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MasterChef Junior now casting 8 to 13-year-olds for season five

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MasterChef Junior is casting for their 5th season in Los Angeles in December. The casting call is for all kids, ages 8-13, who like to cook, have an interest in cooking, or just love being in the kitchen.  No particular skill level required! The most important thing is that they have fun, and it’s a great chance to meet other kids who love to be in the kitchen!  If you are not familiar with the show, check out the clip on Facebook at “MasterChef USA” from the 4th season premiere. These kids really seem to have fun, learn a lot, and form strong bonds with each other. Casting Call is Saturday, December 5, 2015 at LOEWS HOTEL, 1755 Highland Ave., Los Angeles. Pre-register to save your spot now at MASTERCHEFJUNIORCASTING.COM.

National Diabetes Month

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National Diabetes Month is observed every November to draw attention to diabetes and its effects on millions of Americans. The National Diabetes Education Program’s (NDEP) 2015 theme Diabetes Education and Support: Everyone Has a Role. What’s Yours? highlights the need for ongoing diabetes education and support among people with diabetes and those who care for them.

Help people in your community learn more about the importance of diabetes education and support with these resources from the NDEP and the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

If you have just been diagnosed with diabetes, or you have been living with diabetes for a while, diabetes education and support are important to help you stay healthy. Diabetes education is needed throughout your lifetime, not just at diagnosis. Learning to manage your diabetes from the start can help you have fewer health problems from diabetes later. Having a network of support can help you better cope with the day-to-day demands of living with diabetes. To learn more, visit ndep.nih.gov and search diabetes.

Make your holiday meals healthy by including activity to reduce stress

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(photo/U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Thanksgiving marks the start of holiday parties, family gatherings, and the annual temptation to overindulge in delicious food. Make healthy eating and physical activity part of the fun. Great gatherings are easy to do when tasty, healthy foods from all the food groups are offered in a fun, active environment. This holiday season, make the focus enjoying your friends and family. Check out these simple tips to make your holiday season fun and healthy.

Tips for Healthy Holiday Celebrations:

Make foods look festive. Cut vegetables into new shapes, decorate plates with colorful, eye-catching fruits, or add a sprinkle of sliced almonds or green onions to brighten a plain dish.

Offer thirst quenchers that please. Make fun ice cubes from 100% juice or add slices of fruit to make water more exciting. Create a “float” by adding a scoop of fruit sorbet to seltzer water.

Make moving part of every event. Being physically active makes everyone feel good. Dancing, moving, playing active games, wiggling, and giggling add fun to any gathering. Take a group walk around the neighborhood after eating, instead of going straight to the couch!

Try out some healthier recipes. Find ways to cut back on sugar, salt, and fat as you prepare your favorite holiday recipes. Offer naturally sweet fruit instead of multiple desserts, and try seasoning with fresh or dried herbs to add flavor to your meal. For healthy recipes, visit recipes.millionhearts.hhs.gov.

Dog, not diamonds are this girl’s best friend

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U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Joseph McKee

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but Violet Mach, former Airman, favors Penelope, her service dog.

Returning home from deployment can be a difficult journey, both physically and emotionally. Veterans who had traumatic experiences while deployed can feel alienated from family and friends who may not have shared those experiences. In such cases, the companionship of a dog may improve the veteran’s mood and help with stress by providing judgment-free companionship.

Veterans who are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may especially experience those benefits.

“My service dog allows me to live with my PTSD with less stress,” said Mach. “When I have a trigger, she distracts me, allowing my mind to focus on her and not on the stressfulness of a situation.”

Additionally, the security provided by having a service dog may help those veterans who have a difficult time being in a crowd or unfamiliar place.

“Being able to bring my dog places that dogs wouldn’t ordinarily be allowed allows me to feel more secure and makes me want to go in places that would not feel comfortable without her,” said Mach. “Smelling her, touching her, just being with her makes the stress of situations melt away, a feeling I didn’t have before having my service dog.”

If you are looking for a service or an emotional-support dog, do I internet search for “service dogs for veterans” and carefully research any organizations you contact. Only get a dog if you are confident it is well trained and you have the ability to care for your companion. You need to be there for your canine battle buddy because he or she will be there for you.

The good news is that although the Veterans Administration does not currently provide service dogs for physical or mental health conditions, including PTSD, it does provide veterinary care for service dogs that are deemed medically necessary. To learn more visit va.gov and search “service dogs.”

Military kids meet TV’s “Supergirl” and cast

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DMA photo/Keren Olsen

Scores of military children at Naval Base Coronado, California, watched the new television hit “Supergirl” and met the stars of the CBS show before its broadcast debut this month. “Supergirl” cast members visited Coronado before the program first aired on American television, and according to Nielsen ratings, episode one had the best ratings of a new show debut this fall.

“I’m stoked,” said one boy.

“It’s not like you get to meet a famous person every day,” explained a smiling, teenage girl.

“Wonder Woman!” shouted a confused four-year-old girl.

“We’re really appreciative of them showing some love to the Sailors and their families. The kids love this and the parents love it,” said Capt. Stephen Barnett, commanding officer, NBC.

More than 500 people showed up to watch the sneak peak of the show and meet “Supergirl” actress, Melissa Benoist, said Brandon Workman, NBC Morale, Welfare and Recreation .

“‘Supergirl’ was the biggest draw (and) there were several younger girls who came in costume and posed for pictures with her,” he said. “Miss Benoist took time for each of them and provided a positive role-model for kids to look up to.”

The American Forces Network’s (AFN) coverage of the sneak preview was a fortunate accident.

