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5 Tax Tips for American Expats

Tax Tips for Americans Living Abroad

The US is one of only five countries in the world (alongside Libya, Eritrea, North Korea, and the Philippines) that taxes worldwide income.  Of the estimated 8.7 million Americans living abroad, roughly half fail to file their tax returns, either because they don't know they have to or they just find the process too overwhelming to even attempt.  But it doesn't have to be that way, follow these 5 tips to make filing your taxes a little less painful.

1. Use the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion to save

The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion allows you to exclude up to $100,800 of foreign income from US taxation.  In order to qualify, you must have either been physically present for 330 of any 365 day period inside a foreign country, or have lived abroad for longer than one calendar year with no immediate plans to return to the US.

2. Reduce taxes with the Foreign Tax Credit

The Foreign Tax Credit is a dollar-for-dollar credit on the taxes you pay to a foreign country.  You don't need to qualify for this credit and its especially useful if you live in a high-tax country.  For example, if you owe $15,000 in US taxes and you paid $16,000 to the UK, you can completely offset your US taxes because you already paid more in taxes to another country.  

3. Offset some of your housing costs

Those who qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion may also offset some their living expenses abroad.  There is a base amount you can exclude, which is tied to the FEIE amount but higher exclusions are available for those who live in certain high-cost cities.  The IRS publishes an annual list outlining the exclusions as they may change from year to year.

4. Don't ignore FACTA

FACTA, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, is one of the most controversial initiatives for expats.  Under FACTA, individuals must report their foreign assets if they exceed certain thresholds (which vary by residency and filing status).  As of last year, the US now requires foreign financial institutions to report on the accounts of their American clients.  If you don't report your assets, your bank will and it is critical to do so because penalties for non-compliance can be steep.

5. Track your time spent in the US

If you plan to qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion with the Physical Presence Test, time in the US is critical.  The requirement to spend 330 days inside a foreign country means 330 FULL days, time spent in the air or on the ocean traveling back and forth doesn't count towards that requirement.  Spending even one day too many in the US can have serious financial consequences so keep an accurate travel log.

 

The 5 Best Rooftop Bars in Asia

Ritz Carlton Bar Ozone

Flair Rooftop Restaurant Bar, Shanghai

Flair Rooftop Bar

Discover the best views (and cocktails!) of Shanghai at the Ritz Carlton Shanghai Pudong, 58 floors above the metropolis, it overlooks the Huangpu River, the Bund, and the quickly evolving skyline.  Order the off men "Flair in the Cloud", a mystery cocktail by resident mixologist YK Chen.

http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/china/shanghai-pudong

Bridge Bar, Kuala Lampur

As you may have guessed, this rooftop nightclub gets its name from between two soaring towers.  It boast an ultra modern interior, creative cocktails, and a glass floor thats equal parts cool and terrifying.

http://www.kuala-lumpur.ws/magazine/bridge-bar.htm

Ozone, Hong Kong

Located on the 118th floor of the Ritz Carlton, the world's tallest rooftop bar is exactly what dreams are made of.  Take in extreme views of Hong Kong Island while sipping a glass of Dom for your own personal Crazy Rich Asians experience.

http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/china/hong-kong/dining/ozone

Sky Bar, Bangkok

Sky Bar's claim to fame is having been featured in The Hangover Part II.  It's the al fresco terrace with jaw dropping views where the guys first meet Paul Giamatti's character.  It's touristy and drinks are expensive but that just comes with the territory, after all you can even order a Hangover-tini!

http://www.lebua.com/sky-bar

Baba Nest, Phuket

A floating bar in the center of a mountaintop infinity pool, strewn with over sized pillows and serving Sri-jitos (Sri Panwa;s famous take on the Mojito, with lemon grass infused Grey Goose Vodka, lemongrass tea, fresh lime, and mint)

http://www.babaphuket.com/baba-nest-exclusive-rooftop-bar/

Wild Thing

Aldo Zebra Bag
Aldo Zebra Bag
leopard top zebra bag
jungle fashion
jungle style

Jacket: BB Dakota | Top: Marciano | Jeans: Paige | Shoes: Michael Kors | Bag: Aldo Plumsprings (link was not working but its still available at www.aldo.com )

How to Stay Fit While Traveling

Staying fit while traveling

Whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, keeping up your fitness while you are away from home is never easy.  We often put a lot of time and energy into building up our fitness before we go away and it can be hard to maintain the balance of nutritious food and exercise once you're abroad. I've been incredibly fortunate to visit some amazing destinations and have picked up a few tips along the way.

