i imagine by now you've already picked your camera.
I've got a pentax K10d. Great SLR! which I think it best time, I never liked point and shoots. It's got a lot of great features and easy to control. I'm also a fan of the cannon Rebels. Good bodies and also easy to control. Both pentax and cannon have ability to interchange lenses. You can even look for cheaper lense such as a Tamaron.
The only thing I don't like about the pentax is the file size. I want something more than 10mb, but you get into really expenseive equipment for 11MB and above.