Terrific blog and website! I too am trying to get started learning to play. As you said, the first thing to get is a practice chanter. It seems there are many kinds. Would you recommend any certain kinds or manufacturer?
There are many practice chanters out there. You need to select whether you want a blackwood chanter or plastic (polypenco). Personally, I prefer the plastic chanters because they are more durable and inexpensive. There's no difference in sound quality between the two types of materials. You need to select between standard length or extended (long) length. The longer chanters are longer but the hole spacing is exactly the same as the standard length -- the extra length is added to the end of the chanter. There's no real difference in the tone between the two lengths. There are many makers out there. Any should be good. Here's a good place to start looking.
A practice chanter will come with a reed, but it's a good idea to have a couple spares. For several years I've been playing reeds by John Walsh. They have a great tone and are very consistent.