As mentioned at the outset of this thread, I was previously using the<A HREF="http://www.alexking.org/software/wordpress/styles/sample.php?wpstyle=mars-spirit">Mars Spirit</A> template from <A HREF="http://www.alexking.org/index.php?content=software/wordpress/styles.php">Alex King's WP Styles</A> page. Initially I was pleased with it -- as it had all the "flourishes" and style of a well designed site (actually, I still think it is a nice template, just not for me).
After posting my link here for a site critique, and receiving feedback, I became determined to change the design. I looked at modifying the Mars Spirit CSS... but found it too complex for my limited skills. I hunted about for a day or so, and experimented with several ready-to-go templates, but nothing really took my fancy.
Then I discovered <A HREF="http://www.atthe404.com/wordpress/">Root's Gemini Template</A>, which provided just the basic structure I was looking for. I found it reasonably easy to understand and modify the CSS and begin the task of creating my own site flavor.
Of course it's still a work-in-progress, but I think it is quite ready enough to throw up here again for a fresh critiqe...
What's the verdict? I look forward to you feedback, thanks.