Thanks for the advice. I use the "kicker card" concept when I am doing macro photography at work. I hadn't considered it for my other pictures, although i must confess I don't know why.

I have been trying to let the camera TTL flash control do all the work. In retrospect, that may be part of the problem. Now for what may be a dumb question:

You say to give about two stops extra exposure and you suggest doing this by going completely manual. While I don't have a problem with that, I'm wonder why either setting the camer to overexpose by two stops OR setting the flash to fire at two stops of overexposure wouldn't accomplish the same thing. I realize that I will have much better control with manual settings but shouldn't the other methods work?