Although it may seem like all my life consists of currently is parties, entertaining and ease free decorating (beginning in October and going through January) behind every single party, get together or shoot is quite a bit of prep work, shopping, last minute trips to the store, and decorating. So, when Amazon reached out about working together this holiday season to show how their new Echo Plus can help with holiday entertaining, I said, “I’m listening… but how does my friend Alexa have anything to do with Holiday entertaining and party prep?”
You see, like many of you, we actually already have (and love) our lovely Echo (AKA Alexa), so while this is a partnership, I knew I could honestly promote and stand behind the product because I bought one myself (months ago) and we use it every day.
The house had been decked for the holidays for a while as you know, but for a party, it needs to get amped up and other, different things needed to be addressed.
When throwing a party I typically think about a few different things:
1) Supplies and Decor
2) Food and Drink
3) Entertainment and Music
4) Mood (lighting and heat)
These are the elements that take it from your average gathering to memorable. And this is where the Echo Plus came in – Alexa helped with every single one of those items not only days before the party but also a few hours before the party began and all through the evening. If you aren’t already familiar with Echo Plus, it is a hands-free speaker you control with your voice that has a built-in smart home hub to easily connect to your other smart devices. Once connected to your Amazon account, it can help you with everything from ordering groceries and food, letting you know the temperature outside, telling you what is on your calendar today, giving you the scores to your favorite sports games, or even controlling the lighting in your home among thousands of other things. The options are really endless as far as what you can do with it, but today let’s talk about why I developed a whole new appreciation for all the many things it can help when it comes to holiday entertaining and party prep and take a look at how I used it to prep for this party.
1) Supplies and Decor: While the decor was up in the living room from earlier this month, I wanted to add some elements and colors to it that made it feel more festive to the season and also add some decor in the dining room. I knew that I wanted to somehow bring some live greenery into the dining room for the party, so we added some garland above and around the windows and also got ourselves a real tree which I never want to take out of the dining room.
To bring some depth and a bit of whimsy to the tree we added some fairy lights which I was able to add to my Amazon cart by asking Alexa with my Echo Plus. You see, as you make a list, whether that be for party prep, a shopping trip, stuff for house or anything in between, you can ask Alexa to add them all to your cart or purchase them directly for you. She can even put them into different lists so that you can stay organized. For example, you could say: “Alexa, add 3 strands of fairy lights to my holiday party shopping list” and she will confirm that she has added them.
It’s like a personal assistant for your home. If she has a question on which fairy lights you want she will respond with some options and you can either confirm there or do so later on your computer. Having the ability to add everything into specific lists for this party made it so much easier to stay on top of things. Then once I was ready to order, I could either confirm the full list through my Echo Plus, or I could go into my account online to see all the things I had added and then place the order for delivery.
Although I have thrown more parties than I can remember there always seems to be something that I forget or remember that I need last minute and forget to jot down, so being able to count on my Echo Plus to gather all of my thoughts into an organized list is so helpful. Whether it is tealight candles, batteries, taper candles, light bulbs, paper plates, disposable forks – Alexa has you covered with anything that Amazon sells that you could need for your party.
Once I had all the general supplies for the party it came time to dress the table with all that beautiful food which brings us to number two on the list, food and drink.
2) Food and Drink: On the table we decided to keep it organic rather than have a traditional centerpiece or runner and used a few of these paper accordion trees, sprinkled with fresh greenery, some different sizes of Christmas ball ornaments, and some votive candle holders.
But the true star of the table was those charcuterie boards. And before you think I pulled those off with my own two hands I have to give credit to my friend Meg Quinn from @ainttooproudtomeg who really took these boards to a whole different level. We gave her a tiny bit of direction on colors and the boards we wanted to use, and she killed it.
I love looking at these beautiful boards so much.
We supplemented the boards on the table with a few other snacks and that beautiful pie, which I didn’t bake but if you are a baker or plan on making some food for the party, Echo Plus can assist you with all of that as well. You could ask Alexa baking questions like, “how many ounces are in a cup?” or “how long should I bake my apple pie for?” or “what is the difference between baking soda and baking powder?!” You can even ask Alexa to set multiple timers for you so that you can keep track of everything that you have cooking (we use this for warming up dinner ALL THE TIME).
