@chaplaindoug, if I understand you correctly, what you wanted to do is a standard feature within WordPress without any code changes at all. So I'm probably misunderstanding something...
However, here's how to achieve this effect without code:
- Create a page to act as your home page.
- Create a another page, doesn't matter what goes on it as the content will be ignored.
From the dashboard, settings-> Reading, Select 'A static page' as your home page, selecting the first page you created above to be the home page. Then select the second page you created above to be your posts page.
You can limit the number of posts by Adjusting the 'Blog posts to show at most' which is the next field in the settings form.
Add a link to the blog posts page in your menu and you are done. You'll get a page of recent posts, and a home page you can style however you want.
The above might be an easier route if you don't want to mess with code.
This website I created: http://www.ionahighlandtours.com/ uses Twenty Twelve and the above technique. The Blog posts are listed on the 'Tour Blog' page from the menu. By using 'More' the site owner can control how much text appears on the Blog Posts page. Nice and simple.