1. Pack a great kit-this sounds superficial, but I'm more motivated to just do about anything if I like what I'm wearing :) 

2. Think beyond the gym- One of my biggest hurdles with working out while traveling is major FOMO, I feel as though I be should out exploring my surroundings instead of spending time in a gym that could be absolutely anywhere. Instead, I like to throw on my tennis shoes and make the city my gym! Going for a run is a great way to familiarize yourself with a new place and many cities have outdoor jungle gyms that can be used for body weight strength training.  If you're really limited on time, try to walk to places that you'd normally drive to.  You may not work up a full sweat but every little bit counts!  

Urban Workout

3. Be mindful of what you put into your body.  Plane/airport food is notoriously non nutritious so stock up on healthier options before you go. Be sure to drink tons of water as your body will be dehydrated from travelling. Limit your alcohol, its filled with empty calories and can lead to over eating, plus its pretty similar wherever you are so you're better off indulging with local dishes that you can't get elsewhere. 

Blonde eating crepes

4. Utilise Apps, Pinterest, and  YouTube for bodyweight Exercises-You never know what the gym facilities will be like when traveling so I like to find somewhere with a bit of space and pull up a YouTube video or Pinterest graphic showing a body weight exercise routine.  I'm also a big fan of the 7 Minute Workout Routine App, we can all find at least 7 minutes in a day, you'll break a sweat, and can do as many repetitions as you like. 

A Bikini A Day Circuit Routine

http://abikiniaday.com/circuit-routine/ 

35 Min Full Body Workout No Equipment

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZhJoRxWcLE

7 Minute Workout App

http://7minworkoutapp.net/

 

 

 

Bardot Style for under $100

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After the last few years of fashion being dominated by minimalism, I could not be any happier to see fashion embracing a more feminine vibe.  There are some people who can definitely own a minimalist aesthetic, but for me, its always felt a bit too impersonal and wildly unflattering for those of us who are on the curvier side.  

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On the opposite end of this spectrum is the Bardot, a decolletage baring neckline (named for the French filmstar) that's wildly flattering on just about everyone.  Perhaps its just me, but in an age of overexposure, there's something much sexier about flashing just a hint of shoulder than a ton of cleavage.

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I first tested the trend with this black and white number from Forever 21 and have been sold on it ever since.  I love that it feels flirty, but is conservative enough to be worn just about anywhere. 

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My style has become a bit more laid back since moving to San Francisco but the truth is, I'm not a casual girl.  I love feminine and sophisticated pieces, but now they have to be functional too, which is why the Bardot Style works so well. It's as easy to throw on as your favorite tee, but looks infinitely more stylish.  I love pairing mine with the Diamond Mini Backpack from Venque , which is big enough for a laptop yet elegant enough for day or night. 

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Top: Forever 21 | Jeans: Paige | Backpack: Venque | Boots: Stuart Weitzman

Top: Forever 21 | Jeans: Paige | Backpack: Venque | Boots: Stuart Weitzman

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The Best Backpacks to Buy Right Now

Blonde Wearing Leopard Print Backpack

Exploring Bagan

Bagan

Having only opened its doors to tourists in 2012, Myanmar was rumored to be one of the last "off the beaten track" destinations in Asia.  While living in Hong Kong, I met several people working on projects to develop tourism in the area so I was eager to visit as soon as possible, with the hopes of experiencing the country before it becomes fully commercialized. 

I'd already planned a trip to Hong Kong and wanted to tack on a visit to a new area, so when my plans to visit Shanghai fell through, Myanmar was a natural choice. 

