Growing Garlic- 5 Reasons Why You Should

Is it possible to have a favorite herb? Maybe, but I haven’t been able to choose one yet. BUT, Garlic is definitely one herb I won’t ever be without.

How to grow garlic and five reasons you should.

A- garlic- bulb- that -has- been- harvested -and -is -ready- to -be used. -Garlic- has- a -dry -paper-like- skin -once -it -has- been- harvested- and -dried
A garlic bulb that has been harvested and is ready to be used.

Five Reasons to Grow Garlic:

  • Garlic is an anti-bacterial– there are many studies that show how garlic combats harmful bacteria. You can read one study done on the effectiveness of garlic against bacteria in food that would cause the consumer to get sick. The extract of the garlic kills and/or inhibits the pathogen from multiplying.
  • Garlic is anti-viral– long before the Coronavirus became national and global news, there were and are many virus that attack the respiratory system as well as all the systems of the body. As you may know, a virus cannot be killed by an anti-biotic. Also, by nature a virus will mutate as it spreads making vaccinations largely ineffective. So, with studies showing naturally occurring compounds in garlic to be effective against the respiratory diseases, garlic an incredibly valuable herb.
  • Garlic is anti-fungal– when it comes to fungus, there are few that we really welcome into our lives. Mushrooms being the most popular. There are also fungi that wreak havoc on our bodies and Candida albicans is one of the most common. The natural compound Allicin is a powerful compound and can neutralize the fungi.
  • Garlic is delicious- When it comes to bringing flavor to the party, garlic is a heavy hitter. The more the merrier, I always say. It goes great with lots of food, one of my favorite dishes is a French dish of scalloped potatoes.
  • Garlic keeps Vampires at bay- Now, I know vampires are lore, but after the previous two years- why not just cover all our bases? For centuries, garlic has been said to have supernatural powers. This stems from the fact that during the plague, garlic mongers did not get sick. So, folks deduced that it must be the garlic and they began to wear bulbs of garlic around their necks to ward off the evil spirits that made you sick. We now know that it was all those anti-microbial qualities of garlic that we discussed above that kept the garlic mongers from getting sick.
a-beautiful-garlic-bloom
Nothing Prettier Than A Garlic Plant In Bloom

As we get out and about now selling our herbs a Farmer’s Markets and Garden Festivals, I am frequently asked if I have any garlic.  When I ask questions to clarify just what the customer is looking for, I am surprised that they are looking for seedlings so that they can grow their own Garlic.  How marvelous!  Just one problem…

If you want to grow garlic in Texas or anywhere in the South, you need to plant is in September or October, the same with strawberries- but that is a whole other blog and soapbox.  Once planted in the early fall, the bulbs will sprout and grow all winter long then in June or so, the tops will start to turn brown and it is time to harvest.  Yes, no matter where you live garlic takes that long to grow.  But, it is so worth it and it really is easy.

How To Grow Garlic

To get started, you will need something to plant- right?  Garlic can be purchased in the store as a bulb.  In that bulb are many cloves.  Each clove when planted will produce another bulb and the cycle just keeps going.  So, once you purchase your garlic you will not ever need to purchase more, just save some cloves from your harvest and you will be good to go.  You can plant the garlic from the grocer or you can order from a seed company.  If you order from a seed company you will know exactly what variety you are getting and in the supermarket you will have no idea.  I have planted plenty from the grocer and did just fine but ordering from an organic grower means you know what you are getting.

Two suppliers that I like to order from are:

Baker’s Creek

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

The looser the ground, the better for growing garlic.  However, I have grown in clay and done fine.  Just dig a little whole twice as deep as the clove is long and plant the clove pointy end up.  Then wait.  You can inter plant with something like lettuce that has a shallow root system to make use of the open soil and double your harvest from the same square footage.  For the best harvest, you will need to water- but no more than you would for any other crop. One inch once a week is perfect.

Laying- Out- the- Garlic- cloves -in -prepared -soil.
Laying Out the Garlic cloves in prepared soil.
bright- green- leaves -of -the- young -garlic- plants
Young Garlic Plants

You will know when to harvest by the fact that the stalks have bloomed and now are beginning to turn brown.  Use a pitch fork or something similar to loosen the soil.  Gently pull the garlic up.  Spread the stalks on a dry and flat surface and let the cure (dry out a bit and the outer “paper” will dry).  Garlic can by stored for the better part of the year easily meaning that if you plant enough you will never need to buy garlic again.

Some-varieties-of-garlic-have-beautiful-purple-stripes-like-these-pictures
Gorgeous- inside and out!

Regardless of why you grow garlic- for use as a natural medicine or to create culinary masterpieces- Happy Planting!

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Dividing Perennials- Now Is The Time

Fall- the perfect time to divide perennials in the South.

Gorgeous- pink- crinums- in -Galveston- Texas- in- front- of- a -beautiful -front -porch -
Pink Crinums blooming in Galveston Texas

Fall is a great time of the year to thin out perennials that grew over the summer season.

In the lives of perennials, there comes a time when division is needed.  The plant has gotten too dense for the area in which it lives and it is time to make more plants.  These are often referred to as “pass-along plants” because they are easy to pass a division on to a friend.  

Dividing Perennials

To divide a perennial it is best to dig the plant out of the ground.  This way you can make more cuts producing more plants with far less damage.

Once the plant is out of the ground, clean as much dirt off as possible and cut the vegetation back by at least half.  Take your knife and cut down through the crown (the point at which the root system and the vegetation meet) and then separate the roots and continue cutting.

You can make as many cuts as you like, but cuts with a good thick part of the crown, plenty of roots, and vegetation will recover quicker.

