April 19, 2011

Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo

The past two nights have been TV-viewing heaven with the ABC screening their two-part docu-drama on the 1970s beginnings of Cleo magazine, a groundbreaking publication which articulated a new way of thinking for women and their role in Australian culture and society.

Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo tells the story of 30-year-old journalist and editor Ita Buttrose and a young Kerry Packer (heir to the ruthlessly powerful publishing empire) who in 1972 established the first risque yet empowering magazine for women, during a time when magazines and print media were king. The ABC writeup sums it up nicely; 'Cleo was a womens magazine with a libido and a curiosity about almost everything...'

Here is Ita's first editorial for Cleo:

Seeing the story unfold (albeit with a bit of creative licence) gave me a newfound respect and admiration for Ita Buttrose. She didn't accept the status quo and challenged the entrenched patriarchy in society, giving women an opportunity to be heard and dictate what they wanted, rather than being told what to do.

This was at a time when Ita, who was financially supporting her husband while he studied, couldn't apply for a bank loan without her husband's signature (unmarried women couldn't get a loan at all...). She forged a new path for women in the workplace at a time when women were expected to quit work on becoming pregnant (she worked right through her pregnancy and returned shortly after giving birth).

What I loved most about the show was its representation of Cleo's role in early 1970s women's liberation and the fashion. The 60s wave of freedom and womens-lib issues such as politics, contraception, equal pay, work-life balance and sex for female pleasure caught on a little later in Australia, heralded by the end of decades-long conservative government rule. The show captured the sense of anticipation that change was afoot. As Ita said to one of her bright young proteges, 'you can be anything you want Leslie, this is the 70s!'

The fashion of the day was an extension of this - clothing wasn't about conforming any more, it was about pushing boundaries and expressing yourself. I couldn't get enough of the clothes, look at these outfits!
The pink shirt-dress!

The three-piece wide-leg pant suit with matching red shoes and bag! And the translucent umbrella!

And I must add - Asher Keddie does a brilliant job embodying Ita, carrying herself with Ita's characteristic elegance and grace, right down to her noticeable lisp. Asher is currently up for a gold logie for her role in the Network Ten drama Offspring, but if the Twitterverse is anything to go by it's in the bag just based on her role in Paper Giants.

I was so inspired by the fashions - here I am today at work, 'channelling Ita':

What about you, were you 'dressed by Paper Giants' today?

Or did it at least leave you wanting to trawl ebay for vintage Diane Von Furstenberg or raid your mum's (or grandmother's!) closet?

March 31, 2011

Australia's shame

I'm the first to admit I'm not well-acquainted with aboriginal culture or aboriginal people. I live on the land of the Bunourong people but thats about where the relationship ends.

Hop on a plane to New Zealand and Auckland airport's glossy billboards welcome you in Maori on arrival; Maori culture is central to New Zealand's national identity. The difference in how we treat our indigenous peoples is stark.

I've always felt that the way our Government treats indigineous Australians and the livelihoods they endure is the ugly underbelly of this supposed 'lucky country'. The White Australia policy and the 70 years of forced removal of children from their families for the purposes of 'assimilation' was a long and dark chapter in this country's short "white" history but how much further have we really come?

Not far, if you read Chloe Hooper's account of the 2004 death of an Aboriginal man in custody on Palm Island. It left me feeling angry and overwhelmed with the insurmountable problems White Australia has created for Aboriginals. And the inherent racism of many whites living alongside Aboriginals is quite plainly, repulsive.

Talk to anyone who's been to Darwin, and the stories aren't pretty. Drinking, petrol sniffing and abuse are daily problems among the Aboriginal population. But how did it get this way and who is responsible - and more importantly, how do we fix it? These are complicated questions with no hard and fast answers, and Hooper doesn't pretend to have these, but you're left wondering what we possibly can do to improve the situation and make meaningful inroads to reconciliation.

The Tall Man provides a harrowing insight into the inequalities between white and black Australians, and the tragedy of the senseless death of one Aboriginal man at the hands of police, and the impact on his family and community. You should read it.

March 22, 2011

Home made tomato chutney!

I happened upon this crate of over-ripe tomatoes on a recent shopping trip and couldn't go past it - i'd been wanting to try my hand at preserving for ages! It also gave me an opportunity to use the gorgeous jars I bought for our wedding.

After researching preserving methods and fruitlessly searching for parrafin wax (which apparently isn't recommended these days anyway), I found some lids at Spotlight which fit my jars and the cooking got underway.

Following the method outlined in the Country Womens Association recipe, my good friend T and I washed all of the tomatoes, cored them and criss-cross sliced the bottoms before boiling them (she thought she was just coming over for a relaxing dinner - ha!). We then removed the skins, chopped up the tomatoes and sprinkled them with salt before going in the fridge overnight.

Fast forward to Monday night after work, and it was chutney-making-time.

Here's what went in the pot:

5kg tomatoes
4 large brown onions
4 Granny Smith apples
4 cloves garlic
2 cups apple cider vinegar
250 gms sugar
1 tsp cayenne pepper
10 cloves

Everything except the sugar was brought to the boil and then left to simmer for 1.5 hours. The sugar was added near the end.

While still warm, I spooned the mixture into clean, heat-sterilised jars (just washed then put in a hot oven for 15 mins) and screwed on the lids. To create a vacuum seal and 'preserve' the chutney, I used the boiling method - I placed the jars in a pot of water, completely covering them, and then bought it to the boil. I left them in the pot overnight with the lid on and by the morning the seal had formed. Because the water was still quite hot I let it cool before taking the jars out, drying them and putting them in the pantry...


January 24, 2011

Quiet contemplation

Today is actually the 2nd of March so this half-written post has been sitting in my drafts for yonks . Why? I'm constantly thinking about what makes good blog fodder but not actually writing - i've decided I think too much and should just write random stuff. So i'm going to. Expect lots of 'I-read/watched-this and you should too' stuff coming up. Because I like soap-boxing and jumping on bandwagons.

Launching into a new year on the back of six weeks of unbridled adventure is particularly promising on the scale of motivation-for-things-one-wants-to-achieve, yet for the first time in years I begun 2011 without even a couple of new year's resolutions to half-heartedly attempt come 1 January.

Now, two weeks back in Oz, i've done enough navel-gazing and mental life-list-creating to keep me busy well into 2012. Anything to combat the post-holiday blues I say.

January 14, 2011

When it's all over

I've been a very bad blogger, but i'm here to tell you i'm back, married and refreshed after six weeks of amazingness in South America. Drunk on life with a dip in my hip and a glide in my stride in fact.

The realities of cubicle-dwelling have taken the shine off a little of course, but that's another discussion. The wedding was awesome. Twelve months of planning boiled down to that one surprisingly balmy Friday afternoon of love, hope, and rump-shaking fun.

And while our driver was 20 minutes late to pick me up, we made a few fumbled mistakes in the ceremony and I accidently threw my bouquet on the restaurant's roof, I would not change a thing. All those things paled in comparison to the overwhelming feeling that things don't get much better than this in life.

Not long before the wedding a recently-married colleague at work told me to try and take time to remember every moment as it happens, as it really goes by so fast. Many people recounted a similar story in their advice to me during wedding planning, but this stuck with me - maybe because it was a guy saying it perhaps. As I stood next to my soon-to-be-husband during the ceremony, I did just that; looking out at the familiar faces of dear family and friends I saw a cross-section of our lives together, these wonderful people giving up their day to be there for us - to celebrate us.

So if I could go back and change one thing I'd slow time down, because it flies by so fast it's almost unfair.

{image via fffound}