doing design now for eighteen years, and back when I started, there wasn’t really unbreakable dinnerware—we only had those red plastic cups. Now, any home store that you can think of has an amazing array of melamine dishware, silverware, and wine glasses. The great part is that I use it year-round with the kids, for dinners and lunches and things like that. Get a really fun set of melamine plates and platters that look cute and are unbreakable.
Webbylee Melamine Dinnerware Set
Do you have any tips for creating an outdoor ambiance or ideal summer party vibe?
SS: It's all about lightning. Normally, we start early because we have kids. Then, when the sun sets, the lights have to be turned on. I used to have to run around and manually turn everything on, but now with smart devices, I can just say, “Alexa, turn on my backyard lighting” and everything turns on. It's super easy, and I don’t even think about it anymore.
Philips Hue Outdoor Smart Spotlight
Do you use any sort of device to help you manage party playlists?
SS: Yes! I have an Alexa in every room in my house, and being able to play my Spotify throughout the house is great. It's funny, though, because my six-year-old daughter is now her own DJ in her room. I have her little Alexa, but it's the Panda. It's adorable. So, she gets to have some independence in her room with her own little Alexa to play music, or if we want it throughout the house, we can all pick and choose what we want.
Amazon Alexa Echo Dot—Panda
Have smart devices changed how you cook and manage food prep for parties?
SS: There are two things that have completely changed in this house: finding recipes and gardening. I love to garden, but I kill everything—I mean everything. Now, I have two herb plants, and I promised that I would take care of them. I get reminders from my smart home products to water them, and if I'm not home, my fiance gets a text message to go water the two plants in the front. I am so proud of myself that my garden is doing so well, and now I have two herb gardens that are flourishing.
Rachio WiFi Smart Lawn Sprinkler Controller
What are your favorite summer party aesthetics or themes?
SS: I try to make things super easy without adhering to a certain theme. I like to throw potluck parties, which is kind of a new thing for me. I've done it the last couple of years: I'll pick the country, like Italy, and whoever comes can bring anything from that country. Bring it bite-sized! I take care of the entree, so people bring desserts and appetizers. It's so fun to see what people bring, and they feel good that they're involved. It's also so much easier for me to clean up because everybody takes their platters back home after.
Any other advice for your fellow summer party hosts and hostesses?
SS: Be as relaxed as possible. Your house doesn't have to be perfect, things don't have to be perfect. As long as you have good company and the kids are safe, you're going to have a great time. Focus on having a good time, a good playlist, and enough refreshments for everyone—you’ll be perfect.