It was late November in 2005, and I had been back in Buffalo for just a week or two. I only planned to stay a month or so while the position in Baltimore firmed up, but had moved into a beautiful E.B. Green apartment on Bryant. I had not been back in my hometown for more than a brief visit in 32 years.

Festive signs with red and green balloons and brochures with a map announced something called "Holiday Open Studios." Why not? I circled ten or twelve studios on the map and set off down the street. My first stop was Chatham Pottery Studios at 190 Bryant, just a block away. I walked through the fascinating front door on a Friday evening and never made it to another studio. By the end of the weekend I was connected to nearly everyone I would need to know in Buffalo and the seeds of Buffalo Heritage Press had been planted.

This weekend will be my eleventh Holiday Open Studios as a vendor at 190 Bryant Street. In April, 2006 I co-founded Buffalo Heritage Press. Catharine Gillespie, artist, potter and owner of 190 Bryant Street and Chatham Pottery, invited me back to 190 Bryant to make my beautiful books about Buffalo available at Holiday Open Studios in December 2006.

Although there are eleven Holiday Open Studios and Galleries between Bryant Street and Hertel Avenue this year, 190 Bryant is my favorite. I love it because it's where I began to fall in love with Buffalo back in 2005, but also because it is such a beautiful home. Vaulted ceilings, an immense fireplace, stained glass windows, fabulous molding on the dining room ceiling...this Goodyear mansion embraces you when you enter. Catharine makes gallons of hot mulled cider every year, and we all bring lots of fine treats to munch on and seemingly bottomless bottles of wine. It's warm and welcoming and the talented artists offer lovely, local, unique gifts.

I feel like a bit of a fraud each year because I am hardly an artist, yet my books are both local and beautiful, and they really do make great gifts. The new ALBRIGHT: The Life and Times of John J. Albright book by Mark Goldman is perfect for anyone who thinks they know everything about Buffalo. They will learn a great deal about this amazing place and enjoy every word of it. Allentown: A Photographic Journey in the Heart of Buffalo is for your friend who lived in Allentown for years but is now in DC. The B is for Buffalo book is perfect for Uncle Charlie who just doesn't get how awesome our architecture is, or for your friend Sally who misses Buffalo and would lovingly place this award-winning drone photography book on her coffee table in San Diego. At First Light is hot off the press. This celebration of the natural world, one morning at a time, features exquisite local nature photography and lovely verse by Wende Essrow. Give it to your favorite cross-country skier or outdoor soul. Clover and the Shooting Star is for your little nieces and nephews who are coping with loss this year. The brand new Five Hungry Mice by the same amazing local artist, Heather Lynn Harris, is a delightful tale for any child from the Golden Age of Children's Literature. Really.

This is how I justify my book corner in the vast parlor. 

The real artists at 190 Bryant are Catharine Gillespie, an excellent potter. And Anne Bliss with her finely crafted jewelry and felt. Bunny Leighton offers a different yet equally lovely line of jewelry. Marija Vujcic hangs her handcrafted quilts in the long hallway each year, right across from Laura Salwen's jewelry and gifts made of fused glass and found objects. There are even hand-crafted items for your favorite little one made by Janet Ide. And more, much more. And did I mention the hot mulled cider?

This is the 17th annual Holiday Open Studios and Galleries. It is a three-day long labor of love and represents a lot of work by local artists, particularly Catharine Gillespie and Anne Bliss of Artists in Buffalo.

I began to fall in love with Buffalo when I stepped into 190 Bryant twelve years ago. Because of that fateful weekend I went to El Salvador, started a publishing company, and was inspired to promote Buffalo as a great place to live long before it was fashionable. I owe my entire Buffalo existence to the happenstance of this small studio down the street, the gracious welcome I received there, and the enduring friendships that have ensued. Are you listening, Connie Constantine?

Eleven Studios and Galleries will be open this weekend, from Friday at 5:00pm until Sunday at 6:00pm. Try to get to as many as you can, but be sure to stop by 190 Bryant near the corner of Oakland Place, right across from the old Children's Hospital. It's special. When you spot a big white buffalo with red hearts on her sides, you'll be there. Walk right in and say hi.