I Gatti Liberi d'Italia

CATS

Bellezza: blue tabby Burmilla queen with brown eyes

Notte: black-and-white bicolor queen with blue eyes

Principessa: ruddy Abyssinian queen with hazel eyes

Zingara: fawn spotted tabby queen with Siamese blue eyes

Splendore: blue point Birman queen with a golden tint on her coat

Credenza: spotted grey tabby queen with a small white spot on her forehead

Tigre: orange mackerel tabby tom with golden eyes

Coraggioso: tortoiseshell tabby tom with one side of his face black-and-white and the other side orange

Formaggio: cream blotched tabby tom with green eyes

Cacciatore: classic brownish-grey tabby tom with blue eyes

Crepuscolo: brown ticked tabby tom with hints of black on his coat 

Segreto: blue cream dilute tortoiseshell tom with copper eyes

 

Chapter One: Bellezza

BELLEZZA LEAPED ONTO a short stone column and began to lick her blue paws daintily. It was a crisp evening in Rome, Italy, and the almost setting sun was glorious against the Temple of Juturna, one of the four temples in the Largo di Torre Argentina. The Burmilla queen was undisturbed and in her happy place. Everything was calm.

 That was when Principessa arrived. “Hello, Bellezza,” said the Abyssinian queen. She sat down below the Burmilla cat and started to clean her ruddy legs. They didn't speak or make a noise; just two cats sitting by each other, cleaning themselves.

Bellezza broke the silence with a timid meow. “I remember where I first met Maria. It was here, in this very spot.” Her companion ceased grooming her legs mid-lick. The Burmilla queen had never brought up her owner before—at least, she didn't tend to.

Principessa listened with great curiosity as Bellezza went on. “We were so close, like two grapes on a vine. Every day, she would take me to the fishmonger and let me sniff all the little fishes,” she said with a chuckle.

“One day, I spotted a bird outside. The door was open, and without thinking, I ran outside.” Bellezza remembered. “I was just a kitten, so it was a while before I realized that I was far from home. I couldn't find my way back. A few days later, I was taken in by the other stray cats.”

Then she shook her head, as if she was shaking off those thoughts. “But here I am, and here I stay. The life of a free cat is pleasant, don't you think?” Bellezza smiled. “Come. The gattara should be here any minute now.” She leaped off her perch and sauntered towards the center of the ruin, leaving Principessa lost in her own thoughts. 

                                                                                                                                                          Chapter Two: Notte

NOTTE COULDN'T BELIEVE her eyes. What were those glowing boxes that the humans seemed to love so dearly? The black-and-white bicolor cat blinked once, then twice, wondering if this was another of her dreams.

Behind her, something put its paw on her. Notte's instincts kicked in and she turned around, hissing fiercely with her fur standing up and her ears laid back. Then she saw that it was only Tigre, an orange-and-black mackerel tabby tom who currently had a shocked expression on his face.

“Oh!” Notte realized. “It's you.”

The shocked look on Tigre's face remained as he said, “Yeahhhhhhhhh. Um, the gattara's going to be at the Temple of Juturna in a few minutes. Aren't you coming?”

Notte smiled. “Of course. Sorry, I was distracted.” Then she paused. “You wouldn't know what those glowing boxes are by any chance, would you?”

 “No clue.” Tigre grinned. “Come on. Where there's gattaras, there's food.” He let Notte walk ahead of him and followed her. Luckily, they had been sitting at the higher parts of the ruin. When they were finally at the Temple of Juturna, they spotted Principessa sitting at the bottom of a column. “Principessa!” exclaimed Notte. “Is Bellezza here?”

The ruddy Abyssinian cat looked up from the ground. “Oh. Hi, Notte. Hi, Tigre.” She sighed and looked back down.                                                                                                                                                   “Is something wrong, Principessa?” asked Notte.

 

Tigre stepped back. “I'll give you two some privacy.”

Once he was out of earshot, Notte sat down next to Principessa. “What's going on with you, Principessa?” The Abyssinian didn't make eye contact but did speak.

“Bellezza was talking about her owner. It reminds me of my owner.”

 

Notte sighed. “You have to put it past you, Principessa. Bellezza rarely utters a word about Maria, and it seems that Splendore and Zingara”—she giggled—“have forgotten about theirs!” Before Notte could say anything else, there was a cry of “Vieni qui, i miei gattini!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three: Principessa 

 

PRINCIPESSA COULDN'T RESIST the grandmotherly cry of the gattara. She went over to where Bellezza was sitting. Cats from what seemed like all of Rome filled the Temple of Juturna as an elderly woman dressed in a tunic and a floral scarf came into view. Her grey hair was coiled into a loose bun and locks of hair had fallen out of the hair net. She walked into the center of the ruin.

