Sometime later I decided to give it another go using some sassafrass that I had picked up somewhere. Results were much better.
Here's a shot of the two iterations:
It was nice, visible, evidence of actual progress in my skills. It had been about one year and I had obvioulsy gotten better at a lot of stuff such as layout (I actually had a marking gauge by this time - shop made no less :), sawing (and saw sharpening), paring with a chisel, and some basic (real basic) chip carving. Plus, Celena really seems to enjoy it.