you're on the right path!
the problem i've found with micro-controllers is that while it is easy to tell yourself how you want the project to operate, it is quite a different story to tell the microcontroller how to perform that operation.
the next-best step would be to determine what you're looking for in a uC, then pick one up, and start playing with it to figure out how to get it to do your bidding..
the arduino lineup has become a pretty common lineup, but i'm told that it's programming language is different, so if you intended to make use the the knowledge elsewhere, it would be less helpful. i toyed with one briefly, and it's pretty easy to get the hang of, it just takes time--that i don't seem to have-- to remember all the programming rules and implement them correctly..