7 Supplies to Kickstart Your Bullet Journal Practice

iStock.com/PeopleImages
iStock.com/PeopleImages

Bullet journals are part planner, part calendar, and part to-do list—and you may have seen them on Instagram recently. While getting the hang of the method may take a couple tries (or weekly spreads), it helps to have the right tools to get you started. And if you're a devoted follower, you might be on the hunt to find supplies to make your journaling easier (and more enjoyable). Below we've collected just a few of our favorite products to help you take your journaling to the next level. And if you're looking for some new ideas to help you get the most out of your bullet journal, we've got you covered, too.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. Leuchtturm1917 Notebook

The cover of a black Leuchtturm1917 notebook
Leuchtturm1917, Amazon

Choosing a bullet journal notebook is ultimately a matter of personal preference, though many users go for ones with dots or lines to keep lists straight, and books that lay flat when open. The Leuchtturm1917 is especially popular for its blank table of contents, numbered pages, and durability. Plus, you can choose the size that fits best in your purse or bag, as well as from a variety of hues. The included stickers help when it comes time to archive your journal.

Find it on Amazon for $20.

2. Sakura Pigma Micron Pens

Five pens next to their respective line thicknesses
Sakura, Amazon

While artistic users go for crazy colors, it's best to start out with a simple, fine-tipped pen that won't bleed through your pages. The Pigma Micron pens from Sakura are great for strong but delicate writing that doesn't take up a ton of space. This set includes several different nib sizes, so you can experiment to find the one you like best. Plus, the archival ink is meant to stick around—great for when you're looking over bullet journals from years past.

Find them on Amazon for $11 or at these other retailers:

3. Rhodiarama Dot Notebook

A periwinkle blue notebook with an orange elastic band
Rhodia, Amazon

Slightly more advanced users might like the Rhodiarama Dot, which earns points for its durability, fancy leatherette cover, and the fact that you can weigh pages down with artwork and washi tape and still close the cover.

Find it on Amazon for $16.

4. Stabilo Fineliner Pens

A woman writes 'Party' on with Stabilo Fineliner pens
Stabilo, Amazon

If you want to add a little pizazz to your bullet journal, these colorful fine-tipped Stabilo pens from Europe are a perfect choice. The pocket size makes them easy to stash alongside your notebook.

Find them on Amazon for $9.

5. Moleskine Dotted Journal

The cover of a black Moleskine notebook
Moleskine, Amazon

The Moleskine journals are tried and true, and many bullet journalers like this dotted version. The dots are dark (but not too dark to interfere with your work) and the soft cover holds up like a champ.

Find it on Amazon for $12 and at these other retailers:

6. Tombow Brush Pens

Colorful Tombow pens
Tombow, Amazon

If you're the type who wants to add hand-lettering to your bullet journal (all the better for those Instagram snaps), you might already be familiar with these Tombow pens. They can help you achieve a watercolor effect, and work great for calligraphy.

Find them on Amazon for $16.

7. Poppin Soft Cover Notebook

A shiny silver notebook
Poppin

The Poppin notebooks include lined pages and a back cover, plus a variety of fashionable metallic covers that set them apart.

Find it at Poppin for $10 to $12 or at these other retailers:

Learn Travel Blogging, Novel Writing, Editing, and More With This $30 Creative Writing Course Bundle

Centre of Excellence
Centre of Excellence

It seems like everyone is a writer lately, from personal blog posts to lengthy Instagram captions. How can your unique ideas stand out from the clutter? These highly reviewed courses in writing for travel blogs, novel writing, and even self-publishing are currently discounted and will teach you just that. The Ultimate Creative Writing Course Bundle is offering 10 courses for $29.99, which are broken down into 422 bite-sized lessons to make learning manageable and enjoyable.

Access your inner poet or fiction writer and learn to create compelling works of literature from home. Turn that passion into a business through courses that teach the basics of setting up, hosting, and building a blog. Then, the social media, design, and SEO lessons will help distinguish your blog.

Once you perfect your writing, the next challenge is getting that writing seen. While the bundle includes lessons in social media and SEO, it also includes a self-publishing course to take things into your own hands to see your work in bookshops. You’ll learn to keep creative control and royalties with lessons on the basics of production, printing, proofreading, distribution, and marketing efforts. The course bundle also includes lessons in freelance writing that teach how to make a career working from home.

If you’re more of an artistic writer, the calligraphy course will perfect your classical calligraphy scripts to confidently shape the thick and thin strokes of each letter. While it can definitely be a therapeutic hobby, it’s also a great side-hustle. Create your own designs and make some extra cash selling them as wedding placards or wall art.