 

“Siediti ancora, deari! Sarete tutti alimentati presto,” said the gattara, giving Bellezza a thorough stroke on the kitty's back. Then she gave Principessa an unexpected kiss on the forehead; in return Principessa rubbed the palm of the gattara's hand with great affection.

 

The gattara lifted a grocery bag off her shoulder and set it down on the ground by the cats. She opened it up and reached for what seemed like multiple cans of wet kitty food. Principessa was amazed. Only someone like the gattara would give this much care to the Roman strays.

 

Principessa rubbed against the cans, which smelled like tuna fish and chicken, then rubbed against the gattara. The woman let out an "awwwww" and picked up the Abyssinian queen, holding her up to her face.

“Sei un buon gattara,” smiled the gattara.

 

Then a cream blotched tabby tom with green eyes put his paw on the gattara's leg.

“Va bene, Formaggio. Adesso mangiamo.” laughed the gattara, setting down the queen.

She peeled the pop-top lid off one of the cans and placed it on the ground. The woman did the same with another and another, and every one of the cats had their own food dish.

 

Finally, she came to Principessa. The gattara reached inside her grocery bag and brought out a special dish of homemade chicken, fish, and turkey—Principessa's favorite recipe.

“Godetevi il pasto, Principessa. Mio angelo.” the gattara said, running her fingers through the queen's fur. There was no word on Earth for the love they showed each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four: Zingara

 

ZINGARA AWOKE FROM her nap with an empty stomach. The gattara's visit to the Torre Argentina the night before had satisfied the fawn spotted tabby yesterday, but today was all about today's food. The gattara wouldn't be back until this evening so Zingara decided to head to La Ciambella and persuade the humans to give her food.

 

She stood up and did her morning stretch before jumping off her place on the steps of the Temple of Juturna and landing on the ground. Zingara took a right and after that she took a left on Largo di Torre Argentina. Then she took two rights and walked 150 feet and finally arrived at La Ciambella. And there was a woman sitting at a nearby table, with tilapia and a glass of wine.

 

Zingara could've cared less about the wine, but that tilapia looked delicious. The kitty sauntered over to where the girl was sitting and laid on her back, exposing her belly. She also purred loudly with a happy meow every now and then.

The woman, who had blonde hair and fair skin, noticed Zingara acting cute and said, "Oh,  what an adorable kitty!"

 

The fawn spotted tabby, now having an audience, stopped rolling on her back and stood on her hind legs while sniffing her. The woman clapped her hands and cried, “Bravo!”

Zingara meowed then pawed at the stainless steel table base. “Aw, you're hungry!” said the woman. She picked one of her filets off her plate and placed it in front of the kitty. Zingara, having accomplished her mission, grabbed the tilapia with her teeth and darted off back toward the Torre Argentina.

 

Once back home and sitting on the steps, Zingara savored her newly earned prize. She consumed it quickly in case anyone tried to take her food. When not a single crumb was left, Zingara licked her lips so that there was no evidence of the fish.

Satisfied with what she had done at La Ciambella, Zingara closed one eye then the other, and went back to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Five: Splendore

 

SPLENDORE STOOD ABOVE Zingara on the steps leading up to the Temple of Juturna, waving her paw in front of the fawn spotted queen's face.

“Zingara...” Splendore said, sounding almost hypnotic. “Zingara, are you awake?”

 

The blue point Birman knew Zingara like the back of her paw. When they had had an owner, they did everything together, whether it was napping or trying that crazy escape plan that had separated them from their human home. But for these two, as long as they were together, it was home.

 

“Zingara!” said Splendore, losing her patience and smacking the sleeping kitty's nose. Zingara awoke with a start and exclaimed, “Ow! Why'd you have to do that?”

Splendore, who appeared physically upside-down to Zingara, explained, “Sorry. But the only time you sleep as soundly as you just did is after you've eaten. Tell the truth: what did you eat?”

 

“Uhhhhhh...” Zingara froze up. She knew that Splendore didn't like it when someone didn't tell her the truth about things. Maybe because the food was already inside her stomach, Zingara could tell Splendore about it without taking any risks?

 

“I went to La Ciambella and persuaded a tourist to give me fish.” Zingara admitted.

Splendore stared into her eyes for what seemed like a long time until she finally said, “Okay. I believe you. Just one thing.”

“Yeah?” Zingara asked hesitantly.

Splendore asked, “What kind of fish was it?”

Her friend let out a sigh of relief. “Tilapia,” she informed.

