I was nervous to try cables, but I finally just decided to do it, and it wasn't hard at all. I used the cable pattern in "the Everything Knitting Book" to learn cables. The cable is made up of 8 rows (or whatever the directions say) that repeat, and you only do the twist thing once per repeat.
Another cable-ish stitch is a right or left twist; that would be a super duper easy peasy way to get started., because it's just two stitches, and you don't need a cable needle; this is done every row.
Incidentally, my cats were FACTINATED with the dangly sparkly shiny cable needle, and eventually ran off with it; I used this link http://wendyknits.net/knit/leftcable.htm
to do cables without using a cable needle until I found the it (under the entertainment center with some yarn, a random needle and some dental floss... go figure)