The question regarding advice is too general for me to do anything with. Keep reading the archived threads.
As for the signature:
Click "User Control Panel"
Click "Edit Signature"
This is the markup in for my signature. It goes in the input box.
The first line is a link to my picture of Sophie. I host it on one my domains. You can also host an image on any image sharing site that allows hotlinking, such as http://www.imgur.com
I can change my picture without editing the signature markup by replacing the image with another of the same name. The server will retrieve whatever image is there with the designated file name. I have sized the image at 500px x 382px. Don't know if there is a display limit.
The second line is the ticker that shows Sophie's age. The markup automatically fetches a dynamically generated image, that is, her age is updated automatically with each server request. I used http://www.tickerfactory.com
There are a number of similar resources available.