Jason Truesdell : Pursuing My Passions
A life in flux. Soon to be immigrant to Japan. Recently migrated this blog from another platform after many years of neglect (about March 6, 2017). Sorry for the styling and functionality potholes; I am working on cleaning things up and making it usable again.

A week of new accounts

I don’t think I’ve been so optimistic in a long time.

With only a few days of active sales efforts, I’ve had pretty good luck getting new accounts this week. Central Market in Shoreline took delivery of the Matcha Latte today and the Mill Creek location will start carrying it soon as well. A gift shop in Redmond called Wagamama (selfishness?) started selling it as well.

Cafe Zoe in U-District and Aruba in Fremont started serving the Matcha Latte as well.

I faced another set of irritations with a shipping vendor for the new shipment of dragon beard candy. It was frustrating, but it worked out more quickly than the last time we used them. I think I’m likely to dump that vendor because they don’t file papers with the right people when needed and it causes no end of headaches. Fortunately my customs broker has been on top of things and fixes them quickly whenever possible.

I’m not getting enough sleep this week, alas.

Matcha-Matsu-White-Choko Cookies

Continuing my Matcha theme, I made these cookies with cooking matcha, white chocolate and pine nuts.

Matcha Pine Nut White Chocolate cookie

Jason's Matcha-Matsu-White Choko Cookies

½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter
¼ tsp salt
½ cup unprocessed cane sugar (blond) (roughly 80g)
1 egg
½ tsp. pure vanilla essence (some may want to reduce this to avoid competition with green tea flavor)
1 tsp. Matcha for Cooking by Three Tree Tea
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup flour (roughly 150 g)
3.5 oz. (100g) white chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp. raw pine nuts (matsu-no-mi in Japanese)

Cream butter with salt and sugar. Add matcha, egg and vanilla and mix until consistent. Stir in baking powder and flour. Stir in pine nuts and white chocolate.

Drop in 1 tbsp. portions on a baking sheet with room for 3" diameters. Bake at 375F (190C) 12-15 minutes until edges are lightly browned. Rest before removing from sheet. Yields 16-20 cookies.

Because of the potential for oxidation of the matcha I don't recommend storing a supply of the dough, but you may consider freezing in an airtight container. I have made similar cookies without the white chocolate before, but with a touch more sugar.

If it’s more convenient, you can use Three Tree Tea’s Matcha Latte mix instead of the cooking matcha. Use 4 teaspoons of the matcha latte mix and only use 3 level tablespoons sugar. In the pictured version, I used Grade A or “gold” Three Tree Tea cooking matcha, but with something crispy and low-moisture like a cookie, you should get good results from the Grade B.

One of those good day/braindead day kind of days

I was filling a number of orders today with moderate efficiency… and then, of course, it came time to take care of one other errand that required my digital camera and an extra light source… I was planning to shoot pictures of some other products I’ll be featuring on YuzuMura.com shortly, and wanted to do it while the vendor’s shop was still open.

It was probably a good idea to combine this errand with the errand of dropping off the packages for FedEx.

However, my brain was not entirely functional when planning to step out. I remembered the extra light and my camera. I didn’t remember to bring any extra batteries. By the time I noticed the low battery indicator, I also noticed a missing compact flash card, which was still in my laptop.

This was, of course, after I started cleaning some space and styling one of the objects to shoot. I apologized for the distraction and I think I’ll be back tomorrow…

A series of small repairs

My nifty MPX-220 cell phone took a unusually painful journey to be repaired after a problem with the power conversion. Friday it came back, though I was told it was supposed to ship out last Friday via FedEx 2–day.

I really, really appreciate ActivSync. My previous cell phone, a Sony Ericsson T616, could arguably be syncronized with my Outlook address book, but it was usually painfully slow and most often resulted in a huge number of duplicate records being created. ActivSync is much speedier and has only rarely produced an odd duplicate.

More importantly, in this case, it meant my replacement phone could be put into service almost instantly. Within a few seconds of plugging my phone into my PC, it had all my contacts except for the two or three I failed to syncronize before the AC power failed.

I can’t say I’m any more thrilled with Motorola’s customer service than I was when I sent the phone off for repairs, but at least the work is done. And my backup phone had a cracked screen, which meant that for about 2 or 3 weeks I couldn’t tell who was calling me, and I couldn’t dial anyone unless I remembered their phone number. I’m glad that’s over.

Demos on weekdays, sorbet at night

I somehow confused myself into thinking that today was still Wednesday. I’ve had a bit of trouble sleeping so maybe my mind isn’t working at full speed.

Anyway, I’ve been doing more weekday sampling at Uwajimaya so that I can get rid of more candy. I have a bit of an overstock problem still and I’m not very happy about it… but sampling helps sell products, so I’m just doing more of it… my target was more the dinner rush, but it seems Seattle’s Uwajimaya doesn’t get much of one. Fortunately, it means I can be a little more personable with the customers that come by, and talk less like a pitchman and more like an ordinary human being… the conversion rate is much higher. I sample less, but sell reasonably well and get people interested beyond the 2–5 minutes they stand in front of me.

