Sorry this has taken me so long to reply back to. I work a lot and trying to do work here as well as going through Treehouse’s Techdegree doesn’t leave me with much time.
I don’t know if this will help. I’ve been doing CSS and HTML for about a year and a half now, and at first my progress was VERY slow too. I even became frustrated and almost gave up… What helped me the most was rebuilding magazine covers using HTML and CSS. Also I would find simple but nice sites on the web and try to rebuild them the best that I could. I think coding each day a little something really helped, and I still continue to do those types of things to keep in practice and challenge myself.
I tend to build and design sites in the browser. I’ve tried to use programs like Sketch, Illustrator, Photoshop to design/ framework my sites, but I tend to start changing a lot of stuff once I start coding. I usually will code up the site with very basic design. I don’t worry at first about images, logos, colors until the very end. I use sites like placeimg.com to help with the layout until I can gather all my images and art. I start with getting my html content right, then focus on positioning with CSS.
I can’t recommend css-tricks.com and teamtreehouse.com’s tutorials enough. Teamtreehouse.com has some great classes on layout technique and I think they still offer a free two week trial.