Myanmar Customs

Myanmar started an E-Visa program in 2016 so the visa application procedure was simple and only took about 3 days to process.  There are direct flights from Hong Kong to Yangon but timing is limited.  I arrived in Yangon around 1AM and went straight to the Holly Hotel to catch some sleep before my flight in the morning.  The Holly is one of the newest hotels in Yangon.  It was clean, relatively quiet, and included free Wifi and breakfast for only $40 USD per night. 

Air KBZ

I flew Air KBZ from Yangon to Bagan. While I've heard horror stories of local airlines being delayed for several hours, I had a great experience with them both coming and going. I do recommend keeping your luggage to a minimum as there isn't much overhead space and and checking bags is a pain.

I arrived in Bagan and checked into the Aureum Palace Hotel where I enjoyed Lahpet, or  Tea Leaf salad,  before heading out to explore.

The Bagan Archaeological zone is one of the most impressive sites in Asia. From the 9-13th centuries it was the capitol of the Kingdom of Pagan and a city of incredible significance for Theravada Buddhists, to this day it attracts monks from around the world looking to deepen their practice.  At its peak there were over 10,000 temples, today there are around 2,200 as many were destroyed by Mongol invasions and earthquakes. 

Bagan Temples Myanmar

Entering the Archaeological zone costs 25,000 Kyat (around $19 USD) and the temples can be explored by foot, bike, or hot air balloon. I recomend doing some combination of all three! Exploring by foot/bike allows you to go inside a few of the temples that are accessible to the public, you're also able to get amazing photos during sunset (arrive early to secure a great view). 

At nearly $400 USD per person, hot air balloon is certainly the most expensive way to explore the temples but it's also a unique experience you'll never forget.  I'd never understood the appeal of hot air balloons but after my experience with Golden Eagle Ballooning  I am eager to do it again.  It was a great way to see more temples but what I really enjoyed was flying over the villages and getting a peak into how the Burmese people really live.

Hot air balloon Bagan

When it was too hot to visit anymore temples, I returned to my hotel, the Aureum Palace.  It is an older property but the facilities are very well maintained and the staff is exceptionally helpful. The hotel has an amazing location right in the middle of the Archaeological zone, which means you can even view the temples while enjoying a dip in the pool!   In addition to Bagan, they have properties in Ngapali and Inle, they offer packages that organize transportation and accommodation for all of Myanmar's top sites. I was limited on time this trip but would love to stay with them again in the future. Rooms are between $140-250 USD per night depending on the time of year. 

If you've been to Myanmar or are planning to visit soon, shoot me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

7 Face Masks That Will Transform Your Skin

Charlotte Tilbury Goddess Clay Mask

After a decade of struggling with acne I've learned that the best way to keep my skin under control is by paying attention to how it reacts in different environments (late nights, flying, humid vs dry climates, etc) and adjusting my routine before the breakout occurs.  My favorite way to do this is by keeping my cleanser and moisturizer consistent wherever I am, then introducing masks to prevent whatever problems are about to arise. 

The Daily

Clear Pore Mask and Cleanser

At just $5.99, this Neutrogena mask is a total steal but it works so well that I'd recommend it even if it were $30.00. This can be used as either a cleanser or a mask, which makes it ideal for travel (the less you have to pack the better!). It's gentle enough for almost daily use as a cleanser but the mask function gets the job done when skin is at risk of becoming congested. 

The Total Purge

Aztec Secret Healing Clay

To be honest, this product was a complete impulse buy. I came across it on Amazon, when I noticed it had over 11,000 reviews and 4 1/2 stars I had to try it. Let me tell you, 11,000+ people were not wrong! This mask is incredible, albeit disgusting.  For $10.99,  the mask comes in dry form which is then to be mixed with Apple Cider Vinegar, painted onto the face and left until dry.  It smells disgusting and will leave you looking like a Ninja Turtle when it finally dries but the  results are so worth it. This mask brings every possible piece of gunk in your skin to the surface, I broke out for 2 days after applying but for the next 2 weeks my pores were smaller than they've ever been.  This mask is intense so I don't recommend it before a big event and it shouldn't be used more than every other week. 