Last week I didn’t sell much doing the two weeknight demos, but today I managed to clear about as much in two hours as I did in Portland all day last Sunday. I’ll be at Uwajimaya Seattle again tomorrow and Saturday, and somewhere else on Sunday, most likely Bellevue.

When I got home my roommate asked me to take ourselves to Red Mill for dinner, so we split a red onion veggie burger, nibbled some onion rings and overdosed on some fruity milkshakes.

She reminded me that it was Thursday. I think my brain was functioning enough at Uwajimaya that I remembered I needed some potatoes for a dinner party we planned for Friday… but I thought I had one more day, so I ignored other vegetable needs.

So after eating I stopped at a supermarket and picked up some more vegetables and some cannelini beans… I’ll make a little soup tomorrow, and some of my potato pizza, and a little salad. I made some fennel marinated in course salt and yuzu juice, something I’ve made before on several occasions and I’m quite fond of.

I did some prep work for tomorrow, since I’ll be entertaining straight after a demo. I simmered some rhubarb in sugar and water, and pureed it with some fresh strawberries and a bit of lemon juice. It’ll be turned into a sorbet in the morning. The base tastes nice, so I think the sorbet will be pretty good. The strawberries seem to be of the almost flavorless California supermarket freight friendly variety, but they’ll work for now… Local strawberries won’t be in season for a bit longer.

My favorite results with strawberry in sorbets are when small local berries make it to the market. I usually just puree the strawberries with sugar and a bit of basil, and add some lemon juice to balance the sweetness. I can’t remember the exact variety but they are usually sweet and aromatic. I guess I will hunt some down when the time comes.

Woohoo! My laptop is back!

I have been living on borrowed laptop since the 29th or so, when I sent my laptop off for repairs. It finally came back today. I was off running errands in the morning so I had to pick it up from the FedEx distribution center down in South Seattle.

I scheduled a bunch of demos for the next couple of weeks, so I hope to clear some inventory. I don’t like being in the position I’m in now… having too much inventory, having no seasonal factors in my favor for buying… it’s frustrating. On the bright side, one of my customers indicated they had sold through more product over the last few weeks, so the sting will be a bit smaller.

Yesterday I had a meeting with a distributor to talk about a line of products I don’t think I can completely handle on my own. It’s will be using my own branding, so I can minimize the risk of someone else stealing my supplier, and of course I also would be selling some custom products that couldn’t just be duplicated. I need to explore a bit more. I learned a lot at the meeting, and got one option that might work out.k

In the evening, since it was First Thursday, I went to the Henry gallery with Jennifer and another couple of folks, where I saw a couple of nifty installation pieces. One of them, a three-screen video installation from Doug Aitken, called “Interiors,” must have taken some incredible editing skills… three simultaneous videos on three different screens with edits tightly syncronized, overlapped and with a complex sound design.

Alex Lieber’s mobiles were kind of clever… They seemed a little Ikea-inspired, but I might just be cynical.

Looking forward

Except for necessary moments of sleep, my first two full days back were all business. Jetlag has caused me more trouble than usual… two nights ago I slept less than three hours, and last night I unintentionally slept more than 10. I think what I really need is to find a way to do all of my work from Asia, so I never have to come back and recover from the East-bound jetlag that usually overpowers me when I return home.

I met with various folks this week, mostly looking to the future, but occasionally dealing with things that should have been settled a few weeks back.

I’ve been trying to work with a few local folks to expand my business without taking on so much inventory risk. So this week, I had arranged a meeting with one of my existing customers and a local restaurant owner, with whom I’ve been discussing a range of healthy ready-to-eat meals. Initially she was only talking about offering her vegetarian meat alternatives as standalone items, just seasoned enough to be incorporated into other dishes. But there is a bit of a surplus of vendors of such things, so I had recommended going a step further and offering something more in the ready-to-eat category that could be comfortably reheated; this meeting involved presenting some of the intended line-up to a customer and obtaining some feedback.

The meeting went fine, though for various reasons I’m sure it would not be smart to publicly reveal, I’m inclined to prefer a different customer as the first outlet to place the foods.

Thursday I took the keys to an office and storage facility just north of my home. It’s not terribly expensive. On one hand, I am very worried about cashflow right now, but I have essentially run out of room at home so I also have little choice. It turns out I also have a friend of a friend who will be coming to the US and renting one of my rooms, so most of the financial sting will be taken out.

I’m hoping I can successfully clear out all of the stuff that should actually be in the office space in time for my flatmate to arrive.

Simultaneously I have to figure out a way to finish some business plan revisions and a proposal to one of my suppliers, who wants me to draft an additional business plan for a small retail project. Taking care of all of this, and sales and bookkeeping too, will be a pleasant source of stress for the next few weeks.