To divide a cluster of bulbs or rhizomes, you simply dig up the bulbs or rhizomes and pull them apart.  The dug bulbs and rhizomes can be transplanted to another bed or spread around the existing area.

Materials Needed:

  • Sharpshooter Shovel or Other Shovel
  • Knife
  • Pruning Shears
  • Water
  • Pots (if plant is to be potted)

Now you have more plants to expand your gardens or to share. To share with a friend, simply bag them up and send them along.  If your friend lives far away, wrap the bulbs and/or rhizomes in damp newspaper to keep the plant material from drying out.  Just drop them in the mail and your friend will be happy to check the mailbox.

If you are new to gardening, you might like learning about herbs and about choosing plants for the shade. Often times, designing gardens for shady areas can be a challenge. New gardeners are often interested in knowing how to make trouble spots work. Choosing the right plants for shade is a lot easier when you have some basic information to start with in the beginning. Herbs are also a subject that a lot of new gardeners ask about, they are such fascinating plants.

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Leo’s Cajun Corner

Where to eat in Galveston: Leo’s Cajun Corner

If you are looking for local eats with a Cajun flair- Leo’s Cajun Corner is the place!  You know you are in the right kind of place when you pull up and you can see the smoker going and wood piled all around.

This shop is small but packs big flavor.  Leo’s offers ribs, brisket, sausage, and more by the pound, but have great choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I picked up a shrimp po’boy for lunch and it was the best I have ever had.  And I have eaten a LOT of po’boys.  The slaw on the sandwich paired with the spicy, lightly breaded shrimp was scrumptious.  I ate it all.

If you’ve never had boudin balls, you are missing out.  I had never had one until I moved to Galveston- now my life is changed.  Those deep-fried, spicy nuggets are the things I dream of when I want food I am not supposed to eat- which is often. 

We’ve also eaten there for breakfast and had a breakfast bowl and a toaster.  Just simple, basic food that tasted fabulous.  One of the best things about eating at Leo’s is that the food is, well- cheap.  Not in the way it’s made or the portion sizes, but the price.  On an island that can be a bit pricey because of the tourism, Leo’s is a nice surprise.

You’ll find Leo’s Cajun Corner at 3201 Broadway Avenue J, Galveston, TX 77550.  Next time you crave a little kick in your belly but want to keep some green in your wallet- give them a try!

If you are vacationing on the island check out these other local favorites:

Any of these restaurants above are kid-friendly if you are traveling with children. While there might not be a kid’s menu, there are definitely foods on the menu that kids love. Galveston Island is a very family friendly and kid friendly place, the food scene is no different. Miller’s does offer a children’s menu and my grands love the shrimp, mac & cheese, and calamari.

All of these restaurants are kid friendly if you are traveling with children. The food scene in Galveston is amazing and one the best parts of calling Galveston, Texas home. You can find out more about Galveston in Texas Travels categories such as the Galveston Train Museum. There is so much to do on this island and fun for all ages. Foodies, surfers, writers and more call this place home.

If you call the island home, what are your favorite places to eat?

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Compliments To The Chef is FREE today!

A free romance novel for you!

Today is my birthday and I LOVE a day of reading. I thought you might like a free day of reading, too!

Compliments to the Chef is free today and available on Amazon.

Cover -photo -of -romance -novel- Compliments- to -the -Chef

Enjoy! Be sure to leave a review and share!

You can also find more books here.

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The Blessing of ADHD From An Adult Living Happily With It

ADHD & Adulting

So, I may have mentioned in previous posts that I have returned to college to finish that psych degree that I started 30 years ago. I am loving the classes and subject matter just as much as I did all those years ago.

BUT, I am taking some huge issues with the diagnosis and prognosis for those with ADD or ADHD. I have no issue with diagnosing people with ADD or ADHD- it is REAL and I know what I am talking about because I have it. I was not diagnosed as a child because mine expressed itself as day dreaming mostly and I was labeled a ditz versus ADHD and I am so grateful for that mistake. But, I have huge issues with saying that the way these brains work is a flaw.

The reason I am grateful is that if I had been properly diagnosed I would have been “properly” labeled and fed a total load OF CRAP. Like that fact that I would always struggle with keeping a job or wouldn’t have friends. I do not argue with the fact that my brain operates differently than other brains. I do not argue the fact that interpersonal relations are difficult at times but theses differences are not necessarily bad, they are just different.

My brain is VERY active and I do have trouble sitting still for long periods of time.

So, what?

Yes, to the classroom setting or certain job settings this can be a problem- not for me but for the others who have set ideas about what makes for a good student or employee.

I produce a LOT, much more than the average person BECAUSE I have ADHD. In the course of writing this article, I will have gotten up from the desk no less than three times. BUT, in those moments when I had to get up and move- I washed and folded three loads of laundry, emptied the de-humidifier, watered my plants, and sent three texts. Let’s also not forget that while I was physically active, my brain was putting what I wanted to say in order. I was crafting my response to the information I am reading and thinking about what I wanted to say to those of you who share in the blessing of ADHD or are parenting a child with ADHD. Remember, my brain is NEVER still.

While I write, I wear earbuds so that the hyperactive side of my brain is busy so the other side can write.

Another falacy in the preception of hyperactivity is that we can’t focus. This is completely UNTRUE. I can focus but I have to really be into what I am doing. When I am writing fiction, reading, being creative, gardening or any other one of my passions, I can focus so intensely that I do not hear a thing that goes on around me.

Some see this as a flaw- why?

Because I am different from the average that makes me flawed? Nope, that makes me unique.