The Night Out

Goddess Skin Clay Mask

I don't know how she's done it, but Charlotte Tilbury has created a clay mask that simultaneously shrinks your pores and leaves skin feeling moisturized. This is not an active mask but it does have a firming affect that creates the perfect base to apply makeup for a big night out.  It's gentle enough for every day use, but at $55.00 its probably best saved for special occasions.

The Peel

REN Radiance Renewal Peel

Slow cell turnover is one of the biggest culprits of congested pores, which is where a great peel comes in.  This REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask uses fruit enzymes to gently slough off any dead skin cells that are hanging around longer than they should.  I like to use this immediately upon returning from a trip to get rid of any buildup caused from traveling.  At $55.00 this mask isn't cheap but it is worth the investment. Mechanical exfoliants (like the ever popular St. Ive's Apricot Scrub) are too harsh, they can cause micro tears in the skin which speed up aging.  Better to spend more money on proper care now than to deal with premature ageing later on. 

The Detoxifier

Dr Jart Pore Minimalist

Sheet Masks are all the rage right now, and for good reason!  They'r effective, easy to pack, and and offer a spa like experience without the hefty price tag ($7 vs $100+). The Pore Minimalist mask from Dr Jart is one of my favorites.  I keep a few of these in my luggage at all times then apply them when I arrive in a new city, they do a great job of cleaning out my pores while hydrating my dehydrated skin post flying. 

The Perk Me Up

Tsubaki Hydrogel Mask

When my skin feels dehydrated, dull, and uneven, the Boscia Tsubaki Oil Deep Hydration Hydrogel Mask is the first thing I reach for.  Simply apply this mask and chill for 20 minutes to reveal skin that's brighter, plumper, and more even.  Perfect for those days you don't want to wear makeup but still want a little glow. 

The Baggage Reclaim

While realize this technically isn't a face mask, the Purederm Collagen Eyezone Patches were too incredible not include.  Travel really has a way of taking its toll on your body.  For a while, I developed under eye bags that were so tragic, no amount of concealer could cover them.  Under eye bags have a bad way of bringing down your whole face so for a while, I resorted to dermal fillers, UNDER MY EYES. Yes, that's a thing. And it d1oes work but it is also ridiculously painful, hard on the wallet, AND  it has to be repeated every 6 months. Definitely not ideal.  I discovered these eye patches 18 months ago and haven't looked back since.  They've lightened my dark circles and plumped my under eyes so much so that I don't even need concealer anymore.  They're the closest thing to a miracle product that I've come across yet. 

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Folsom

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blonde wearing rebecca taylor dress
milly essex bag
blonde wearing rebecca taylor dress
photos by Verse & Venture Photography 

photos by Verse & Venture Photography 

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My Go To Travel Outfit

Clarion Alley San Francisco

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What To Buy At the Outnet's Massive Designer Clearance Sale

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Under $200

Burgundy

Kaitlin Kapur
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blonde wearing burgundy coat
Floral Skirt and Top
blonde wearing burgundy coat
photos by Verse & Venture Photography 

photos by Verse & Venture Photography 

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Review: Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick

Photo sourced via Pinterest

Photo sourced via Pinterest

 Having tried and loved Anastasia Beverly Hills' brow products, I was thrilled to learn they were expanding the line and could not wait to get my hands on their first non brow related product, the ABH Liquid Lipstick.  Unfortunately for me, their initial launch was US only (I was living in Hong Kong at the time) and they were so popular that many colors have been sold out, on and off, since their initial launch in 2015. It took two years of scouring Sephora but I finally got my hands on them and decided to review them here. 

I'd been admiring them on Instagram for so many years that I knew exactly which colors I had to have: Crush, Dolce, and Dusty Rose. 

