I’ve gone exclusively to RAW also. The Nikon lenses are pricey, because they have put the Auto Focus in the lense instead of the camera body....that also eliminates the ability to have true backwards compatibility with old Nikon SLR lenses (which I believe Canon has.) I am happy with the pictures I am getting, but I feel I am always disappointing myself as a photographer. ; ) Now I can’t blame it on the camera, though!
So I got my gdaughter a 40D for graduation and let her have my 28-135. I noticed she was getting reliably sharper photos with it than I was but it's not fast for indoor, low light. I decided it was probably hers is 10mp while mine is only 8mp, so it captures detail better. I also gave her my 50mm fixed because I seldom use it since I got a 24-70 for general purpose. The 40D does have a much nicer lcd. She's got my wa 10-22. And made off with my new wacom. Once I got it, I didn't want to bother with the learning curve, but it's still mine. Then I even let her use my really expensive ones on a very controlled basis. She's already doing pro work on the side, but she needs more experience, and I don't like some of the subjects she chooses, dark themes a lot, but tends to see more creatively than I. I like cheery, colorful subjects if possible, hate white sky days.
Anyway, be of good cheer. I'm kind of sloppy about composing, and a really good photographer gets all or most of it right the first time, still don't know how to meter very well, some of it is the camera. I compose by cropping so often which is not good. Who cares? Most people like them when I'm done. Don't get discouraged. I mainly shoot AV and have got a pretty good feel for it, don't know how it would be with Nikon. I suspect you're doing better than you say. I quit posting on dpreview but that's where I learned everything, not mad at anybody or anything, but everybody jumps and gets the latest upgrade, so I feel out of it.
I don't want to upgrade every year and won't. Suppose I could if I wanted, just am satisfied with where I am knowing how to handle most situations even if I get my share of bad shots.
It's fun to talk to you. Do you have a gallery anywhere? I've got a bunch of stuff in slideshows, not all of it is my best, but some guy at the UI spotted some of my photos and wrote and asked if he could use them, said their budget was low. So I just give my stuff away, trying to help him get model releases now. I get a $2 8X10 of things I think would be meaningful for people and just give it to them. They really seem to appreciate it.
Sorry I got carried away, one of my favorite subjects. Those photos of Sarah & family are just great. I don't know if people know you have to left click on some of them to make them expand out.