Embedding Mailchimp code adds huge blank space above the opt-in box

I have been testing Upfront with dummy copy and so far have managed to get it to do everything I need except that when I embed the standard Mailchimp opt-in box code, Upfront adds a huge blank space between its headline and the opt-in fields. You can see this on the home page if you scroll down next to the Twitter feed. I have tried it both as an embedded code element and as a text widget. This doesn't happen on any other sites with any other themes. How can I get rid of the blank space?

Also, I have found the place to lessen the size of blog post excerpts (see screenshot) but no matter how many times I click on the number or the arrows, it doesn't allow me to make any changes.

regards, Tony