 

The Birman said, "Phooey! Tilapia's my favorite. Too bad I missed it. Maybe you can help me get some breakfast."

“Of course! La Ciambella has much in store for us felines.” Zingara laughed. So the two walked on the same path that Zingara had taken earlier that morning: a right then a left then two rights. And as expected, there was a person about to dig into a yummy platter of chicken. Splendore looked at Zingara and Zingara looked at Splendore. This would be good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six: Credenza

 

CREDENZA PEEKED OUT from her hiding spot behind a medium-sized silver trashcan. The spotted grey tabby queen looked left then right, and once she knew that it was safe to leave, Credenza turned her head around and said, “Come, Piccolo.”

 

That was when a little brown tabby with white tuxedo markings emerged from the shadows. He walked over to where his mother was standing and asked, “Where are we going, Mama?”

Credenza rubbed her head against Piccolo's, saying, “We are going to visit the Largo di Torre Argentina, where our fellow cats are. It is time you were introduced to the other strays.”

 

“Just me?” Piccolo asked, beaming.

Credenza laughed. “No, Piccolo. Your sister will come too. Speaking of your sister...” She walked closer to the trashcan. “Biscotti, come out, dear.”

A few moments went by before another kitten the color of an almond biscotti took a step forward and asked, “Did I come at the right time, Mama? I can go back if I came too early.”

 

Her mother went behind her and nudged her forward. “You came at the perfect time, la mia piccola stella. As I was telling your brother, I am taking you both to the Largo di Torre Argentina.”

“Come now. We must go before afternoon hits, for that is when the city is at its peak time.” She started to walk away from the trashcan with brave Piccolo behind his mama and Biscotti behind him.

 

They were passing La Ciambella when all of a sudden, Credenza stopped and froze, causing Piccolo to bump into Credenza and Biscotti to bump into Piccolo.

“Zingara, Splendore, is that you?” the spotted grey queen asked. Two cats, one a blue point Birman and one a fawn spotted tabby, turned around with tiny bits of chicken stuck in their fur and a joyful expression on their faces.

 

“Credenza!” they exclaimed. “We haven't seen you in a while. How are you? And, aww, are these your kittens?” Splendore asked, her fur touching Biscotti's nose and causing the little kitty to sneeze.

“Yes.” Credenza said. “This is Biscotti, my angel, and this is Piccolo, my freespirit.”

 

Zingara stepped forward and said, “Hello, Piccolo. Hello, Biscotti.” She looked at the queen. “Where are you taking them?”

Credenza replied, “The Largo di Torre Argentina. I think it would be good for them to mingle with the other strays.”

 

“We were just heading back there! Shall we join you?” Splendore asked, who had been tickling Biscotti with her whiskers.

“Why, of course!” Credenza said. And so the five cats walked toward the ruin together.

Chapter Seven: Tigre

 

TIGRE YAWNED AS minutes went by. Will the gattara arrive soon? he wondered, looking left and right. Well, if she does not, Tigre decided, perhaps I will take a little nap. The orange mackerel tabby tom waited a few more moments, and when the gattara did not arrive, he lay down, and closed his golden eyes.

 

He was just beginning to doze off when he suddenly heard multiple voices all talking at once. Tigre opened his eyes to see Splendore, Zingara, and a spotted grey tabby queen sitting at the steps of the ruin. He was sure that he had seen that grey queen from somewhere, but where?

Finally he said, “Credenza, is that you?”

 

Credenza laughed. “It is indeed, Tigre.” Two kittens, one a brown tabby with tuxedo markings and one the color of an almond biscotti, jumped out from behind her and started play-fighting each other.

“Are those your...” Tigre asked, coming closer. He sat right in front of the kittens with his head on the ground and his tush in the air in a pounce-like movement to get a better view of the kitties.

 

“Yes.” Credenza said. “This is Piccolo,” she motioned to the brown tabby, “and this is Biscotti.” Tigre touched the smaller one with his big paw and had it covered with fur the next minute. He licked his paw clean and hoped that he would not cough up a hairball shortly after.

 

Tigre asked, "When will you move to the Largo di Torre Argentina, if you're planning on that." The queen looked to make sure Biscotti and Piccolo were distracted, then said to Tigre: "We might live among the humans. It's safer for them. I am looking for a gentle Italian woman."

 

She explained, "The reason I took them here is because I would like for them to meet the gattara, for I want to see how they react to someone with personality traits like hers."

The mackerel tabby nodded, but inside he was confused. Why did Credenza need to leave? He said, "Well, I wish you luck." A thank you was uttered, and then there was silence, except for the sound of the kittens' endless mewing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter eight: Coraggioso

 

CORAGGIOSO EYED THE road on which a little brown Yorkshire terrier dog was sniffing the ground. The tortoiseshell tabby tom wasn't exactly what you would call a canine admirer; in fact whenever he saw a dog, he would hiss and yowl fiercely until it was gone.