Arianna Chaylene Blean wearing ABH Liquid Lipstick in Crush https://ariannacb.wordpress.com/

Arianna Chaylene Blean wearing ABH Liquid Lipstick in Crush https://ariannacb.wordpress.com/

@mina_a wearing ABH Liquid Lipstick in Dolce

@mina_a wearing ABH Liquid Lipstick in Dolce

Jade Marie wearing ABH Liquid Lipstick in Dusty Rose 

Jade Marie wearing ABH Liquid Lipstick in Dusty Rose 

My initial impression was positive.  They were easy to apply and took about 10 minutes to dry to a matte finish.  For the first hour, they looked fantastic and I was so happy with my purchase.  The color was long lasting but unfortunately it seeped into my lip lines the longer the day went on, giving them a prune like appearance no matter how many times I exfoliated or moisturized my lips before applying. 

Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick in Dusty Rose

I really, really wanted to love these but I just didn't.  No matter how many different times or ways I applied them, the result was always the same.  I still love Anastasia Beverly Hills but this product just wan't for me.  

If you've tried them already, or have any tips for liquid lipstick, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the comments below!

Shop Anastasia Beverly Hills 

VC Tries..Eyelash Extensions

eyelash extensions review

A CoverGirl Study revealed that 50% of women  would choose mascara if they could only use one beauty product for the rest of their lives. As an eyelash obsessive myself, I am totally with them, even if that makes me #basic. While I was lucky to be born with lashes that are naturally long and dark, they're also quite straight and not as full as I'd like to them be.  Over the years, I've tried dozens of different lash curlers, growth serums, and mascaras hoping to achieve Bardotesque lashes.  While I have come across some great products, there's always been one issue that I could never quite solve: smudging.  No matter how many concealers, primers, or waterproof mascaras I try, I simply can't avoid it.  My makeup will look amazing when I leave the house but within a hour, I'm left with full on panda eyes.  After years of carrying concealer and obsessively checking for signs of smudging, I decided it was time to try something new, eyelash extensions.

Beyonce Panda Eyes

Eyelash extensions have been on my radar for years but I could never quite bring myself to try them because of the high price tag and the fear that they'd damage my real lashes.  I'd pretty much resigned myself to a lifetime of carrying concealer and constantly running to the bathroom for touch ups, until a few weeks ago when I met Jessica and Jenica from  Pretty in Pairs. We were on set shooting for Weddington Way and I could not. stop. staring. at their amazing lashes.  Long and lush with the perfect amount of curl, I had to know what they were using. Luckily for me, they were nice enough to let me in on their secret: eyelash extensions from Neva's Beauty on Lombard.  

I booked an appointment ASAP and had my own set of fabulous lashes that very week. The initial application took about 90 minutes, it was a long time to lay flat but a great excuse to pop in headphones and catch up on my favorite podcasts. You have to go in with no makeup or moisturizer as they can impact the staying power of the adhesive. Wait 48 hours after application before getting the lashes wet and you're good to go! They have to be refilled every 2-4 weeks, depending on how well you care for the them.  Apply makeup as you normally would, minus mascara, and be sure to use oil free makeup removers as some oils can loosen the adhesive. Prices range depending on where you go, because the eyes are such a sensitive area I recommend doing your research beforehand and only trusting a qualified professional.  Saving a few bucks is NOT worth losing your lashes, or worse. 

If you live in the Bay area, I highly recommend Neva's Beauty.  They have locations in the Marina and Nob Hill,  the initial application is $120.00 and fills are $60.00 but if you mention this post your first application is 20% off :) 

http://nevasbeauty.com/ 

 You can see the full result of my lash extensions below, I've had them for 6 weeks now and could not be happier.  If you do try them out, be sure to take a photo and tag me on Instagram, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

photo by Rachel Radcliffe 

photo by Rachel Radcliffe 

 

 

Deco Lace

free people choker dress
blonde wearing free people dress
Seychelles black boots

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20th Century Cafe

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blonde wearing anthropologie
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20th Century Cafe
Photos by Verse & Venture Photography 

Photos by Verse & Venture Photography 

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What to Give...the Glamazon

Kate Moss via Pinterest 

Kate Moss via Pinterest 

What to Give...the Tech Obsessed

holiday 2016 gift guide tech