Stop framing these people that operate differently than the average as flawed. Just because a kid does not perform well in school is not a sign that they lack intelligence. More than likely they perform poorly because they are more intelligent than the average and are not interested in what you are teaching. Or, they need the material presented in a different form.

Saying that those with ADHD have memory deficits is also a lie when applied as a generality. I have an amazing memory. If I read it, I can remember it. If I write it, I can remember it. If it is interesting to me and I hear it, I can remember it. However, I can forget an appointment because I was engrossed in a project. This is not a memory problem. If I find you boring, I won’t remember you or what you said. Not because I have a memory problem but because you are uninteresting. Furthermore, just because I am doodling on my paper it does not mean that I am not paying attention. I won’t lie, I found it insanely satisfying when a teacher tried to put me on the spot by calling me out and asking me to repeat what she just said. Yes, I was doodling and “not paying attention” in your world, but in my world? I heard every word and could repeat it back to you. Which I did, much to their consternation.

How about instead of trying to force every human to learn a certain way, we attempt to teach in a way that engages the brightest of minds and encourages the celebration of differences.

If you believed what you were told as a child concerning your brain, reject it now. Lean how to yoke your strengths and compensate where you are struggling. For instance, wear earbuds and listen to music when you need to concentrate. Choose a job that allows you to be physically active if you need it. Set timers on your phone so you can remember important dates and times.

But, for the love of God, do not put your beautiful, active mind into a boring box that pleases society because you no longer challenge the “norms”.

I acknowledge that to be a friend or family member of mine comes with some challenges. I might forget your anniversary date, this DOES NOT mean that I am not stinking proud that you have built a beautiful marriage against all odds. I might forget your birthday, but this DOES NOT mean that I am not glad that you exist. Because my thought process are randomized, you may get unexpected notes in the middle of the year as a total surprise. But here is the thing, I have to accept you and all your flaws, as well if we are going to have a relationship.

I guess the thing that just irritates me to the point of desired violence is that the basis of a diagnosis of ADHD is based on that human performs based on society’s norms. How many times has society gotten it wrong? Really, do we even want every person able to sit quietly in a room for hours and never have moments of passion in which they can’t control themselves? How boring.

I would like to qualify my thoughts with the fact that I understand that there is a range of intensity in which the symptoms express themselves. I also understand that medication is needed at times. I am not judging on the choices that people are making, I am simply stating that if we framed it differently, we would see the gifts in these brains versus what is “wrong”.

Summer Reading

Summer is here! Time for books that make you laugh, cry ( just a little bit), and cheer when the good guys win and lovers get their happily ever after.

Check out The Pride of Galveston Series

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How To Compost On a Small Scale

Composting on a Small Scale

Spring flowers in a container garden fertilized with compost

We’ve talked about composting before, but compost is so vital to healthy plants and beautiful gardens that we are going to talk about it- again.

This time, however, we are going to talk about composting on a small scale.  Many of us in Galveston do not have a large yard, if any, so a large composting bin or pile will not work.  At my home on Winnie Street, there is no soil to dig in, it is all concrete.  So, I have container gardens and a container compost bin. So, if you find yourself in a small gardening situation or even an apartment, this method will work for you.

The average kitchen produces plenty of green matter for a compost pile.  Green matter is fresh vegetation that is high in nitrogen.  Fallen leaves and old newspaper or boxes provide plenty of brown matter.  If you are using paper or cardboard, the smaller you tear or shred it, the better.  The brown matter is dried vegetation that is high in carbon.

What I use for my container is a large plastic pot that housed an ornamental tree from the nursery.  When I first began the compost bin, I layered leaves 2-3 inches thick with kitchen scraps about 1 inch thick then topped with another layer of brown matter.  You want a lot more brown matter than green matter.  I wet this down and left it alone.  In a few days, I stirred it.  If it got dry, I watered it.  My pot does have a few holes in the bottom so that it drains.  Given time, the ingredients break down and look like black soil.

There are a lot of myths about compost.  If your compost smells, you are doing it wrong.  Add more dry brown matter to the pile to correct the smell.  Rodents are not attracted to a compost pile unless you are adding meat scraps or cooked food- which you shouldn’t do.

Regardless of the size of your garden, compost is essential. Feeding plants is crucial to their health, all soil can be depleted regardless of the type of gardening that you are doing. In a container, the soil can be depleted much faster than in a garden bed. So, adding compost is a great way to feed the soil in a container garden.

Composting also keeps garbage out of the landfills. By converting your kitchen scraps such as vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds, and egg shells into black gold for your flowers and plants, you are helping the environment in so many ways.

There are many other ways of composting, including vermicomposting, but a simple bucket and some old leaves will get it going. You can also turn your compost into the best liquid fertilizer- compost tea.

As I have created gardens and grown all manner of plants for over a decade, people always ask how I get the great results.

COMPOST is the answer.

Here are some of the results:

Do not spread the compost on the weeds.”

William Shakespeare- Hamlet

Compost does make things grow, but thankfully weeds detest fertile soil. So, the more compost you use the more fertile your soil and the less

weeds you will have. Beautiful!

Here are some common kitchen items that make GREAT compost:

  • eggshells
  • vegetable trimmings
  • coffee grounds
  • old coffee
  • old tea
  • newspaper
  • paper towels
  • tea bags
  • old lettuce from the drawer of your refrigerator
  • any old veggies from the drawer of your refrigerator
  • banana peelings
  • paper egg cartons

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Holly K. Ross, where happily ever after is a way of life. Writer on Galveston Island
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Book Release! Compliments to the Chef is LIVE!