The Yorkie barked, causing Coraggioso to brace himself for whatever might happen, then resumed sniffing the cobblestone ground.

 

As the tom watched the dog's every move from his place on a stone column that had been salvaged sometime in history, his companion Tigre noticed him sitting in a way that made him look bigger and went over to where the tortoiseshell was perched.

"Coraggioso?" Tigre asked. The other cat immediately turned his head around to see who was speaking, then he continued watching the puppy.

 

"What are you looking at?" the orange mackerel tabby asked. He jumped onto the also-salvaged column beside him.

"That, my friend." Coraggioso said, motioning toward the road. Tigre followed Coraggioso's eyes and saw the Yorkshire terrier. "Another one of the world's troublemakers."

Tigre sighed. "Does this really matter? The gattara will be here soon." Coraggioso noticed a slight choke in his voice when he mentioned the gattara.

 

"Yes, it does." Coraggioso said, changing his focus to the Yorkie's owner, who was texting on her phone and paying no attention whatsoever to the dog, the leash loose in her fist. "I do hope she doesn't let go by any chance," the tortie said.

Tigre yawned. "I see no point in watching dogs and their glowing box-addicted owners. I'm going to take my nap." He leaped off the column, leaving Coraggioso alone.

 

That was when a little blackbird flew off the Mediterranean roof of a store and landed a few feet away from the Yorkie. The dog barked and ran in the direction of the bird, yanking the leash out of the teenage girl's hand.

She looked up from her phone, gasped, and said while running after the dog, "Fou Fou, come back!"

 

Coraggioso grinned, and lept off the column when they were both out of sight. He sauntered over to where Tigre was snoozing, curled up, and closed his eyes. Within a few minutes he was purring in his sleep, dreaming of hunting birds successfully.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter nine: Formaggio

FORMAGGIO'S PAW WAS the only part of him that was visible from the balcony in the fifth floor of a cream Roman apartment on the Via Condotti. The cream blotched tabby tom had used the balconies below this one to climb up to here, because Formaggio was a risk-taker.

He managed to get his other paw on the wooden top of the balcony and used his core strength to lift his body up. Once Formaggio was completely at the top, he saw that the door to the apartment bedroom was open. A white bed with a tan tufted headboard sat against a neutral blue room, and a sparkly diamond bracelet had been placed atop a dark grey nightstand with a lamp that had a cream shade and a glass sphere that held the lamp shade.

That bracelet, Formaggio thought, looks perfect for me. He jumped off the railing and landed on the cream carpeted floor of the bedroom. Silently, he crept forward until the bracelet was in close proximity to him. He lifted up his paw but couldn't reach the bracelet. "There must be a way," the mischievous tabby said to himself.

Aha—the bed. Formaggio leaped onto the bed and went to the top right corner, then he stuck his paw out and tried again to grab the bracelet. And again, he couldn't reach by an inch. But he wanted that jewerly badly, so Formaggio stretched his paw out further. Still, it didn't reach.

I must have that bracelet, he grumbled.

One more time, Formaggio stretched his paw as far as it could go. Just a little more...and...there! His paw knocked the bracelet onto the ground; Formaggio was about to go down and retrieve the little bijou when suddenly a pretty Italian woman with wavy, almost black locks of hair falling down her back and olive skin walked into the room.

"What?" said the woman in a natural Italian accent. Formaggio didn't waste any time and darted away, the diamond bracelet held tightly in his mouth. The woman chased him to the balcony, yet she just barely missed him. The kitty leaped onto the balcony below this one and repeated the cycle with each one, reaching the bottom of the apartment the same moment the woman opened the entry doors of the building with both hands.

She saw Formaggio and ran after him, across streets and past buildings, pushing past the tourists and locals that had been snapping pictures and shopping at Gucci. The cream blotched cat tried to lose her, but to no avail. She just kept coming. Formaggio turned corners and made sharp lefts and rights until the Largo di Torre Argentina came into view.

He could see the gattara nearing the ruin and decided to go faster. In the nick of time, Formaggio slid underneath the gattara's legs, and didn't turn around to see the two women bump into each other.

Meanwhile, Bellezza was just walking over to the middle of the ruin just as the Italian woman was running after Formaggio. The woman stopped suddenly and paused.

