I decided to fork Devin's Thematic Options child framework. I had tinkered with the idea back in version 1.0, but his 2.0 is just flat out cool looking and so was a really great starting point.
My fork includes:
saving all the options to one array
using a Class to store the options panel and its defaults
using wp_enqueue_style for the options that change the styles/layout
it is hosted at github
Let me know what you think and if you come across any errors.
data validation- apparently the Settings API does this automatically, but I couldn't figure out how to make the settings API (who knew there was one!?) play with ajax
add options for toggling excerpts and the display of the blog description
Happy New Year and Bon Année!