Compliments to the Chef is LIVE on Amazon- Action Romance Holly K. Ross Island Inspired Writer

Today is the DAY! Compliments to the Chef is live and available at Amazon. It is a Kindle book but you don’t have to own a kindle to read it. The Kindle App is free and will work on any device such as a phone, laptop, or tablet. Just download the app and you can search by my name, Holly K. Ross.

I love romance, a good love story, a good story, and a happy ending. This book is all of those things. The world is filled with angst and anxiety, my books are not. There is danger, but strong men and women face the danger, trust each other, and love wins. This is what makes a great story, a great love story, and the best kind of romance. Of course, every one gets a happily ever after.

As with most all my writing, it is island inspired. Regan LaRue is BOI (born on the island) in Galveston. She heads off to the University of Texas in Austin on a golf scholarship. She chose Austin because the city had the same vibe as Galveston along with great music and food- just like Galveston. She then passes on the MBA route for culinary school. Running her own business is her passion which leads her to cross paths with Chance Blakely- an easy going, pretty boy, lobbyist- at least that is what Regan thinks he is, and he is, but he is also more.

There are fireworks as his Alpha male ways clash with her fierce independent streak. With four older brothers and a father, she knows just how to handle an Alpha male. He blows it up more than once, but his comebacks are legendary.

Love wins and it is one fun ride.

It was tough wrapping up this book because I knew that I wouldn’t get to hang out with these people that I love every day. I know I sound weird, but if you hate for a book to end because you will miss the characters, trust me, the writer gets just as attached. But, I am so delighted to share them with you!

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Out of the Shadows is LIVE! Check Out Chapter One!

Out of the Shadows went live last week! I thought you might like to a sample, so here you go- Chapter 1

I know you will love Brett and her fiery self.

Brett was on her last nerve when she got to the shoot.  The road construction confused her GPS which meant she was driving around in circles amidst native New Yorkers who honked at her while simultaneously yelling what she believed to be obscenities.  Finally, she arrived at the gardens only to find that the network had hired a photographer of their own choosing, completely disregarding her wishes.  Yes, they were footing the bill as this perfume was being released under the show’s label, but nevertheless, it was her face!

This new photographer focused entirely on “his art” and making a social statement.  The result was a fiasco.  Brett’s dress barely covered her “PYU”- her great-grandmother’s code for girl parts because a lady didn’t say words like vagina.  The mental image of what Mamaw would do if she saw Brett now made her giggle.  If that woman would disapprove, then she knew this look was not right for her brand.  A one shoulder red dress had been chosen for her with an asymmetrical collar.  If it weren’t for the length, the dress might work.  Brett was thinking on this subject when the make-up artist turned her to face the mirror.

“No. Freaking. Way,” thought Brett, “am I going to look at this ad campaign for months.”

Without saying a word, she walked out of the trailer and marched down to the set.  Roses were everywhere.  The tropical paradise had been improved upon by dozens of cut roses and dozens of potted shrub roses all to capture the essence of the perfume.

The heels were dangerously high, the dress shimmered red, and her hair was pulled back from her face in a severely tight bun.  The final touch was her make-up, in Brett’s mind it was a mix of Cruella Deville and Lady Gaga.

She stepped directly in front of the photographer, violating all rules of western society.

“What do you mean by this get up?!” Brett hissed.

The artist, also known as a photographer, was so startled that he hadn’t even time to catch his breath, much less reply.  That was just fine with Brett because she wasn’t done.

“I look like an evil queen straight out of a Disney cartoon!”

Stunned, the photographer replied, “This is how I visualize the work!  The danger with the beauty.  Society’s love and hate all in one stunning, gripping pose!”

“Well, that is just too bad for you.  I am not your art, this is not your vision, it is mine!  It is my name on the product, it is my face on the billboard, it is my reputation on the line, it is MY BRAND! If you want to make art, hire a model and do it on your own dime.”

Camila had Brett’s phone in her hand. Putting her phone to her ear, Brett didn’t even need to dial, Camilla already had help on the line.  “Hello, Harry- you will not believe what is going down here.  I am at the Conservatory and I need you.  This fool the network hired is totally in left field over this shoot.  Please say you will come?” pleaded Brett.

Harry Porter was a renowned photographer, better known for his photography of nature rather than humans. Brett was his only exception.  Perhaps it was because she so loved the land and it showed through her as he photographed her. 

“Thank you, dearie.  I’ll be waiting in the trailer for you.”  And with that, Brett turned and marched off to her trailer practically bouncing off one of the most ruggedly handsome men she had ever seen. She was still MAD and did not even bother to be polite, “Excuse you!” she spat out as she stormed by him.

Alex turned to watch her go, thinking that this one was a firecracker with a very nice backside and long legs, very full of herself and probably going to be trouble.  What a first impression.

And then, just as random as a bat on a nighttime hunt, a thought raced through his brain, “I bet she is dynamite in the sack.”

Alex followed Brett to the trailer. Brett had no idea that her new personal security detail had just watched the whole scene.

Walking in unannounced wasn’t the best way to handle the situation; because there was no one outside to check in with, he sent a text. He could have done this earlier, but where was the fun in that?

Brett checked her phone at the signal, “Camila, my new bodyguard is outside.  Will you show him in?”

Camila started clucking her tongue when she glanced out the window, Brett knew that meant she was excited about something. “Mama Mia- Gerard Butler and Winston Duke had a bambino! Such a gorgeous man! Lucky you!” Chattering in Spanish, she rushed to let him in.

“I can certainly see why they call you Alpha,” said Brett feeling very off balance as his presence filled the room, but not in a way that sucked the air from the room all at once.  No, his presence filled the room like the tide coming in- slow and steady but unstoppable.

“You can go Alpha on me anytime,” giggled Camila.