Take your time perfecting your craft with lifetime access to the 10 courses included in The Ultimate Creative Writing Course Bundle. At the discounted price of $29.99, you’ll have spent more money on the coffee you’re sipping while you write your next novel than the courses themselves.

 

The Ultimate Creative Writing Course Bundle - $29.99

See Deal

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

11 Cooking Hacks From Real Chefs to Elevate Your Pasta Dishes

Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images Plus

It’s one of the easiest and most popular dishes to make at home. Just boil noodles, heat a jar of sauce, and voila! What many don’t realize, however, is that with some attention to detail and just a few extra steps, you can take your spaghetti with marinara sauce from serviceable to restaurant-quality. Here are a few tips from the pros.

1. Make your own sauce.

This may not sound like a “hack,” but it’s way easier to do than most people think. All you need are four ingredients, according to celebrity chef Fabio Viviani: garlic, olive oil, basil, and a large can of whole plum tomatoes—he and others recommend the San Marzano variety of tomatoes, which derive from the volcanic soil around Naples. (If you’re so inclined, use a salad spinner to rid the tomatoes of their seeds before you get cooking.) Heat six smashed garlic cloves with some olive oil, add in the tomatoes, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, adding the basil at the very end.

2. Use a potato masher.

To break down those sauce tomatoes, you could smash them by hand, or use the same wooden spoon you use to stir. (You could also puree them, but most chefs say that’s a no-no.) Or, you could do like Scott Conant of Scarpetta does and use a potato masher, which allows for an even consistency while still keeping the sauce thick and flavorful.

3. Use the right amount of water.

Using too little water can cause noodles to clump while they’re cooking, according to Giuliano Hazan, son of legendary Italian chef Marcella Hazan. He recommends using six quarts of water for each pound of pasta. When in doubt, use more than you think you’ll need—but not so much that the pot overflows while boiling.

4. Don’t add olive oil.

Many believe that adding olive oil to the pasta water will keep the noodles from sticking together. Not true, says renowned chef and cookbook author Lidia Bastianich, who points out that well-cooked pasta should be naturally stick-free. Adding olive oil can also keep the sauce from adhering to the pasta, according to Alton Brown, which keeps ingredients separate that should meld together.

5. Salt liberally—and at the right time.

Just a pinch won’t do it, according to Del Posto chef Mark Ladner. To truly bring out the flavor of the pasta, add one tablespoon of salt per quart of water. As far as timing goes, wait until the water is boiling, but before you’ve put in the pasta. This allows the salt to infuse the water without affecting the boiling time—because, contrary to what you might have heard, adding salt right when you put the pot on the burner actually increases the time it takes for water to start boiling.

6. Turn off the heat and cover the pot.

Rather than boiling the water until the pasta is ready, do what famed chef and cookbook author Mary Ann Esposito recommends: Let the water return to a boil, then shut off the heat, cover the pot and wait for seven minutes. “Works beautifully for cuts like spaghetti, ziti, rigatoni and other short cuts of pasta,” Esposito writes. “Saves energy too.”

7. Cook the sauce in a skillet.

Forget using a small pot, or even a saucepan, to heat your sauce. As Bastianich tells it, a skillet is the way to go, mainly because it cooks evenly, allowing the sauce to thicken quickly. With its flared sides and lighter weight, a skillet also lets you toss the pasta and the sauce together.

8. Add a pinch of sugar to your sauce.

A touch of sweetness can help balance out the flavor of your sauce. Brooklyn chef Jen DePalma says she always adds a pinch of sugar to her sauce, which tones down the acidity and keeps it from tasting too bitter.

9. Cook the pasta with the sauce.

This might be the most crucial hack of all. As numerous chefs point out, pasta and sauce should be cooked together so that the sauce coats the noodles. Celebrity chef Michael Chiarello recommends taking the pasta out of the water four minutes before the cook time listed on the package, transferring it to the sauce skillet and cooking the two until the pasta is al dente. You should only bring your sauce to a boil after adding the pasta, then simmer the two until finished.

10. Use the pasta water.

Don’t pour out that water after you’ve transferred the pasta. As Jason Pfeiffer, chef-de-cuisine at Maialino tells Epicurious, a splash of starchy pasta water on the noodles and sauce will help bind the two together. (You can also use it to make a cocktail, if you’re so inclined.)

11. Don’t forget to add the finishing touches.

Chef Ken Arnone recommends adding fresh sliced basil to your sauce five minutes before it’s done cooking. If you’re going more indulgent, do as Scott Conant does and add a tablespoon of butter. After plating, you could go the traditional route with Parmesan cheese. Or, you could follow chef Elena Karp’s recommendation and add shaved pecorino cheese along with a hint of parsley.