Hey! =] One of my best friends (who is also the mother of my best friend) is named Annette! =] I like you!
Hmm.... mysteriously cloudy water? Mine never got cloudy. =/ I have no idea. I suggest getting different gravel because gravel is an important part of cycling your tank. It gives the beneficial bacteria that you need in your tank a place to live.
I suggest the brand of gravel that they sell at Petsmart (they also sell it at walmart for cheaper ;]).
Also I suggest live plants. Anubias (the big leaved kind), and dwarf lilies are my fav. I bought some bulbs at walmart but you can buy already grown live ones from the petstore too! =] That way you wouldn't have to wait. =] The only reason I bought bulbs is because it will be a while till Genie's out of his hospital tank. =[ So unfortunately I have the time to grow them. =[
But that's all just my advice and opinions and since I'm a noob too it probably means squat. =P Good luck though! =]