(noobie question) I've tried using Mist and/or Ethereum-Wallet, but the tried to node downloaded > 30GB of blockchain data. Thanks!
You can try using an online wallet such as MyEtherWallet. You will be able to create an account, send transactions and deploy a contract.
Jaxx.io is an Ethereum (and other cryptocurrency) wallet that is stored locally on your computer without downloading the whole blockchain.
Metamask browser extension works as a hot wallet.