I'm relatively new to WordPress, but have some experience with PHP/CSS/HTML. I think my inexperience with how WordPress works has caused some of my problems! Please therefore excuse any terminology which is inaccurate.
Current situation: WordPress up and running just fine, installed in a subdirectory (/blog). I am using the excellent "Mandigo" theme by onehertz. The "front" page of WordPress is it's regular "posts" page, showing most recent posts in chronological order.
What I'd like to happen:
* WordPress as a back-end for the whole site. When someone visits the primary URL (i.e. not /blog), I'd like that to be a regular WordPress static "Page". It may, or may not, have a certain amount of dynamic content, such as the first 100 words of the latest post, but that's something I can worry about later. Similarly, I might have other static "Pages". However, the front page (and any others which I want to) need to "pick up" the main styling of the Mandigo theme, regardless of whether they're in the /blog subdirectory or not. I can customise the look/feel of those static pages later on.
Importantly, I want to have the menubar showing these various static pages (e.g. "About" in the default install), as well as one titled "Blog", which would effectively take you to the /blog subdirectory.
The actual blog page, I wish to keep pretty much as it is : i.e. if someone goes to the /blog directory it will show them what it does at the moment (a reverse chronological list of blog posts as defined in the WordPress options).
I realise I'm not explaining this as nicely as I'd like to; perhaps an example would be better. Alex King demonstrates what I'm after nicely: his main page is a "Static" page, as far as I can see, with some dynamic content, and exists in the root of his website. It includes links to specific sections at the top - one of these is "Blog"; clicking on it takes you to the /blog "directory" (though it may only be a category nicely rewritten using Permalinks). This is a "normal" blog type page, with posts in reverse chronological order. Similarly, his other pages (e.g. Articles) work in a similar fashion.
I have spent a couple of days reading through the Codex, but although there's a lot of information out there, I've not been able to find anything which "comprehensively" helps me. I've found the page on moving WordPress to another directory; I've found a lot of posts on how to design my own theme from scratch (which is way more than I want to do at present, and without spending a lot of time figuring out the exact internals of how WordPress operates, e.g. The Loop and so on, is not very helpful for what I'm trying to do), and various pages on how to turn WordPress into a full blown CMS - many of which are aimed at versions prior to 2.1 (I think?) which involve renaming files to home.php, cascasding "rules" as to which comes first, and which has been superseded by "static front page" feature the version of WP I am using anyhow...
I would very much appreciate a "beginning wordpress guide" to what exactly I need to do to achieve my goal of a WordPress powered site with 2.3, with static front pages and the blog being "contained" within it's own /blog directory.
For those interested, here is the blog (don't expect anything too spectacular!).
Thank you for your time and assistance,