Chapter Ten: Cacciatore

 CACCIATORE WATCHED WITH great intent as Bellezza and the Italian woman that had followed Formaggio into the Largo di Torre Argentina stared at each other. The classic brownish-grey tabby tom knew that Bellezza had lost her owner when she was very young. Could this really be happening?

"Maria?" asked Bellezza in the same breath that the woman said, "Bellezza?"

The Burmilla queen, who seemed to not yet believe that this was truly the woman she had spent her kitten years with, circled the person standing before her. The Italian woman laughed and picked up the blue tabby queen.

"Oh, Bellezza!" cried the woman. "How I missed you. You're so grown up, mio angelo dal cielo."

And she buried her face in Bellezza's fur with those words. The Burmilla mewed like a kitten; Bellezza rubbed her head against Maria's cheek.

"Maria..." Bellezza said. "You're here. You're really here."

Splendore and Zingara rested their heads on one another and said, "Aww."

A few feet away from the Birman and the tabby, Principessa smiled. Bellezza had found her owner. That was something you didn't see every day: a stray cat in the prime of her life being reunited with her long-lost woman.

Maria looked at Formaggio. "So, can I have my bracelet back?" The cream blotched tabby pushed the diamond bracelet forward.

"Meow." he said happily.

Bellezza looked at Formaggio. “Perhaps stealing jewelry and whatnot might be a good thing in some cases. Thank you, Formaggio.”

“You're welcome.”

All the while, Cacciatore had been putting together the scattered puzzle pieces in his mind. Suddenly he said to Principessa, "Principessa! I think the gattara might be your owner!"

The ruddy Abyssinian queen turned her head to the side. "You really think so?"

For some unknown reason the gattara bent down at the cats' eye level and said, “Vieni qui, Principessa. Il mio gattino selvaggio.”

The queen shrugged. "I guess you're right, Cacciatore!" she said, bounding toward the gattara with so much speed that she nearly knocked down her newly-found owner.

“Oh, mio gatta. La mia piccola scappatrice.”  Then she looked directly into Principessa's eyes. "My free cat."

Notte, who was sitting among the other cats, said, "Who knew? The gattara speaks English."

Cacciatore smiled. This was a happy scene. This evening couldn't get any better—or could it?

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven: Crepuscolo

CREPUSCOLO HAD BEEN watching the reuniting of the stray cats and their owners until he saw an woman walking by the Largo di Torre Argentina. She looked Italian, but there was only one way to find out.

The brown ticked tabby tom got off the outer edge of the ruin and walked straight up to the woman.

“Nyow! Nyow!” he meowed, rubbing against the woman's olive-colored legs. She looked down and mused, “Oh! What an adorable gatto. Ciao!”

Crepuscolo let out another meow and began to saunter into the ruin. He turned his head around and moved it in a “come” motion before continuing to saunter.

The elderly woman followed him into the Largo di Torre Argentina and observed the other strays just sitting around. She wondered why then realized that Crepuscolo was way ahead of her, so she walked faster.

Eventually Crepuscolo came to Credenza and her kittens. He rubbed his side against her, trying to bring attention to the grey tabby queen, which confused her.

"What are you doing?" she asked him, looking around to see what he might be up to.

Crepuscolo was watching the woman, whom he realized had similar facial features as the gattara. “I am finding a home for you and your kittens. Now play along!”

The woman came forward, and immediately her focus went from Crepuscolo to Credenza. “My! What a bellissimo gatta! So beautiful!" Then she noticed the queen's kittens. "Oh, and are these your gattini?" She rubbed each of their heads. "I might take you home with me. How does that sound, amore?”

Credenza gave a purr of approval. She looked at Crepuscolo and said, "Thank you so much. For everything. It really matters to me."

The brown ticked tabby smiled. "It matters to me, too."

Biscotti and Piccolo gasped, their mouths open and their eyes wide. "You mean...we get to live with the nice lady?"

Their mother smiled. "Yes, we get to live with the nice lady." She winked at Crepuscolo, and he winked back.

Meanwhile, Credenza and her kittens' new owner went over to the gattara and Maria. "Did you find your cuori?”

Maria and the gattara smiled. “We did.” they said, Bellezza in Maria's arms and Principessa in the gattara's.

Principessa exchanged a glance at Bellezza. “Thank you for taking care of me for all these years.” Bellezza smiled. Nothing was said, but it was felt—deep down inside the heart.

Chapter Twelve: Segreto

SEGRETO SAT ON the brown woven doormat that was placed at the front of a little Mediterranean cottage with stone walls. The blue cream dilute tortoiseshell tom pawed at the door, and after a few moments, an Italian woman with flowing brown hair opened the door.

“Why, hello, Segreto!” said the woman. “I am glad you came. Come, come; your friends are inside.”