Next steps

After several weeks of difficulty, I finally managed to get hold of one of my customers that has been MIA for awhile. The call turned out to be productive, though, as I’ve been able to get reasonable buy-off on some additional products, and will be meeting with that customer about a near-term plan for some other good stuff after I come back from Asian mid-March.

The gift market is going to be seasonably quiet for about two months, so I’ve been trying to nail down some additional products to make sure I’ll have a decent revenue stream during the spring and summer months.

Of course, because of all of that, I’m now facing more challenges on the supply side. Some companies are awfully sluggish about responding to my email or fax inquiries, and some companies which have been more responsive turned out not to meet my needs. I am happy, however, that I have one more product almost ready to go.

Cash flow is a little nerve-wracking. I’m still waiting for a lot of the money from big shipments in December, and it’s making me incredibly nervous. It’s not a fun position to be in.

This is a period when I really need to get everything right. I’ve not really been a pleasant person to be around the last few days, as I’ve gotten a lot less patient and a little less polite. I hope my usually good nature returns by the time I do demos this weekend.

The week in review

The last couple of days I have alternately been craving sappari foods and the completely unhealthy. Yesterday I decided to try an experiment... I tried wrapping some soft, vacuum-packed yuba that I bought in Kyoto in October around some mochi with a little bit of nori for color, then fried them in some oil until golden. After I fried them, I set them in a bowl of kakejiru, which is basically seasoned dashi (japanese soup stock) with soy sauce and mirin in it.

The flavor was just about right, but I need to learn some tricks to keep the mochi from bursting the yuba and nori apart. The presentation left a little something to be desired. I tried using some toothpicks to hold everything together, but it wasn't quite enough. I might try using thinner cuts of kiri-mochi next time, and I might skip boiling the mochi first, just to see how it expands. I recall having some fried nori-wrapped natto in Japan, and some fried nori-wrapped yuba in a Chinese restaurant in Seattle, but I can't remember eating any of nori-wrapped fried mochi. The yuba seems to like being fried... the texture was really nice.

I had set out to take some photos of the results, but I wasn't quite happy with how everything looked when I finished, although I did appreciate the flavors. I'll try again someday.

For lunch today, I made a nice soba with a little bit of rolled yuba and some scallions. I also served the soba in my kakejiru, which I've had in the freezer for awhile. It didn't seem to suffer, though.

The last few days I've finally made some serious progress on my internet store, so next week sometime I expect to have some of my new products up on YuzuMura.com. I decided that I'm going to use an off-the-shelf solution that meets most of my needs; after I get it set up, I'll say goodbye to bCentral, which has worked for a basic shopping cart but doesn't meet my upcoming needs.

Unfortunately, I've been waiting for a new shipment of Dragon Beard Candy to arrive for most of the week... A comedy of errors with a new freight provider means that, even though the cargo arrived last weekend, it won't be able to be processed by my customs broker until Monday. Considering how little inventory is available on the store shelves of Uwajimaya stores, this is an irritating problem.

I've gotten a lot of walking in over the last week. Since I have been carless, I've been walking to Ballard to do various errands most days. That gives me a little more than an hour of low-intensity exercise... I should get myself jogging again, though.

Last day before a long journey home

We had our last demo today, in Milpitas, which attracted record crowds and pretty respectable sales. Saturday was surprisingly calm in Foster City, but the 99 Ranch store there is beautiful and well-suited for presenting the candy.

We had a few issues with proper display of the product in one store yesterday, and today we discovered one store had mislaid our cardboard display stand since signing for delivery. I am hoping to properly resolve these in the next couple of days.

I'm expecting good results overall in the Bay Area as word spreads, and we had a healthy launch for the area this week.

Tonight I learned one of the stores in Seattle has gone through a lot of inventory in the last two weeks, so I'm trying to decide whether to pull some inventory from other stores or to sacrifice some of my inventory meant for internet orders. I wasn't expecting to need another shipment this quickly, and the Hong Kong side had some unexpected orders, so I had not budgeted for a new order, and the Hong Kong office doesn't have much capacity to spare as they ramp up for Chinese New Year.

We ended up eating at a really horrible Japanese restaurant tonight after a tour of Macy's in San Francisco. I knew it was trouble before walking in, but my preference was overridden. I ate some not so freshly boiled edamame, a strange squash-filled roll, and some oddly prepared firm agedashi-doufu. I couldn't eat two full pieces of the agedashi-doufu because it was so mediocre. The staff didn't understand Japanese, and as far as I can tell from the misspellings on the menu and the waitstaff interactions, everybody working there was Korean. I left at the suggestion of Lavina to hunt down something I might enjoy more, and walked around aimlessly looking for a snack.

Last night we had a good meal in North Beach though, so I think that makes up for it.

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