Brett shot her a look, “I believe I owe you an apology for being rude outside.  Can I ask why you didn’t introduce yourself?” clipped Brett.

“Good Morning, Alexander Jansen or Alex.  I am surprised you even realized that you were rude, I expect you are accustomed to giving commands to all those around you and having them jump.”  Alex replied curtly.  “Let’s see where this gets me,” he thought.

Brett didn’t speak, she simply settled her intense, green eyes on his and waited.  It was amazing what people will volunteer if you are just quiet and wait.  She waited to see what Alex would spill, but she got nothing.

The anger meter was already registering an 8 out of 10 and she was gunning for a fight.  Too much stress in the last thirty-six hours had her set to pounce.  The longer she was quiet the more her furry rose.  Camila knew exactly what she was looking at, she had watched Brett walk through the most difficult time in her life.  Brett was hardened steel but the most compassionate person Camilla had ever known.  As long as Brett’s sharp tongue was moving, it would blow over quickly, however, if and when quiet comes with anger there is going to be a reckoning.

            Brett sucked in a breath, ready to turn loose and fire Alex, when the door burst open and in walked Harry.

Harry, Harry, Harry- to describe Harry as just a brilliant photographer is like saying Mt. Everest is just a mountain.  He was so much more!   Harry could capture Brett like no one else.   The first time Harry met Brett he cracked her up with his description of the fashion industry and she had said, “You are a character!”  Her slow southern drawl had him smitten from day one.

“Good God, girl.  You look like an evil queen out of a fairytale!” exclaimed Harry.

“That is exactly what I said!” cried Brett.

“Brett Bentley to an Evil Queen- wouldn’t be a very long trip, would it?”  asked Alex.

A collective gasp sucked the oxygen out of the room and all eyes riveted on Alex and then on Brett.

Harry spoke first, “Actually, yes it would be a very long trip.”  He then turned to Brett, “However, if you offer me an apple, so help me, I will punch you in the throat!” he said with a bob of his head.

Brett burst out laughing- that deep gut laugh that gave away her Texas origins.

“Now, tell me why this man is still standing after that comment?” asked Harry

“Harry, this is my new personal security.  I was attacked yesterday,  this is who Mitchell thought would be the best fit for protecting me until we understand what we are dealing with.”

“I could be wrong, but I think you may need to have a chat with that son of yours.” said Harry.

Harry gave instructions to the stylists and sat to chat Brett up.  Alex watched and listened.  He was impressed with the loyalty of those that were close to Brett.

By the time the stylists were done with the second round, Brett was much more herself.  She only felt angry when she caught Alex watching her out of the corner of her eye.  It also angered her that he was so freaking good looking.  His creamy chocolate skin, amber eyes and salt & pepper hair made it hard to focus.  He would meet her eyes in the mirror and Brett would look away, she hadn’t felt this kind of attraction to any man since Adrian had died.

She knew he was essential at this time, but she was going to have a “come to Jesus meeting” with him later.  Then, she would have to call up that son of hers and find out just exactly what he was thinking matching her up with this fellow.

Harry worked his magic and pulled out a highly successful photo shoot further convincing Brett that he was simply the best in the business.

With the photo shoot done, Brett changed back into her skinny jeans, oversized green sweater, and tall leather boots.  Feeling far more comfortable in these clothes, she stepped out of the dressing room and practically ran into Alex.  Good gracious, he was big.

One day she would have to actually measure his chest. This thought then led to her picturing the size of his pecs and then wondering if there was a tattoo on one of them and that thought was leading to territory she wasn’t ready to explore.  Her head literally snapped when he spoke to her, causing her to appear like she was mentally lacking.

“I was asking where you parked.” repeated Alex.

“In the lot, just outside to the left,” replied Brett, “I am certain you don’t want me to drive, I assume you like to control every variable around you.”

“It does make it easier for me to protect you.  I have a strong feeling that you prefer to control every situation you are in and every person in your circle.”  He was baiting her again.

Brett fumed.  As she walked ahead, Alex grinned.  He was getting her off balance for a reason and soon he would explain but until then he was having some fun.  She was feisty and beautiful, the way those green eyes lit up when she was mad made him want to keep it going.

Brett always walked quickly and with purpose, in the quiet of the mid-afternoon winter day all that could be heard was the click of her boot heels as she led the way to the car.

As they neared a black Mercedes AMG G 63 SUV, Brett punched the fob and tossed the keys to Alex.  Alex was surprised; he had expected a sedan or a sports car, not an SUV with a sunroof and 4-wheel drive.

“You drive this around?” he asked.

“Yes, does that surprise you? I thought you already knew all about me, you have certainly decided that you don’t like me.”

They made their way back to Brett’s apartment in silence.  Alex was waiting to see how she responded to him with no one else around.  All he got was stone cold silence.

Once the valet had taken the SUV, Brett led him to the apartment.  Inside, Alex was surprised as the biggest, blackest dog he had ever seen came bounding up to Brett.

“Elliot!  I am so glad to see you!”  For the first time, Alex saw a genuinely happy Brett.  The sight was crazy, though.  This massive dog probably outweighed Brett but acted like a puppy.

Brett was apologizing for being gone so long, “The first photographer was a blooming idiot, so I had to call Harry.  What did you do today?”  She proceeded to carry on a conversation with him while she dropped off her coat and bag.

“Now, you need to meet Alex.  He is also called “Alpha”. I guess because he thinks he is the alpha male but that was before he met you, right?”  With that she turned to face Alex and acknowledged for the first time that he was even in the room.  “Elliott, say hello to the nice man.”

With that, Elliot walked right up to Alex and gingerly clamped his massive mouth over Alex’s crotch.  Alex froze, his dark skin going very pale and those gorgeous eyes were as wide as saucers.