“We were driving to another shoot when we saw the theater marquee promoting the sneak peek the next day,” said Robert Sekula, AFN producer. “We made some calls and re-arranged our schedule so we could cover it.”

The AFN Broadcast Center-Riverside, located on the former March Air Force Base, is a mission partner of the current March Air Reserve Base.

“Supergirl” airs on CBS, Mondays at 8 p.m.

November: National American Indian Heritage Month 2015

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National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month celebrates and recognizes the accomplishments of the original inhabitants, explorers, and settlers of the United States.

This presentation reviews the historical milestones that led to the establishment of National American Indian Heritage Month, covers various aspects of American Indian and Alaska Native life, and honors the contributions of our Native Service Members.

The Society of American Indian Government Employees has chosen this year’s theme, Growing Native Leaders: Enhancing Our Seven Generations.

During the Vietnam conflict, more than 42,000 American Indians—90 percent of them volunteers—fought in Vietnam.

The contributions of American Indians in United States military combat continued in the 1980s and 1990s as they saw duty in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, and the Persian Gulf.

It is recognized that, historically, American Indians have the highest record of service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups.

The reasons behind this disproportionate contribution are complex and deeply rooted in traditional American Indian culture. In many respects, American Indians are no different from others who volunteer for military service.

Do you know the new tax requirements under the Affordable Care Act 2015?

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Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal government, state governments, insurers, employers, and individuals are given shared responsibility to reform and improve the availability, quality, and affordability of health insurance coverage in the United States.

For the 2015 tax year, Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) is required to furnish a Form 1095 to each employee that worked any full time hours. MyPay has been updated to allow you to elect to receive this tax form electronically. Civilian employees are highly encouraged to log into myPay to turn on electronic delivery. Go to myPay and from the main menu of myPay, select “Turn On/Off Hard Copy of IRS Form 1095.”

Electronic delivery is the fastest and most secure method to receive your 1095 once it becomes available in January of 2016. Please opt in to receive an electronic copy no later than December 31, 2015.

Visit http://www.irs.gov/Affordable-Care-Act for more information on the ACA and tax reporting. For additional details on the tax information you will be receiving from DFAS, visit go.usa.gov/3pQUR.

If you have questions about logging into myPay and/or making changes to your electronic elections in myPay, contact the DFAS Centralized Customer Support Unit at 1-888-DFAS411 or 1-888-332-7411 and select option #5.

Smoking Cessation Month

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Is your life going up in smoke? Do you depend on tobacco? According to the Centers for Disease Control, tobacco use can lead to tobacco/nicotine dependence, a condition that often requires repeated treatments, and other serious health problems. There are helpful treatments and resources to help you quit smoking, which greatly reduces the risk of developing smoking-related diseases. Smokers can and do quit. In fact, today there are more former smokers than current smokers. If you want to learn more about tobacco use and how to quit, visit cdc.gov and search for “tobacco cessation.”

Warrior Care Month—Show of Strength

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health.mil

The mission of the Office of Warrior Care Policy (WCP) is to proactively support wounded, ill, and injured service members in their recovery and reintegration or transition to civilian life.

On November 5, 2008, then Secretary of Defense Robert F. Gates established November as Warrior Care Month. He said Warrior Care Month is a, “DOD-wide effort aimed at increasing awareness of programs and resources available to wounded, ill, and injured service members, their families, and those who care about them.”

This month, the Military Health System highlights programs, services and resources available to wounded, ill and injured service members, their families and caregivers.

Riding camels in Egypt and how to be a safe and prepared tourist

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Courtesy photo

“Would you like to come and visit me in Cairo?” My friend had been teaching in Egypt the past year when she invited me. A trip to Egypt?! I imagined myself dressed in a flowy garment, riding a camel next to the date palm-lined banks of the Nile. The stuff of dreams! As a member of the Air Force Reserve, I have had opportunities to travel overseas in an official capacity, but this would be my first international grand vacation! I excitedly told my husband about our plans and he asked, “Is it safe?”

To set his mind at ease, I did some research.

I started my trip planning at www.travel.state.gov. Here I found current travel alerts and warnings as well as passport and visa requirements, local laws, transportation, recommended vaccinations, health tips, and a useful travel checklist. I also visited the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at step.state.gov/step, to register with the local U.S. Embassy to receive information about safety conditions and also make it easier to be contacted in an emergency.

As a reservist, I was able to take advantage of the Force Protection ancillary computer-based training, which provides additional tips for staying safe while traveling abroad.

The CBT encourages you to try to blend in with the local populace, conceal your military affiliation, avoid public disturbances or political demonstrations, and to be careful about posting travel plans on social media.

With my western European ancestry, chances are I wouldn’t blend in very well in Egypt, but I could take safety precautions and be respectful of Egyptian culture.

My friend said I should bring conservative clothing to wear in Egypt, so I packed long skirts, flowy blouses, a sun hat, and a scarf to cover my head for visiting religious sites. Keeping in mind that the weather would be extremely hot, I packed accordingly. She also gave me contact numbers and told me about how to get my visa upon arrival.

Thanks to all the research and preparation, I had a wonderful adventure, stayed safe, and waited until I had returned before posting photos online.

Traveling abroad can be a wonderful experience with opportunities to see historical sites, sample delicious new foods, and learn about different cultures. Spending time to prepare for your trip will ensure you also have a safe, fun, and hopefully, amazing time!

To learn more about safe travels, visit travel.state.gov and search for the U.S. State Department Traveler’s Checklist.