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Blog Posts on My Frugal Life:

Tales of My Instruments
Friday, August 10, 2012 | By pamphyila

I am somewhat of a musician - and the story goes that musicians spend more on their instruments than their cars - because they have to have good ones to play with!

I get around that by sharp shopping for good used instruments. Just acquired the best lap harp I have ever had and am playing harp again.  We found it in a shop that deals mostly in guitars and drums, altho I have gotten two weird autoharp-like instruments there that are collectables.

Last visit a few months ago, I came across a BEAUTIFUL Dusty Strings lap harp, in almost new condition, with a nice padded carrying case and strings for $350.  Now, that sound like a lot of money, but I have seen similar lap harps new for nearly $700, so I knew it was a great deal.  We put money down on it, and only now have we had the money to pay it off and pick it up. I immediately went home and checked the new list price on the internet and sure enough, it was about $700 - so I got it for half the price! What a lovely instrument and just the right size to pick up and play.

I also am back playing clarinet, which I had played in high school.  I had been pretty good then, and still have my classic clarinet from then - that's worth a bit of money nowadays, I could never afford it! today I also was given a RED band instrument, and found a nice wooden clarinet, old & probably French, at a thrift shop for $80.

Now clarinets are high-tech 19th Century instruments, with lots of springs and so on - and the red clarinet, despite being done over, blew a spring & I can't play the upper part - but I WAS able to put the UPPER part of the red one with the LOWER part of the old French one (which needs overhauling & that costs $) - Together it has made a playable instrument for now, as I practice daily to get my "lip" back. !5 minutes is about as much as I can do! Oh, and I practice from my 1891 Langey clarinet tutor, which I found in a secondhand book store for $12 (less than the new edition - it's still in print!)

So, you see my musical frugality! That and buying Celtic music from McCabe's music store from the bargain section (I also bought a new harp book.)

Is that too obscure for you?  Just remember that there are often great deals in used instruments, some of which are better than new ones of today. I bought some recorders on eBay at one point, and got some from a noted but obscure maker.

Do your research! I bought the French clarinet impulsively and then while researching it, found all about the history of small French clarinet shops which made "label" clarinets (Mine has the label of a very old L.A. music store)  - they were made just before the war and into the 50's - I have to get the money together & shop around for a deal to get its 19th C. mechanism overhauled! I also am going to get the broke part of the red clarinet fixed. Perhaps a place that does a lot of band instruments can help me.

So, once again, knowledge is power!  It's just like recognizing good labels on clothes at the thrift shops (all my designer clothes are thrift shop purchases)....So keep your eyes peeled!

P.S. a friend of mine found an almost new spinet piano in a thrift shop and alerted a friend who was looking for one and that was a super deal, too


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Memorial Day II
Wednesday, May 30, 2012 | By pamphyila

Are you musical? Are your kids musical?

One thing being musical myself is that I always look for music books and sheet music in thrift shops.  You frequently see what must be a collection that has been donated.  In the 50-70's many good song books were published with good bindings, and containing familiar folk songs and other popular songs - meant to be sung at the piano (or to a guitar) - most are chorded, an added plus. These chords were probably added for the guitar, but they are also great for me, a ukulele player (if they are not too hard!)

This weekend for $1.49 each I pickup up a 255 page Nostalgic Years in Song book, and a Reader's Digest Treasury of Song (288 pages with a wire binding).

Both were in good shape, but I did have to tape the broken binding of the Nostalgic Songs. Even new, these cost $8 or more - and today would be twice or three times as much.  So you have to agree that $1.49 apiece is a good deal. 

Lots of music to pluck my ukulele to!






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Review on book by Lucille O'Neal
Friday, February 25, 2011 | By latrtatr


A book review on  


Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go by Lucille O"Neal

A story of the hardships and triumphs of a single black mother brought up in a religious family that highly disapproved of her wild ways. When she finds herself pregnant and abandoned by the baby's father she pulls on the strength ingrained in her from her upbringing. With a sense of humor, pride and unbelievable courage she raises her family. One who just happens to be basketball superstar Shaquille O"Neal.

If you want to read books for free, make a book review, then get another free book contact

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Free Books and Sheet Music Online
Monday, February 21, 2011 | By begonia

I moderate a teen book discussion group for our local homeschool group once a month. This month we are discussing G.K. Chesterton and mysteries as a genre. We have an excellent public library system with over 30 linked libraries, but it is surprisingly thin on G. K. Chesterton!

We are reading the Best of Father Brown, a series of short mysteries starring the unassuming man of the cloth sleuth. (Don’t you love that word “sleuth”?) When one of the families that are participating let me know that they weren’t able to get the book from the library, I started poking around online looking for sites that might have a readable or downloadable version of the stories. I found a “fan” site that specialized in all of G. K. Chesterton’s works and e-mailed the URL to that family so they could have their reading and research done by the group would meet ( ).

In the process of searching for this information, I found some sites that I thought might be of interest to anyone who has web access by doesn’t have to a big library system or who might live in a state that requires fees for library use. If you are a homeschooler, you have probably sacrificed an income to be at home with your children and these sites could enrich your homeschool hugely.

If you are a homesteader or have embraced “voluntary” or “involuntary” simplicity, a lot of these older, public domain books (published before 1923 with unrenewed copyrights) may help you to learn basic living skills affordably. Here is a short list:

·  Librivox: Acoustical Liberation of Books in the Public Domain

·  List of public domain sites with nice descriptions of how the materials can be used.

·  Public domain sheet music!

(Public Domain Sherpa also gives important information on copyright and how the materials can be used.)