Once past the door, Segreto found himself in the living room of the house, which had a sand upholstered sofa and a golden cocktail table. Sitting on the sofa were Maria and the gattara, while Principessa, Bellezza, Credenza, and her kittens lay on the woven sand carpet, rolling on their backs and taking to each other. Then Principessa saw him and said, “Segreto! You're here!” She went closer.

Segreto smiled. “I suppose I am.” he joked. The Abyssinian queen giggled and turned to watch the group just as Biscotti pounced onto Piccolo.

The tom said, “It is so convenient that your owners are friends.”

“It really is.” Principessa said as Bellezza walked up to them.

“Hello, Segreto!” Bellezza said. “I am delighted you are finally here.”

Segreto chuckled. “Yes, I'm afraid Tigre begged if he could come with me and wouldn't let go of my leg.” The three laughed and sauntered over to where Credenza was sitting.

The spotted grey tabby queen sensed the cats nearing her and said, “Hi, Segreto!”

Segreto said hello, then asked, “How has your third week with Ilene been?”

“Amazing. I do not have to worry about the kittens getting lost, and Ilene is such a sweet person.”

“Ah, those are the best.” Segreto mused. The he changed the subject. “Biscotti seems to have grown braver.”

Credenza said, “Yes, in fact she now plans surprise attacks on Piccolo that he does not expect. Perhaps the change in her environment has made her step outside her comfort zone.”

“It may be so.”

Suddenly there were a scratch at the door and Credenza's owner stood up to see who it was. In a few minutes Splendore and Zingara entered the room and said, “We've come to join the party!”

Biscotti and Piccolo ran over to see the new arrivals and tripped on each other. Segreto, Bellezza, Principessa, and Credenza laughed at their antics.

So it went—a room of laughter, fun, and conversation, the very thing a person might find among the free cats of Italy.

The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017

 On Monday, August 21, 2017, North America saw a solar eclipse. Anyone within the path of totality was able to see one of nature’s most awe inspiring sights - a total solar eclipse. This path, where the moon had completely covered the sun and the sun's atmosphere - the corona - could be seen, stretched from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. Observers outside this path still saw a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun's disk.

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The Italian Lemon: Birman Cat Crush

That's right. These blue-eyed beauties have stolen my heart from the exotic Bengal, a crossbred of the Asian Leopard cat and a striped shorthair. As you might have guessed, the Birman cat originates from ancient Burma, giving it the title “Sacred Cat of Burma.” If only I could get a name like that!

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The Birman is a calm, affectionate feline who enjoys spending time with his family — especially if you lavish lots of attention on this former temple idol. Birmans get along well with children and other pets. If you talk to him, your Birman will respond in a soft, pretty voice, but he’s not as vocal as the Thai Siamese. Although Birmans are less active than some breeds, they have a serious playful side. It’s not unusual for them to fetch or chase a ball -- when they’re not curled up in your lap.

Fish 101: Regal Blue Tangs

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Regal blue tangs are found mostly in the Indo-Pacific. The Philippines, Japan, Florida and Costa Rica are a few of these places. Its diet is mostly of plankton, but they also eat algae. Owning a "Dory" fish is not recommended, for they can cause swelling, inflammation, discoloration, and severe bleeding. The regal blue tang has other names including the Royal Blue Tang Fish, the palette surgeonfish (due to its  surgeon's scalet-shaped tail), Indo-Pacific Bluetang, Dory, Flagtail Surgeonfish, Hepatus Tang, Blue Surgeonfish, Regal Blue Surgeonfish, and a few others. A blue tang can live up to 20 years if in captivity. 

 

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Northern Cardinals

The northern cardinal, scientifically known as Cardinalis cardinalis, is a North American bird in the genus Cardinalis; it is also known colloquially as the redbird or common cardinal. It can be found in southern Canada, through the eastern United States from Maine to Texas and south through Mexico. It is found in woodlands, gardens, shrublands, and swamps.

 

The northern cardinal is a mid-sized songbird with a body length of 21–23 cm (8.3–9.1 in). It has a distinctive crest on the head and a mask on the face which is black in the male and gray in the female. The male is a vibrant red, while the female is a dull reddish olive. The northern cardinal is mainly granivorous, but also feeds on insects and fruit. The male behaves territorially, marking out his territory with song. During courtship, the male feeds seed to the female beak-to-beak. A clutch of three to four eggs is laid, and two to four clutches are produced each year. It was once prized as a pet, but its sale as a cage bird was banned in the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918

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The northern cardinal is one of three birds in the genus Cardinalis and is included in the family Cardinalidae, which is made up of passerine birds found in North and South America.

