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Food & Wine

Citrus-y beers celebrate summer

Citrus-y beers celebrate summer


Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
Session beers offer an alcohol content low enough to sustain sipping through a long, lazy picnic. Local breweries are celebrating the citrus hop style now in vogue with other fruit-forward influences.

With the h...

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Your Health

Reading in sign,  ink and song

Reading in sign, ink and song


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
A baby girl learns sign language during a program offered Wednesdays at the Los Altos Library.

Visit Los Altos Library’s community room on a Wednesday afternoon and you’ll see its plain gray expanse descend into ...

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Your Home

Gardening for life: Strategies to make it easy

Gardening for life: Strategies to make it easy


Tanya Kucak/Special to the Town Crier
Succulents are a good choice for a small, low-maintenance garden that needs minimal water. Combine a variety of interesting colors and shapes.

If aches and pains are starting to limit your ability to garden, then g...

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On The Road

A different kind  of driving school

A different kind of driving school


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The Andersons observe Bixby Bridge – located on Highway 1 near Big Sur – from a dirt road during their recent Land Rover Experience Driving School lesson.

It is always exciting to do something youR...

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Senior Lifestyles

Monkey business: Senior Program volunteers lift spirits of sick kids

Monkey business: Senior Program volunteers lift spirits of sick kids


Photo Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos Senior Program volunteers – affectionately known as The Monkey Toy Ladies – make sock monkeys to comfort sick children.

Last year, nearly 400 children at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital received a special ...

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Wedding To Remember

The Veils of Time

The Veils of Time


Courtesy of Los Altos History Museum

For a new spin on the Town Crier’s “Peek into the Past,” the Los Altos History Museum has been gathering historical local wedding photos and the stories behind them.

Frances Elizabeth Shoup, second...

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Your Kids

Back to School

Is Early Decision the right choice for your student?

Is Early Decision the right choice for your student?


Courtesy of Hollis Bischoff
This chart compares the rate of Early Decision acceptances with the overall acceptance rate at various colleges.

As students apply to an ever-increasing list of schools, colleges are challenged to predict accurately whether ...

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A leader in business, community: Harrell Remodeling CEO Iris Harrell awarded with MV Chamber'

Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and craftsmanship, was, in essence, the prototype for the contemporary career woman.

So it's fitting that Iris Harrell, CEO, president and co-owner of Harrell Remodeling Inc. in Mountain View, was named the recipient of the 16th annual Athena Award presented by Mountain View Women in Business and the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce. She was honored in March at a luncheon at Michaels at Shoreline.

"Iris is a pioneer in bringing women up in leadership roles," said Allison Nelson, president and CEO of the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce. "She is not only a respected member of the community but excels at doing things outside of her job description."

Harrell is committed to supporting the goals of professional women and has promoted women in her company through mentoring and continuing education. And, she is working to interest more women in the construction field.

Perhaps this is one reason she helps area Girl Scouts earn their Ms. Fix-It Badges. On a recent Saturday, Junior Girl Scouts, ages 9 to 12, from Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Woodside and San Mateo attended a workshop at her Mountain View headquarters, where they learned how to strip wire, caulk, spackle and the like. Los Altos Girl Scouts also gottheir turn last month.

Harrell is involved with Habitat for Humanity and received its Construction Partner Award in 2003. In addition, she donates design services to charity auctions, offers monthly remodeling workshops to the public and is a volunteer member of the design committee at Portola Ranch, where she lives with Ann Benson, her life partner of 27 years.

"The Athena Award was a total surprise to me. I didn't even know I'd been nominated," Harrell said.

This makes the 14th award she has received this year - and it's only May.

Since its inception in 1985, Harrell Remodeling has won recognition at the local, regional and national levels, including the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) awards, the Chrysallis awards and the Designer and Contractor of the Year (COTY) awards. In December, Harrell Remodeling won 12 local NARI awards.

Harrell is a licensed general contractor, certified kitchen and bath designer, certified green builder and member of Build It Green, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting green building products and practices. She is very passionate about green building and universal design, which she calls "the next big wave."

She also believes homes should be built in a manner that accommodates people as they age or as physical abilities change.

Surprisingly, Harrell did not begin her career in the building trade. Raised in North Carolina and Virginia, she worked in the tobacco fields as a child. After graduating from college and earning a master's degree in education administration and supervision, she taught school and spent five years playing guitar and bass in a five-piece band - experience that provided her with the planning, people and logistical skills she needed to run a multimillion-dollar business, she said.

Benson introduced Harrell to her career by handing her an electric drill to hang pots and pans in their Dallas home. From there she went on to larger projects, taking courses in home design and construction. When she first ventured out to find employment in the remodeling field, she was routinely turned away because of her gender and her age (34 at the time). So she started her own company.

In 1985, she and Benson moved to Menlo Park, and the company grew from home-based to a 5,300-square-foot design center in Mountain View, which they dedicated in 2001. About one-third of their 50 employees are licensed contractors.

The company is ranked in the top 500 remodeling companies nationwide and twice has been recognized as the 12th largest woman-owned company in Silicon Valley. Last year alone the company did close to $9 million in business, according to Harrell, and 80 percent of that was from referrals and past clients.

The average job runs about $190,000, but she said the company does "service work people don't know about, such as installing a dog door. Service is an important part of building long-term relationships."

Her philosophy is paying off. She has a portfolio of 500-plus clients, all within 30 minutes of company headquarters.

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