With a low voice, Brett said, “I have no idea what is up your crawl about me, but I don’t really care.  My son thinks you are the best in your field, and I trust him explicitly, so I will put up with you.  You don’t have to like me to protect me, but you will show me respect.  If for no other reason, at the end of the day I sign your paychecks.   So, I am now going to sink into a hot bath that will, hopefully, remove the stress of this day from my face.  During that time, I expect you to find a new attitude.”

As she walked away, Alex wondered when this beast would let go of his junk.

“Elliot, release.” Brett looked back over her shoulder “By the way, at this dinner tonight you are supposed to be my date, so you are going to have to look like you like me or at the bare minimum, look at me like you want to bed me.”

            Just before entering her bedroom, she turned and said, “One more thing, I hope you brought a tux.  Don’t wear a tie, some necks were not made to wear ties and yours is one of those necks.”

He chuckled to himself, “Well, Alpha, you wanted to see what she was made of and you certainly found out.”

He was 55 years old and served 30 years in the Army, most of that in special forces, and never had he experienced anything like what just happened.  He had, of course, had certain individuals threaten to cut off certain appendages, but never had anyone come so close.

Alex let a slow grin grow from ear to ear, “This job might be fun after all.”

In her bedroom, Brett flopped on the bed.  Elliott jumped up beside her, as she rubbed his sleek fur, she couldn’t help but giggle.  It took her all day, but she finally got the upper hand with Mr. Alpha.  The look on his face when Elliot said “hello”!   “Good grief,” she thought, “plenty of people don’t like me after they meet me, but this one seemed to hate me from the get go.”

It didn’t take long and Brett was refreshed and ready to make another attempt at being friends with Alex.  For the first time, Brett looked at the morning from his perspective.  What a scene to walk in on!  She could see how it might have given him the impression that she was a diva.  Her stomach began to growl and she realized that she hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  Pulling on a pair of black yoga pants and a long-sleeved turquoise t-shirt, Brett went to offer an olive branch.

            Alex had his back to Brett as she entered the library.  The library was on the same side of the apartment as the master bath.  Alex was taking in the same view from the library window seat as Brett had while soaking in the tub.  Brett took a moment to appreciate his broad shoulders that tapered to a slim waist.

“It’s a remarkable view, isn’t it?”

Alex turned to see Brett in the doorway with Elliot by her side.

“It is breathtaking in its own way.  I prefer a little less concrete,” replied Alex, “before we start sparring again, I would like to explain my actions earlier.”

“By all means.”

“When I am hired to protect someone, there are many variables that must be factored into the equation.  One of the biggest factors is the client’s own reactions to a stressful situation.  I walked in on what I believe was a stressful situation, so I took the opportunity to push you and see how you reacted. I said a lot of things that I really didn’t mean simply to gage your responses.”

“So, did I pass or have you classified me as a hysterical woman?” grinned Brett.

“You never let the anger get out of control and I couldn’t intimidate you.”

“Ha!  I raised 4 teenagers, 3 of which were strong-willed females- intimidation was something that you NEVER showed if you wanted to survive to fight another day.”

“So, that was a neat trick with the dog.”

Brett giggled when she pictured the look on his face when Elliott latched on to his junk and her giggle turned into full on laughter.  “I deal with a lot of arrogant men and one thing that they all have in common is the fear of losing the family jewels.” Brett answered when she could once again speak.  Alex still didn’t find it all that funny, but watching her laugh was amusing.

“Why the name Elliot?  Seems like he should be named something more fierce.”

“Because he’s my hitter.”

Brett’s comment was met with a blank stare.

“You know, Leverage- the tv show- and Elliot is the hitter?  He’s played by Christian Kane.”

Still nothing on Alex’s part, “Really, you have never seen Leverage?”

“Nope.”

“Well, that is a downright shame.  Anyway, Elliot’s character is awesome and our favorite character so when it came time to name my dog it just seemed right.  I mean, after all, his job is to neutralize the bad guys so he’s my hitter.”

“I do have another question, who weighs more- you or the dog?”

“Don’t you know that asking about a woman’s weight is a great way to get Elliot to show you more of his parlor tricks?”  Brett teased. “Elliot is one-twenty five and I am a buck thirty.”

“Wow, you just told me your weight.  Most women would have sent Elliot after me again.”

“Most women are insecure and ridiculous. How about a late lunch? I’m hungry and I am sure you are after traveling.”

“Thank you. Yes, I am hungry but I thought we were eating dinner at the event tonight.”

“We are, but I am hungry now and the food at those events is usually not that good.”

To that Alex raised one eyebrow and gave Brett an inquisitive look.

“I know, it is the Food Channel and you would think that one thing you could count on when cooks get together is that the food would be amazing.  You would be wrong.  Let me give you a tour of the apartment and when we end in the kitchen, I will pull something light together.”

Into the large kitchen, Bret practically skipped.  “This is the best thing about this apartment, well except for my claw and ball bathtub that looks out onto the New York skyline.”

The kitchen was amazing, a huge professional range dominated one wall.  The glass subway tile on the walls shone bright and the black cabinets looked elegant against the white floors. The space was laid out by someone who obviously loved to cook.

“I could spend all day in this kitchen.  As a matter of fact, if I had used this kitchen to develop recipes for my new cookbook instead of cooking in the network’s test kitchens, I might not have been attacked.” said Brett with irritation in her voice.

“That is the first time you have mentioned the attack.  I saw the footage, thankfully you’ve had some training.  What’s your take on all of this?” asked Alex.  He studied her face as she answered.

