Hi Max: Have you come across this Kickstarter project "Microduino" yet, It looks like being the best thing I have come across for embedded Atmel/Arduino projects, I think I am going to go at least a $50-100 pledge.
It's going to be like when I was a kid(long time ago), when a new diecast Match Box toy came out, I just had to have it and nagged the parents until they gave in.
Looks like I will have to do a lot more housework to get the good lady in my life to open up the purse strings.
The reason I prefer the Ardiuno is that you can do more sophirsticated stuff easier in C/C++ --
As I recall Arduino does not work in C, but has its own language and IDE.
Nobody says you have to use the Arduino environment- you could use the Atmel development environment and then work with C. And others make products that are Arduino Shield compatible, the the Pioneer (Cypress PSoC4).
Don;t worry -- the PICAXE is a great thing, and it's BASIC is easy-peasy to pick up -- you will have a lot of fun. The reason I prefer the Ardiuno is that you can do more sophirsticated stuff easier in C/C++ -- also the fact that you can get 8-bit and 32-bit Arduinos -- also the concept of the Wings that plug into the main Arduino board -- and th ebig thing is that the Arduino stuff ties into that robotic vision and nanocopter stuff
But for just messing around with your own projects, I think you will love the PICAXE