Here's the bright version I came up with. I definately like this one a lot better. The images were hand drawn (I did add a very light overlay of the photos to get some realistic detail shading).
I lowered the left column to make the beach towels visible, but everything scrolls up like normal. That can be put back to the original height if you prefer.
Again, don't worry about my feelings, you have to look at your blog every day so it's important you're happy with it.
Again, waiting for something to go with on Baseball Mom and Cassey. I think I have an idea for Granny, but we'll have to wait and see how it turns out!