If you’re anything like us (and we think you are), you love a good backyard barbecue. It just wouldn’t be a weekend summer party without grilled meat (and meat alternatives), oodles of potato salad, sliced watermelon and sending your sister’s new boyfriend on another ice run.

That’s why it pains us to admit this: We’re growing a little tired of the hot-dog-and-plastic-wine-cup party circuit.

We’re entering the dog days now, people. And with it comes summer-party fatigue. 

That’s why we’ve put together a few tips for a midsummer refresh: In other words, easy new ways to entertain that don’t involve a kiddie pool.

But enough small talk. Scroll through to see the swaps we’re betting will make your summer shindig an affair to remember.

CrabDip

THE OLD WAY: Chips and Salsa

THE NEW WAY: Crostini and Crab Dip

Yes, we agree, the old crowd-pleasing standby is delicious (and has saved us in a party pinch many a time). But this insanely cheesy and satisfying crab and artichoke dip really ups the ante and is a total breeze to make. Not a seafood fan? Check out nine other party dips here

Slippers

THE OLD WAY: Remove Your Shoes

THE NEW WAY: Slip into Slippers

We get it: A shoe-free house means no dirt, grass clippings or other nasties get on your cream-colored carpets. But wait a sec: Have you seen your neighbor’s toes lately? Barefoot outside is one thing, but inside it can be just terribly unsightly.Set up a basket of lightweight slippers in your foyer (you can buy some inexpensive ones here) and encourage guests to help themselves to a pair. Your rugs will stay clean, and no one will be subjected to Cousin Frank’s cracked heels.

Wine

THE OLD WAY: Premixed Cocktails

THE NEW WAY: Chilled Wine, Straight Up

Now that everyone is noshing happily on fancy dip, what hostess wants to spend the rest of the evening playing bartender? Forgo the too-fancy cocktails and serve chilled wine instead. Less time spent with the blender means more time to catch up with your friends.

flowers

THE OLD WAY: Store-Bought Bouquet

THE NEW WAY: Imperfectly Perfect Backyard Blooms

Step away from the grocery-store arrangements (too matchy-matchy) and instead go outside (or send the kids) to gather up a hodgepodge of wildflowers, grasses and herbs from the garden. You’ll be surprised how pretty “undone” arrangements can look.

Food

THE OLD WAY: The Standard Buffet Line

THE NEW WAY: Gourmet Goodies Everywhere

Who wants to elbow their way to the good stuff along with everyone else? Make use of your space and spread out the snacks: Designate one side table for savory appetizers, another for the cheese spread, another for salads. Fling open the doors and use your patio too. This gets people moving around--and prevents awkward buffet-line small talk.

Pillow

THE OLD WAY: Assigned Seating

THE NEW WAY: Scattered Floor Pillows

You’ve already covered every flat surface with casseroles and crudités. Skip the dining-room affair (save place settings for fall and winter) and embrace the boho vibe. Invite guests to grab a pillow and take a seat on the floor with their plate and drink. When they feel more laid-back, your party will follow suit.

IceCream

THE OLD WAY: An Elaborate Dessert

THE NEW WAY: A Take-Home Treat

Ditch the complicated cakes and parfaits in favor of a guaranteed delight: the world’s easiest ice-cream sandwiches. Made with store-bought pints and cookies, all you need is a big knife and a moment to assemble (see the how-to here). For guests who didn’t save room for sweets, wrap this no-fuss treat in a piece of waxed paper, then drop it into a plastic baggie to go. They’ll thank you later.

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