And if you aren’t Julia Child or Ina Garten and would rather opt for something a bit easier, you can ask Alexa to order anything through Amazon Restaurants which connect to restaurants in your area to place an order for delivery or pickup.
In the living room we cleared off the credenza and set it up as a self-serve bar, because if there is one thing I have learned through many years of prepping and planning parties and get-togethers, it is that setting up a little self-serve bar area or an area of punch makes for a much better evening than making individual drinks for everyone during the party. But, guess who did play bartender? Alexa. There is the Echo Plus up there, looking all simple and modern (but don’t let that sleek facade fool you, Alexa has got a really sweet heart).
Because Alexa is equipped with a wealth of knowledge you can ask her how to make specific drinks, what mixes well together, or even entertain you and your friends with a joke or two while you make a drink for yourself (head to insta-story to watch that one). For instance, you can ask her how to make a Moscow Mule (or any other drink for that matter) and she walks you through the entire recipe step by step. Oh, and in case you run out of ice, vodka, or limes halfway through the night, guess who can get them for you? Alexa.
With Prime Now she can connect to your local grocer (Sprouts in our case) to order thousands of everyday household items and have them delivered to your door within 2 hours – talk about a stress reducer and game changer when you are in the middle of the party and no one (Brian) wants to go to the store to get more supplies. I added all of the bar supplies and food to my grocery list earlier in the day and then placed the order for it all a few hours before everyone arrived saving myself a trip to the store.
3) Music and Entertainment: Once we had the supplies and decor taken care of as well as the food and drink it came time for the entertainment. As much as good decor, great food and drink and a beautiful atmosphere can add to a party the music can make or break the evening. So we made sure that we had that covered through Echo Plus as well. Before this post, when I knew the extent of how much Alexa could help in my life, we used her all day everyday for music.
Before the party, I had Brian create a little holiday playlist on Spotify with songs we knew everyone would love. Echo Plus can connect to your existing Sonos or bluetooth system, or you can use multiple Echo’s in the house to play the same music throughout with the multi-room audio feature. You can also play a different song in each room – if you so choose. And in case anyone at the party had a special request they could simply ask Alexa to play a different song.
Mostly this is just Charlie saying, “Alexa please play Frosty the Snowman” with Birdie yelling ‘ No, Alexa, please play Moana!’ (yes, we make them say please – the idea of our kids shouting out demands to a device named Alexa doesn’t sit well with us).
If curating playlists is not your thing you can say things like, “Alexa, play holiday cocktail music” or “Alexa, play classic Christmas music” or even “Alexa, play The Love, Actually soundtrack”. She can find music based on the name of a specific playlist on spotify or also by the artist, movie, title or track that it is associated with.
4) Mood – Mood kinda has to do with all of those things, but in this case we’ll talk about lighting and heat. For the party, I wanted to dress up the front of the house a little bit so that it felt a bit more festive and people knew where the party was at as soon as they walked up to the house. We used some more of the fresh garland to wrap around the door and then we wrapped some lights on a little tree outside the front door that we picked up at the flower market and on the garland and then connected all the lights to Echo Plus through our Sylvania Smart Indoor Plugs, so that we can easily turn them on or off at the end of the night just by asking Alexa. Which is a lot easier than dragging the extension cord through a window to access it easily or getting a step ladder to unplug it from the outlet up on the roofline.
There are so many accessories that you can connect Echo Plus to, to make your home a bit more user friendly, and while Alexa can’t do the dishes or put the kids toys away at night, she can dim all the living room lights when it is time for the guests to arrive, or turn on and off the Christmas tree lights with ease.
You can also connect Echo Plus to your Nest to control your thermostat. Once you have it all setup you can say things like, “Alexa, dim the living room lights to 40%” or “Alexa, turn the thermostat down to 68 degrees.” You can even set different lighting schemes within the app and then program it into a routine like, “Alexa, set the mood for the party” – which could then dim the living room lights, turn the Christmas tree lights on, turn off the lights in the upstairs bedrooms, and turn the thermostat down a bit, so that you can light yourself and your guests a roaring fire to enjoy in the living room. Alexa is a GD genius. That my friends makes for a very happy host and a very happy home for the holidays. Now please excuse me while I ask Alexa to call ubers for everyone coming to the party – yes, she can do that too. Let us know if you have any questions on Echo Plus or the party prep below and if you are into the look, then we have pulled together some of the entertaining items below for you that we used.