Like you, I am new to brewing, although there are a few things that I can pass on to you. I use 3 gallon carboys for mead. This way I can try twice as many recipes for the same price, and if there is one that you don't care for, there is not as much to suffer through! As far as a recipe, I still have not bottled my first batch of mead (Spiced Apple Cyser) that I started in November 2008. That brings me to another point. Brew yourself some beer! This will give you something to drink while you are waiting for the mead. As for the sweetness, you can stabilize your mead and then back sweeten it if it is too dry for your taste. There are a lot of recipes out there. Pick one that sounds good and go for it. If you have more questions, just ask.