“My take is that someone thought that they were going to snag me and get some ransom money.  Obviously, they didn’t do their homework or they would have known that Elliot would be with me.  This sort of thing comes with the territory of being famous and wealthy.  There is not a lot I can do at this point, so I don’t see any reason to fixate on it.  Plus, I have Elliot and you, so I will continue on with my life. Speaking of which, we have an event tonight, so I had better get us some food.”

At that, Brett walked over to the refrigerator and pulled out some cold roast and some vegetable beef soup.  Alex watched her move from one space to the other, slicing the roast into thin cuts and heating them in the cast iron skillet with au jus from the roast. She moved with surety and grace.  Within minutes, she had hot roast beef sandwiches and soup ready to go. 

She placed their plates on the small black table in the kitchen.  For the first time that day, they sat looking at each other from a distance close enough to see the color in each other’s eyes. It was a pleasant meal over which the schedule of the next day was discussed.  The conversation was easy, the kind you would have with a new acquaintance who you like but hasn’t actually become a friend yet.

Just as they were finishing their meal, the doorbell rang.  Brett went to open the door but Alex stopped her.  “Go sit in the living room, I’ll get this.”

“Bossy.” she thought but did what he said anyway.

Alex looked through the peephole and saw what he knew to be a detective and an FBI agent.

Alex opened the door, letting the detective and agent show their I.D.

“Good Afternoon, I am Detective Sloan, and this is Special Agent Parker with the FBI,” said Sloan.  Agent Parker was tall, at least 5’10”, very fit, blonde and fair skinned.  She seemed too kind to be with the FBI.

Brett looked concerned at the sight of the FBI agent.  “Hello, Mrs. Bentley,” Detective Sloan started off, “We have gotten some information concerning the attack yesterday and we need to ask you some more questions.”

“I take it the information is not good considering you brought back-up.” Brett looked over at Agent Parker. “Please, sit down and everyone call me Brett.”

“As you know, we had our suspicions about the attack being random.” Brett nodded and he continued, “However, what turned up today was very surprising.  When we ran the attacker through the databases, he turned up as a contract killer linked to several unsolved murders.”  He paused to let Brett take this in before continuing, “Once he popped up in the system, the FBI called, which is what led to Agent Parker being here with me.”

At this, Agent Parker cleared her throat, “Mrs. Bentley, I mean Brett, are you familiar with the Ramosa cartel from Paraguay?”

When Brett shook her head no, Parker continued: “Well, it is a violent cartel headed by Manual Ramosa.  He has smuggling routes through North America, especially in the United States.  We have been working to get inside the cartel for years, but it is very tight.”

“I appreciate what you are telling me, but I do not understand how this is linked to me and the attack yesterday.” said Brett.

Both of the officers breathed deeply, “The connection is that Ramosa hired the man who attacked you.”  Parker said and watched for her response.

Brett was stupefied.  “Why would a drug dealer from South America be at all interested in me?”

“Unfortunately, we have no idea at this time.  However, we are concerned that because the attack was unsuccessful there will be another. The contract was not specific to one person, but an open contract paying out to whomever gets the job done.  Also, Ramosa is not simply a drug dealer, he specializes in human trafficking.”  Parker continued, “Have you been outside of the US recently?”

“No, all of my travels have been stateside.  I arrived in New York on Sunday and was at the network studios on Monday.  Prior to that, I had been working from my home in Galveston or at the ranch just outside of Winnie.”

“I see, do you know of anyone in your organization that may have crossed paths with this cartel?”

“I can’t think of anyone or any incident at this time, but my group is large. As you probably know, my foundation is geared towards rescuing kids and placing them in permanent homes and helping single parent families in order to prevent kids from entering the foster system.  So, we have conflicting interests but I cannot think of a direct link or confrontation.  I have nothing to hide, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a connection that I am not aware of.  I can give you the name of the forensic accounting firm that I use to audit my records and that of my foundation every six months.”

As Brett was talking, Alex noticed a shift- very subtle- in her body language.  She was telling the truth, but she was carefully leaving something out.

“You have your own records audited?” Detective Sloan asked.

“I do.  We have a lot of investments and a lot of donors; I do not want to be surprised by a donor that is connected to the wrong people and I am not risking having someone that I trust turn out to be a crook.”  As she spoke, Brett had stood up and walked into the gallery where her purse was on a table.  She returned with her phone and gave the information to Agent Parker.

Brett sighed as the weight of what was being said sunk in, “So, let me get this straight.  I have become the target of an evil man from Paraguay who has put a contract on me, for no apparent reason, so there could be more attacks coming since the first assassin failed.  Does this mean that if I go home I am taking the danger back to my family?”

“Well, yes.  That is what is going on.  Brett, I can assure you that we are doing what we can and will post agents to protect you.  However, the facts are what they are, if you go home this will follow you there.”  Parker was compassionate but straight forward, Brett liked that about her.

“This is a lot to take in.  Obviously, I can’t go home till this is resolved.  I plan to keep my schedule for the week but once I am finished with the meetings tomorrow and the gallery opening tomorrow night, I will head to my farm in West Virginia.  It is very isolated and will make it easier to see something coming.”  Brett was talking but she still couldn’t believe all of this was real and happening.

“That sounds like a good plan, we will have agents watching you.  I take it this gentleman is your personal security?” asked Parker.

“What?” Brett was taken back by the question and then realized that she hadn’t introduced Alex to anyone, “Oh, I apologize.  Yes, this is Alexander Jansen.  He is responsible for me now, lucky him.”

Alex shook hands and walked them to the door.  The three of them conferred for a few minutes, Brett was at the liquor cabinet when Alex walked back in the room.