 

The northern cardinal was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae. It was initially included in the genus Loxia, which now contains only crossbills. In 1838, it was placed in the genus Cardinalis and given the scientific name Cardinalis virginianus, which means "Virginia cardinal". In 1918, the scientific name was changed to Richmondena cardinalis to honor Charles Wallace Richmond, an American ornithologist. In 1983, the scientific name was changed again to Cardinalis cardinalis and the common name was changed to "northern cardinal", to avoid confusion with the seven other species also termed cardinals.

The common name, as well as the scientific name, of the northern cardinal refers to the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, who wear distinctive red robes and caps. The term "northern" in the common name refers to its range, as it is the northernmost cardinal species.

 

 

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Coding: Samantha's First HTML Lesson, Morris the Cat

**Note: The below post is made from HTML full coded by Samantha. In this lesson she learned to: use the bold tag, paragraph tags, italics, embed an image, embed a video and create a hyperlink. She also learned about Morris of 9 Lives cat food fame. All work and all words below are via Samantha.**

Morris is one of the most popular shorthaired cats in America. You might remember him from his television ads for 9 Lives Cat Food.

Here is one of his commericals. (and it's a really funny one!)

Finicky Morris has done many things besides television ads. He has appeared on many talk shows, including Oprah Winfrey and Sally Jessy Raphael. He has even been in magazines. Morris is listed as the author for three books about cats and cat health care.

But even though he is famous, he is not a fancy breed of cat. Morris is an American shorthaired tabby, and the color of marmalade.

To learn more about Morris, check out his Facebook page..

Story of the World: Nomadic People & the Beginning of Societies

We've just begun reading Susan Wise Bauer's book, The Story of the World: Volume 1: Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor. It is teaching history with humor and a fun way of education. This post is about the first part of Bauer's book: the earliest nomads.

About seven thousand years ago, nomads lived VERY old-fashioned. They went from here to there, and slept in either tents or caves. In warm spots, they would sleep in a tent. But if in cold spots, such as a mountaintop, a cave would be their home. Nomads ate plants, roots, nuts, berries and other foods, such as meat and fish. If they'd eaten all the food at "home-base", well, off they would go to a new place. 

The Fertile Crescent was a very good place for nomads to live. It had this name because of its shape and soil. Two rivers, named the Tigris and the Euphrates, ran through the Fertile Crescent, playing a big part in the fertile soil. Rich grass, wild barley and other plantlike things grew there. When the nomads found this place, they saw animals feeding on the food.

I'm loving this book. We also do the workbook and activities together at the same time when we read it out loud. Stay tuned for more chapters as we continue. More importantly... see ME in this video below talking about those crazy nomads. 

Rivers: The Amazon…

The Amazon River in South America is the largest river by discharge of water in the world, and the second in length. The river enters the Atlantic Ocean in north-eastern Brazil in a broad estuary about 240 kilometres (150 mi) wide. The mouth of the main stem is 80 kilometres (50 mi). The width of the Amazon is between 1.6 and 10 kilometres (1.0 and 6.2 mi) at low stage, but expands during the wet season to 48 kilometres (30 mi) or more. Because of its vast dimensions, it is sometimes called "The River Sea".

The Amazon averages a discharge of about 209,000 cubic metres per second, approximately 6,591 cubic kilometres per annum which is greater than the next seven largest independent rivers combined.

The Amazon basin is the largest drainage basin in the world, with an area of approximately 7,050,000 square kilometres (2,720,000 sq mi), and accounts for roughly one-fifth of the world's total river flow. 

The portion of the river's drainage basin in Brazil alone is larger than any other river's basin. The Amazon enters Brazil with only one-fifth of the flow it finally discharges into the Atlantic Ocean, yet already has a greater flow at this point than the discharge of any other river.

Piranhas live in the Amazon River. They are the most feared creatures there. They like to hunt alone and are so called "loners". 

Another feared creature is called the anaconda. The green anaconda, or Eunecetes murinus, is the largest and heaviest snake in the world, although it is not the longest. This snake is so big that even a book of records fail to determine its maximum size, although scientists think it can grow up to 22 feet in length. Anacondas are frightening predators because they will overpower and eat virtually anything including fish, birds, deer, crocodiles and even other anacondas. The good news is that there is no actual evidence that an anaconda has ever eaten a human being although there are many unconfirmed stories of man-eating anacondas.