The sun goes down early at this time of year. Settle down somewhere comfortable with a hot drink and enjoy a good FREE read! Begonia


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Good friends on rainy days!
Monday, October 25, 2010 | By MzScarlett

I LOVE books! So glad our mom was a reader; I read to my daughter when carrying her, after she was born, and she also loved to read, and did the same with her 3 boys; and they all now love reading as well!

Love cookbooks as well; though have to admit my favoritest is the Farm Journal ones that I have picked up. I do pick others up, but then just jot down the recipes I really love, and freecycle them on to others! FAR better as my bookshelves can reach over flowing easily! Have a bunch of books picked up and ready to be read on days like today when it's cold, and raining buckets!

And my favorite: magazines! a  neighbor down the street gets tons of them; I take her birds and blooms ones and the stack them in the magazine rack to look at and enjoy during the dreary cold days of rain, snow, sleet, hail, etc. I DROOL over David Austin's FREE English rose book; so incredibly beautiful to see. Jot down plants that interest me, but don't really have much room for to very many more of them!

Not a TV watcher hardly at all; get internet and basic channels for $39 a month; do upgrade in winter to $10 more; gives me more channels if I DO decide to watch. And the LOVELY music channels! They did NOT tell me that I would get them; tried just for fun, and love the golden oldies! Listen to it all day long without interruptions or commercials; HEAVENLY!

During the summer, I am outside a lot and do read at times, but not near as much as during the winter months. LOVE to get a cup of tea, and just put my bathrobe on over my clothes to get warmer, and just read an excellent story teller!

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Frost is coming! YIKES!
Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | By MzScarlett

Watching the news today; it was 80 degrees today; and then lower tomorrow and then into the 60's and it is going to be near freezing tomorrow night. I am NOT READY to have it so cold; yet it IS October. Soon the days will be shorter and shorter and shorter.

 It is difficult time for me to deal with little sun; so I keep Birds and Blooms magazine that a friend gives to me; I have a magazine holder, and they stay there until winter time. David Austin's free rose catalogue is also there. How I  LOVE looking at the beautiful roses in the gloomy dreary days of winter.

I have 2 stacks of books actually that I have put aside for me to read; this is something that I do when winter is here and the weather not clear; I can curl up and read a GREAT book! And sip a cup of tea; with raw honey in it! mmmm, it doesn't sound quite so bad after all!

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Book Report: Instant Bargains
Friday, July 09, 2010 | By begonia

I don’t remember what string of research led me to this book and the website. I read a lot of self-sufficiency magazines, books, and blogs. One thing leads to another. . . .

 The full title is Instant Bargains: 600+ Ways to Shrink Your Grocery Bills and Eat Well for Less (got to love those subtitles) by Kimberly Danger. This little book is crammed with tips on shopping strategies; stocking your kitchen and pantry; storing, cooking, and using food efficiently; and even feeding babies affordably and economical cooking for people who “don’t cook.”

I especially enjoyed the section on making your own mixes and other products like yogurt. I tried the instructions for making yogurt in a slow cooker. (We use a lot of yogurt making smoothies in the summer when fruit is cheap and abundant.) It turned out pretty well. Good enough for smoothies and making yogurt cheese.

The “Eat Healthy for Less” chapter was also very good. This can be a real challenge when you are watching your pennies. The section on stocking your pantry was also excellent.

Even if you have been in the frugal business for years, you will learn something from this book. If you don’t get any new ideas from reading it, you should be blogging and sharing with the rest of us mere mortals!  ;-) Begonia


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Continuous Learning: Baskets O' Summer Reading
Wednesday, June 02, 2010 | By begonia

We are almost done with formal schooling for this home school year—the kind with paper or oral tests. That doesn’t mean that learning has to stop. I like to offer us all opportunities for continuous learning, either hands-on or from books.

As a kid, my most enjoyable learning happened by reading books from various libraries—I had four library cards at one point! When I found a subject interesting, I would read every book in the library on that topic.

You don’t have to be a home schooler to try out this activity, but you should adapt the books or materials you choose to fit your family’s interests and abilities. For example, if you have young children, you might fill one basket with books to read to them and another with picture story books and DK or Eyewitness books with photographs and drawings for them to "read" on their own. If you are unsure of what materials to choose, the friendly folks at your local public library can help you!

 I have a big stash of books to choose from that I’ve picked up at garage, estate, and library sales. We will have three baskets. One will contain poetry because reading it helps you to be a better writer of it; a second will be filled with classic science fiction because my daughter has been writing a lot of sci fi for the past year and is constantly asking me about plot lines; and a third will hold classics by Twain, Dickens,  Steinbeck, and other greats.

Put the baskets where ever you relax or gather as a family, and encourage everyone to dip in and explore the offerings, read to each other, and share what they are discovering. You won’t lack for good conversation all summer! Begonia



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Reselling Books
Wednesday, December 02, 2009 | By sallyfreebird

 I love to collect books, and vintage cookbooks, but sometimes I buy them at Estate Sales, and make a huge profit from them on eBay. If you really check eBay you will find the types of books, or vintage cookbooks that sell really well on eBay. Then when you are out looking at the flea markets and estate sales, you can pick up the copies really cheap, and turn around and sell them on EBay to make a nice little profit. Also other types of things that sell well are any genealogy related books, no matter how old, I found one that was only about a quarter, paperback that someone had written from the 1940's someone purchased the quarter book for over 30.00 because they were looking with anything with their families name on it. Just a few ideas for you to check into.


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Eat, Pray, Love
Thursday, May 15, 2008 | By flowfreely

"Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert was an incredible read.  Seriously.  I wasn't expecting it to be so good, but I found it to be extremely well-written, interesting, and nice.  I loved the section on Italy and that type of appreciation for food.  I wish America was like that, I think. 

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