            “Would you like one?” she asked, “I need to relax before dinner tonight and I don’t think a hot bath will do the job this time. Well, if this don’t beat all!  I am now the focus of some crazy S.O.B from South America and can’t even go home.”

Brett’s heavy southern drawl caught Alex by surprise.  Her accent was always evident, but now her voice was dripping with it. The first two shots had already had an effect on her and she was getting ready to down another.

Alex put his hand on the bottle.  “You know, you don’t strike me as a heavy drinker, but you do strike me as someone who needs her filter in place, especially if she is under stress and doesn’t like most of those people around her.  So, why don’t you let me put that up for you?”

“Just what makes you think I can’t handle my liquor?”

“Well, for starters everything you just said had about 3 extra vowels in it and I know from working with your son that you are not a drinker.”

“Fine, I have to get dressed anyway.” Brett swished over to the bedroom door and slammed it shut. As she passed Alex, he was pretty positive she patted her backside giving him the universal “bite me” sign.  It happened so fast he couldn’t be sure, but the thought made him chuckle.

Alex stood there processing all that had happened.  With this new information, he knew that simply acting as her personal security guard wasn’t enough.  He needed a team. He would discuss this with Brett later, right now he had to get her through the next few hours without her blowing up and having a meltdown.  He shook his head, he may not be sold on her farm girl image but he had to admit she was strong. All that had happened in the last 24 hours would have had most humans curled up in the fetal position after having gotten smash faced.

As Alex got dressed, he chuckled as he thought about Brett’s command to not wear a tie.  She was right, he had a neck that God never intended to wear a tie.  Not that he needed to be told how to dress.

Since leaving the Army, Alex had traded one uniform for another.  Tonight, instead of dress blues he would wear an Armani tux, with an open collared shirt.  He planned to impress Brett with his sense of style.  He showered and trimmed his stubble to look intentional instead of unkempt, applied his favorite cologne, dressed and then checked emails and returned texts till he heard Brett leave her room.

Alex strode into the library ready to knock Brett’s socks off but what he saw standing in the library stopped him in his tracks.

Brett stood before him with her auburn hair swept up into a bun.  Diamonds hung like tear drops from her ears highlighting her slender neck.  The dress she was wearing was floor length black velvet, long sleeved with a full back. But the neckline plunged deeply and the skirt was slit in the front right up the center.  There was probably only about 12 inches of fabric in between the plunge and the slit, just covering her abdomen and the tip top of her thighs.  This dress hinted at all the right places but revealed nothing.  For the first time, Alex could see just how long and shapely her legs were, her slender feet melded into her nude heels.  The only accents on the dress were four rhinestone buttons, one pair was just even with her hip bones with the second pair directly below those just at the top of her thighs. 

“Well Big A, have you got something to say?” Brett drawled.

“Big A, I like that.” thought Alex, to hear her draw it out with about a dozen “a’s” in it made his breath quicken.

He moved to stand about 3 feet in front of her, “Let’s just say that looking at you like I would want to bed you won’t be a problem tonight.”

Brett tilted her head and cut her eyes up at him.  Even in 4-inch heels, he still towered over her.  “I was hoping you might actually like me, but I’ll take what I can get.”  She grinned a sly grin and brushed up against him as she moved past.

“Elliot come.” she called.  Elliott appeared by her side wearing a huge rhinestone collar. What a stunning pair those two made.

Brett buzzed the front desk, “This is Ms. Bentley, please have my car brought round.”

“Alrighty then, let’s get this thing over with,” Brett said with a sigh.

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Where to Eat in Galveston- Darlene’s Shrimp Shack

Darlene’s Shrimp Shack- Where Locals Eat In Galveston

If you are driving down 61st street along Offats Bayou, you will see Darlene’s Shrimp Shack (a food truck) sitting pretty next to Aunt Margie’s Bait Shop and a shrimp boat named Darlene.  If you are thinking that a shrimp shack next to a bait shop with shrimping boats means that the shrimp in that shrimp shack is fresh- you would be correct!

The shrimp is fresh and locally caught (when possible) and battered as it is ordered.  You can get your shrimp battered or “naked” and choose from twelve different seasoning options.  The baskets come with 10 shrimp and 2 hushpuppies for about $12.00.  The shrimp are huge so reasonably you could share but I am not reasonable when it comes to sharing my food.

These shrimp are contenders for best shrimp on the island.  I have eaten there multiple times and have loved each and every bite.  Everyone in my office loves this place. The batter is on the light side, so you really taste the shrimp.  My favorite flavors are Cajun or Garlic Parmesan.  Other flavor options are lemon pepper, buffalo, plain, and more.

If the weather is pretty you can sit out at the picnic tables and watch the sail boats on the Bayou or watch the sea birds come and go.

From the family history I have picked up from talking with the folks who run the bait shop, Margie and Darlene were sisters.  Margie was the aunt who kept most of the kids when they were little.  When she passed, the family decided to name the bait camp after her.  Aunt Margie’s bait camp is a popular spot for bait AND they sell “eating” shrimp in there as well.  We have been buying shrimp, squid, flounder and more in there for years.  If the seafood is fresh, you don’t have to be a great cook to make great seafood.

Aunt Margie’s bait camp and Darlene’s Shrimp Shack are BOI (born on the island) and as local as you can get.  Give them a try, you will be glad you did!

If you are on the island for a day or two, here are some other great places that locals love to eat:

Any of these restaurants above are kid-friendly if you are traveling with children. While there might not be a kid’s menu, there are definitely foods on the menu that kids love. Galveston Island is a very family friendly and kid friendly place, the food scene is no different. Miller’s does offer a children’s menu and my grands love the shrimp, mac & cheese, and calamari.

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