One of the largest freshwater fish in the world—the arapaima, pirarucu, or paiche—can grow up to 15 feet in length. The torpedo-shaped fish is a highly efficient predator that can quickly devour other species of fish. Arapaima is a frightening predator because they can literally jump out of the water and attack prey. Strangely enough, the arapaima needs surface air to breathe. It has gills, but it has to augment its air supply with a lung-like organ called a swim bladder. Ironically, the arapaima is a popular food in Brazil, so it has been fished nearly to extinction in some areas. The Brazilian government has banned commercial fishing for it.

It is hard to believe, but an electric eel can produce a jolt of electricity of up to 600 volts. That’s similar to the effects of a stun gun or a taser. It won’t kill a healthy person, but it will knock a person down or cause a heart attack in some people. Fortunately, they don’t eat humans, but some people are believed to have drowned in the Amazon or its tributaries after an encounter with an electric eel. Electric eels use special cells called electrolytes to stun or kill their prey before consuming it. Ironically enough, an electric eel isn’t an eel at all: it is actually a species of cat fish!

No bridge crosses the river along its entire length. The Amazon and its tributaries flow through the countries of Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean 6, 437 kilometers (4,000 miles) from the Amazon's headwaters high in the Andes mountains of Peru.

The Amazon River is fresh water. It accounts for one fifth of the total volume of fresh water that discharges into oceans worldwide.

The southern reaches of the Amazon rainforest are drying up – a little bit more each year. That’s according to a new study which finds that since 1979, the region’s dry season has got about a week longer each decade.

 

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Monument: Rome's Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is a famous landmark, used as a backdrop in movies such as Three Coins in a Fountain, La Dolce Vita, and my personal favorite, Roman Hoilday! (I've only seen a little, but it's Rome!)

The Trevi Fountain has a strange theme. When you come, you toss a coin or two as a promise you will come back to Rome. All the money goes to a supermarket for Rome's needy. There are regular attempts to steal coins from the fountain. (Of course they are! You want to know those thieves are thinking? $$$$$!!! And maybe you're thinking $$$$ now, too).

The fountain is sometimes called a monument, though it doesn't stand for a person. It does, however, celebrate the discovery of a key resource for pure water for Rome. Legend has it that in 19 BC, an ordinary young girl led Roman soldiers to a key source of water. The soldiers named it "Virgin Water", in honor of the little girl. 

The architect of the Trevi Fountian is named Nicola Salvi. The fountain was draped in black when the artist died. (Sniffle, sniffle! Isn't that sad? Oh!)

Watch out for other posts!

Pley: Lego Friends Hot Air Balloon...

Samantha's first Pley delivery was the Leaning Tower of Pisa. For effort two she tackled the very cute LEGO Friends Hot Air Balloon set. Super cute little couple on a hot air balloon ride setting out for a picnic complete with croissant and stools to sit on as they overlook a waterfall. These little scenes are adorable! This set has 254 tiny pieces but took her less than an hour to complete. Not surprising! That piece count is on the smaller side for her, but she loved the sweetness of the setting and it is nice to mix up our shipments: architecture one week, Friends the next. What a cool service this will be to use for a while! 

 

Watch out for other posts at www.frankidurbin.com/royalprep! 

Khan Academy Progress Report: Samantha

We've captured most but not all of Samantha's Khan Academy progress in the app. This is one of her favorite ways to approach math and computer science. She completed her Hour of Code challenge and went on to do a few more hours of code. It became an addiction! Here are just a few of her tracked accomplishments:

BADGES & PROJECTS

We'll try to do a pulse check here once a month to track her progress and show how well she's doing! 

Archipelago: The Canary Islands...

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The Canary Islands are an archipelago off the coast of Morocco on Africa's northwest coastline. Interestingly enough, these islands are a far-flung part of Spain's official territory. 

Also known as the Canaries, this Spanish archipelago is a major tourist destination with over 12 million visitors per year. The islands have a subtropical climate, with long, warm summers, and moderately warm winters.

One of the things that the Canary Islands are known for is their nature parks such as Corona Forestal, Cumbre Vieja, and Tamadaba Nature Park. The archipelago is surprisingly volcanic. 

Why do the Canary Islands belong to Spain? January, 1980, Catalonia and the Basque Country were granted autonomy, meaning self governed. The Canary Islands are a province of Spain. Somewhere in history dating from 711 A.D and 1492, Spain took the Islands, and a lot more of the world. But it lost some of its holding during the Spanish-American War, 1898. Spain owns the Canary Islands because they took them by force just as Rome took Spain in 200 B.C.

Also, how did the Canary Islands get their name? Although it might seem logical, they're actually not named after the little yellow bird. Instead, the Islands get their name from a Latin term, "Insula Canaria", which means "Islands of the Dogs." The ancient Romans who first visited the Islands gave them this name.

 

Look out for other posts at www.frankidurbin.com/royalprep!