by | Jun 5, 2021 | Uncategorized | 8 comments

By Carla Neggers

It’s summer! Unofficially, anyway. Despite a raw, rainy Memorial Day weekend, we’ve kicked off summer here on our hilltop in Vermont. For me, that means moving my favorite reading spot from by the fire to an Adirondack chair in the shade, or a comfy seat on the screen porch…or an outdoor Irish café. My five-year-old granddaughter announced she wants to set up the hammock so she can “lax” with her books.

Does your favorite spot for reading change with the seasons?

And our local farmstand is open for the season. I threw together a rhubarb crisp on Sunday but look forward to making my favorite fresh raspberry pie. I’ve included the recipe below.

Every summer, I reread a fun classic. This year it’s Assignment in Brittany by Helen MacInnes. Often called “The Queen of Spy Writers,” MacInnes, who died in 1985, wrote twenty-one espionage thrillers, drawing on her personal experience. Her first thriller, Above Suspicion, was published in 1941. Released the following year, Assignment in Brittany is described as “the gripping tale of an undercover operative deep in Nazi-occupied France.”

With the popularity of World War II novels, it’s sobering to remember MacInnes wrote her first novels during the war. Both Above Suspicion and Assignment in Brittany were made into movies. I haven’t seen either movie but would like to.

I also have a list of summer releases I’m looking forward to reading. Rogue Reads, RWW’s monthly evening with authors, helps keep my TBR list up to date.

Now. Raspberry pie. Raspberries are available year-round but I love fresh-picked local berries. We used to pick them ourselves, but many bug bites and pricker-scratches later, we’re happy to support local farmers.

Here’s the recipe I use, a family favorite.



1 quart fresh raspberries, washed and dried

1 cup water (total)

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 to 4 oz. softened cream cheese (optional)

1 baked, cooled pie shell


Simmer 1 cup berries with 2/3 cup water for about three minutes.

Blend sugar, cornstarch and 1/3 cup water and stir into berry mixture. Stirring constantly, boil for one minute (mixture will lose its cloudy appearance).

Spread cream cheese over bottom of baked, cooled pie shell if desired; can add a bit of milk or cream to help spreading consistency.

Add remaining 3 cups of berries to pie shell. Top with cooked berry mixture and refrigerate pie for about 2 hours, until firm.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Happy summer!

What are your summer traditions?

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Karna Small Bodman

    I’m glad to be reminded of the terrific books by Helen MacInnes. “Assignment in Brittany” sounds like a real winner. Thanks for the tip. As for summer traditions, spending time outside on our patio reading and especially swimming laps are favorite daily activities. As for baking pies, I’ll leave that to cooks like you with many more culinary skills than I.

    • Carla Neggers

      MacInnes had such an interesting life. And your summer traditions sound great!

  2. Lisa Black

    I was a huge Helen MacInnes fan, read everything of hers I could get my hands on. Not that long ago I was explaining to a fellow passenger on a cruise ship that my determination to see the Parthenon stemmed from one sentence in a book of hers.
    As for summer–I live in Florida. So we sort of groan at the arrival of summer, with it’s intense heat and humidity and constant rains. The only advantage is not having to wait for an hour at restaurants on the weekends!

    • Carla Neggers

      Another MacInnes fan! Why am I not surprised? 😉 I’ve been to Florida in July and August and understand what you mean, both with the heat and the quieter restaurants. Enjoy!

  3. Kay Jennings

    Pie fixes everything.

  4. Jenny Milchman

    I’ve never heard of her–how fascinating! And love the pie recipe. So excited for berry season–thank you!

    We started a new summer tradition this year. For my daughter’s birthday we rented a bouncy water slide that was the most fun ever. Slid and splashed all day long and kicked off the season.

    • Carla Neggers

      I love the idea of the bouncy water slide! Will have to try that out with the kids. And hope you enjoy looking into Helen MacInnes. A trailblazer.

  5. Chris Goff

    Helen MacInnes was my introduction to spy fiction. Good choice. I’m allergic to raspberries, but a fruit substitute might work. And hammocks go better with books. We’re hoping to get the sailboat out on the water this year. A favorite summer activity!! Enjoy!