Is there no Off state for the panels once their expanded? The height of the page expands by almost two thirds when every panel is opened. I would definately have a look at that.
Also, in an effort to keep things above the fold, have you tried listing your buttons horizontally? Maybe just activating the one content area below them (i.e. just switching content in the same screen area) so users dont have to scroll.
The BG has been touched upon before in this thread, but definately (IMHO) needs changing. I take your point that you like the repeating pattern, but I think you should take on board the fact that no-one else seems to like it :) The repeat makes it look like you made your website with MS Publisher…
Nit-picking now, but both your portfolio sites look exactly the same – even the same treatment of the company names, same fonts, menu layout, content areas, everything! Your portfolio should reflect the best you can manage, not your favourite template. Make a for-display-only site instead (in fact, make a few) if you havent gotten actual clients yet to showcase your skills.